VILNIUS - France could take the lead in granting Ukraine the status of an EU candidate state, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said during his meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Vilnius on Friday.
Lithuania strongly supports Ukraine's aspirations to join the EU and looks forward to France's active leadership in accelerating this process by granting Ukraine candidate status as soon as possible, Nauseda said.
France currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
During hius conversation with the French minister, Nauseda also pointed out that the Alliance should implement a forward defense policy in the wake of the changed security situation in the region.
"The Baltic states and the surrounding area need integrated air and missile defense measures. The Russian-Belarusian war against Ukraine and the loss of independence of Belarus are additional factors that we need to take into account when strengthening the regional security architecture," the Lithuanian president said.
During his meting with the French minister, Nauseda also called for the use of all measures to stop Vladimir Putin's war, including expanding the existing sanctions for Russia, supporting Ukraine with defense, humanitarian and financial measures, the presidential press service said.
The Lithuanian president and the French foreign minister also discussed the two countries' cooperation in Africa, particularly in the fighting terrorist groups in the Sahel.
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month, and as tensions between Western countries and Moscow continue to rise, NATO has sent considerably more forces to its eastern flank, with additional troops deployed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
The Baltic countries want the existing NATO air policing mission be transformed into an air defense mission to allow fighter jets based in the Baltic states carry out combat tasks in the event of a crisis. Allies are also being asked to send more ground-based air defense systems to the region.