PARIS — France’s defense minister said any potential European military presence in Ukraine would be in non-combat roles, and not to fight Russians, following consternation among several NATO allies after French President Emmanuel Macron left open the option of putting troops on the ground.

“Let me be clear, because I can see the way things are going on social networks and in the media, it’s not about sending troops to wage war on Russia,” French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu said in a hearing of the National Assembly’s defense committee Tuesday night.

Sending troops to Ukraine was among topics discussed during a meeting of 27 countries in Paris, Macron said Feb. 26, adding there was no consensus, but nothing should be excluded. His comments triggered a flurry of denials by countries including Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. while Moscow warned of direct conflict with NATO should the alliance deploy troops to Ukraine.

The countries gathered in Paris discussed “how to do things differently” in terms of aid to Ukraine, and a number of ideas were put on the table, notably around mine clearing in Ukraine and local training of troops, Lecornu said during the hearing. There was no consensus on those two ideas in the meeting, he said.

Rather than training Ukrainian troops in Poland, one possibility discussed was training on Ukrainian territory, away from the frontline, according to the minister. Ukraine will face greater training needs for troops who will be conscripted “in the near future,” Lecornu said.

More than 20 NATO countries have been training Ukrainian troops in the U.K., the United States, Spain and elsewhere. The French armed forces have been training troops from Ukraine in France and in Poland.

Lecornu said there are “areas where things can still be done,” including around military advisers. Saying that he was “being careful” as the hearing was public, the minister noted other countries have previously had “major military advisors” in Ukraine, which is “not exactly” what France did there, but something it has done in other countries in the past through partnerships.

The French minister said Germany delivering Taurus cruise missiles would help Ukraine, but it’s up to the German government to make that decision. He said the British and French deliveries of Storm Shadow and SCALP missiles had not resulted in a “logic of escalation.”

“Deep strikes are an element of differentiation for the Ukrainians,” Lecornu said. “They make it possible to hit military command centers, logistics centers and Russian ammunition warehouses, so these are obviously valuable technologies. Would the Taurus be valuable? The answer is yes, because it offers the same capabilities as SCALP or Storm Shadow.”

“But once again, Germany is sovereign in the way it decides,” Lecornu said. “This is also why we intend to remain sovereign in the way we decide on our arms exports, so everyone will be able to understand it.’’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected the proposal of giving Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, arguing the weapons’ operation would make Berlin a more active participant in the war than its previous military aid donations, worth billions of euros, already have.

Meanwhile. Lecornu said Nexter, the French arm of KNDS, had boosted production of 155-millimeter artillery shells to 3,000 a month. He said the company is investing in machinery and reopening an additional production line, and the minister said he has “good hope” that France’s production will increase to 4,000 to 5,000 shells a month by the end of 2024.

Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.

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