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Macron and Putin hold face-to-face talks in splendour of Versailles

French President Emmanuel Macron greeted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the splendour of the Versailles palace outside Paris on Monday for their first face-to-face talks.

Macron and Putin hold face-to-face talks in splendour of Versailles
Photo: AFP

Macron and Russian counterpart Putin held their first meeting since the French leader came to office, with differences on Ukraine and Syria in full view.

 

Macron welcomed Putin to the splendour of the Versailles palace outside Paris with a perfunctory handshake — after the 39-year-old made a point of outlasting US President Donald Trump when they clasped hands at the NATO
summit last week.

Putin's visit is the latest test of Macron's diplomatic mettle after the G7 talks in Sicily last week and the NATO summit in Brussels where he turned the tables on Trump by refusing to release the American leader's hand for several

He regretted that none of the G7 states are party to Syria peace talks under way in the Kazakh capital Astana initiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Separate UN-backed negotiations have become bogged down in Geneva.

Russia is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whereas, as Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov said before the visit, France “is among the countries with a very severe stance towards (Assad's) regime”.

Coming so soon after an election in which the Kremlin was widely seen asbacking Macron's far-right rival Marine Le Pen — with Putin hosting her during a surprise visit to Moscow — the encounter in Versailles will have an added personal edge.

Moscow has also been blamed for a raft of cyberattacks on Macron's election campaign, with aides accusing the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” against him.

Putin was quick to congratulate Macron on his election, urging him to “overcome mutual distrust” and “join forces to ensure international stability and security”.

The visit comes seven months after Putin cancelled a trip to Paris for the opening of a Russian cathedral complex near the Eiffel Tower in a spat over Syria with Hollande, who had said Russia's bombing of Aleppo could amount to war crimes.

In Versailles, Macron and Putin will inaugurate an exhibition marking 300 years of Franco-Russian ties since the visit of Russia's modernising tsar Peter the Great to France in 1717.

After the talks and a joint news conference, Putin will visit the Paris Orthodox cathedral complex on his own.

 

 

PUTIN

France’s Macron to host Putin ahead of G7 summit

French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed Saturday he had invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for talks on August 19th, days before hosting a G7 summit.

France's Macron to host Putin ahead of G7 summit
Photo: AFP

Macron said the meeting with Putin would take place at his summer retreat, the medieval fort of Bregancon near the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas on France's Mediterranean coast.

Speaking in Bormes-les-Mimosas, he said the fort was chosen because it offers the possibility “to work in isolation… and receive foreign leaders, which I will do with Vladimir Putin in a few weeks' time”. 

Following the bilateral talks, leaders from the world's seven most developed nations are set to gather in the southwestern French city of Biarritz on August 24th-26th.

France holds the 2019 presidency of the G7, which also includes Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Russia was slung out of what used to be the G8 in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

In late June, Macron had already announced he planned to meet Putin after the two leaders had a long conversation.

“I believe that within the framework of the G7, it's essential that we take this initiative (with Russia)… in order to explore all the forms of cooperation on key topics of destabilisation or conflict, without naivety but without closing the door,” he had said at the time.

Macron interrupted his holiday in Bregancon on Saturday for a one-day trip to Tunisia to attend the funeral of president Beji Caid Essebsi.

By the evening, he was back in Bormes-les-Mimosas where he posed for pictures with onlookers.

Last year, Macron came under attack after it emerged that he had installed a 34,000 swimming pool at Bregancon as part of renovations. 

READ ALSO: Macron defends 'importance' of Russia nuclear weapons treaty in call with Trump

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