PARIS (AP) – Germany’s foreign minister on Thursday warned Russia that it would pay a “high political and economic price” if it took militaristic action against neighboring Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbok stressed the need to coordinate a common European position in dealing with hostile neighbors such as Russia, which has gathered troops near the border with Ukraine.
“Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is not something we can negotiate for,” Baerbok said during his first foreign trip a day after taking office in Paris. He added that the most important task should be to prevent a military build-up.
“Russia will pay a high political and economic price for the re-violation of Ukrainian statehood,” Baerbok told reporters at a joint news conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. “We can only find a solution through diplomacy, and we are both (on this issue) ready to engage deeply in person.”
Russia says it has no plans to invade Ukraine unless it “makes it angry.”
In a telephone conversation with Angela Merkel on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked the German chancellor for “an annual fruitful cooperation,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Putin praised Merkel’s “significant contribution to the development of Russian-German relations” during her 16 years in office and said she would always welcome her in Russia.
Merkel, in turn, wished Putin success in “establishing dialogue” with the new German Chancellor Olaf Schols.
In France, Baerbok said Thursday that another “big topic” could be a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China. The White House and the British and Australian governments have said that none of their diplomats will attend the Beijing Games, a move to protest China’s human rights abuses.
Germany wants to decide how to proceed “together with our European friends,” he added.
Le Drian also said a common European position on a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics was needed. French Foreign Minister Jean-Michel Blanker said shortly after Paris said it would not join such a boycott.
“Sport is a world in itself, it needs to be protected from political interference, otherwise we could end up killing the competition,” Blanquer told France’s BFM-TV.
Baerbok told a large-scale press conference with his French counterpart that Chinese tennis player Pen Shuai’s allegations of sexual harassment against a former Communist Party official should be taken seriously.
“If a woman makes such allegations, they should be heard, including internationally,” Baerbok, Germany’s first female foreign minister, said.
Jordans reported from Berlin. Daria Litvinova of Moscow contributed to this report.