Syria’s and Ukraines’ conflict were on the agenda as the French and Russian Presidents met on Monday ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz, southwest France.
Russia was excluded from the G8 in 2014 when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and the EU imposed sanctions against Moscow for its actions. Putin seemed unfazed by his exclusion from the exclusive club of world leaders.
POLITICO reports “French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of new negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine, but clashed on Syria and domestic protests, when they met in France on Monday. The meeting, the seventh bilateral since Macron took office in 2017, was part of a larger effort by the two leaders to try to thaw relations between their countries. It also offered the French president a chance to try to position himself as Europe’s strongest leader, with the U.K. still struggling with Brexit and Germany’s Angela Merkel preparing to exit politics in two years.”
France 24 reports “There is a real opportunity to put an end to the conflict that has been going on for five years,” Macron said at the start of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin who voiced “cautious optimism” about Zelensky. On the subject POLITICO reported ” Putin and Macron indicated their advisers would hold further talks to explore the possibility of a four-party summit with Ukraine and Germany in what is known as the Normandy format, in the next few weeks, but neither hinted at a more tangible breakthrough in the conflict. They also both expressed optimism about Ukraine’s new comedian-turned-president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. At a brief press conference, Macron called Zelenskiy’s positions and actions so far “a real game-changer,” while Putin said that based on his talks with the former TV actor, “there are issues worthy of discussion that elicit a certain optimism.”
France has repeatedly stressed the importance of working with Russia on resolving the world’s most intractable crises, such as the Iran nuclear deal and the conflicts in Libya and Syria. While their talks still haven’t delivered concrete progress on Iran, French officials point to a short-lived fragile truce in Libya in mid-August as an example of how they can start to make progress. Syria, where the two countries support opposite sides, is another such crisis.
Speaking shortly after welcoming Putin, Macron also said the two leaders would discuss how to de-escalate tensions over Iran, the Syria conflict and arms control issues.
The French leader expressed “profound worry” over the bombing of the Syrian town of Idlib, telling Putin that it was “urgent” that a ceasefire come into force.
“I must express our profound worry about the situation in Idlib. The population in Idlib is living under bombs, children are being killed. It’s vital that the ceasefire agreed in Sochi is put into practice,” he told Putin.
Macron also called for the respect of free speech and free elections in Russia.
Moscow has been rocked by weekly protests for more than a month after the authorities barred opposition candidates from running in an election for the city’s legislature in September.
Macron is hosting Putin just days before welcoming world leaders including US President Donald Trump for the August 24-26 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Biarritz on France’s Atlantic Coast.