Biden agrees ‘in principle’ to Macron-brokered Ukraine summit with Putin

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed in principle to a summit over Ukraine, the French leader said on Monday, offering a possible path out of one of the most dangerous European crises in decades.

The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement he had pitched to both leaders a summit on “security and strategic stability in Europe”. The White House said in a statement that Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion hasn’t happened”.

“We are always ready for diplomacy,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war.”

Messages seeking comment from the Kremlin and from the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were not immediately returned early on Monday.

Many details about the proposed summit – which was announced after a volley of phone calls between Macron, Biden, Putin, Zelensky and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – are not clear.

Macron’s office and the White House said the substance of the summit would be worked out by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during their meeting planned for February 24. What role Ukraine would play in the summit, if any, was also uncertain.

A Biden administration official said in an email that the summit was “completely notional” as the timing and format had yet to be determined.

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