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France's Macron holding 'tough' talks with Putin near Paris

11 Juin 2017

On a visit likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles on Monday for what the newly-elected French leader said would be "demanding" talks on Syria, the Ukrainian crisis and other thorny issues driving the rift between Russia and the West.

"The Russian President also said he fully agrees with the 'red line" presented by Macron, who said that France would respond to any chemical attack in Syria, whoever the author is. He described RT and Sputnik as organs of influence and he had banned the two outlets from his campaign headquarters after suspicions of Kremlin interference, including a massive cyberattack just before his election victory.

BEARDSLEY: Macron and Putin said their meeting was frank, direct, and they spoke of every topic from the Ukraine war to gays being killed in Chechnya.

Relations between France and Russian Federation have been plagued by mistrust in the past few years, particularly over Syria and Ukraine.

French parliamentary elections take place in two rounds, like the presidential election.

"Any use of chemical weapons will mean an immediate relation at least on the part of French forces", he added.

The French leader said this issue demands "an inclusive political solution".

Last week, Macron met North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies and members of the G7.

Macron portrayed the meeting as just a first step in resetting the country's relations with Russian Federation.

After some five seconds, Mr Trump was the first to open his hand, but Mr Macron insisted on being the last to let go.

The fervently pro-Europe Macron said his invitation to Putin aimed to showcase "a Russian Federation which is open to Europe". "I don't miss a thing, that is how you get respect". Putin also commented to Macron on a painting depicting Russian empress Catherine the Great.

Directly after the French election, he moved quickly to try reset relations with France, congratulating Macron and urging him to work to overcome their countries' "mutual distrust".

The two leaders vowed to improve relations and jointly address global problems.

Monday's visit offers both sides an opportunity to improve ties that steadily deteriorated in the closing months of the presidency of Macron's predecessor, Socialist Francois Hollande. Hollande also cancelled an order for two warships France was building for Russian Federation.

And both leaders agreed they did not want Syria - where Russian Federation is propping up the government of President Bashar Assad - to collapse into a failed state.

On Sputnik and Russia Today, Macron showed little restraint, saying the two organizations spread "untruths about me and my campaign" during the French election.

"Our two countries will cooperate on Syria, this is essential", Macron said.

Moscow and RT itself rejected allegations of meddling in the election.

But he also defended his March meeting with Macron's rival in the presidential race, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

"I've always had exemplary relations with foreign journalists, for as long as they are journalists", said Macron (according to the translation run by Quartz).

Orlov, speaking on Europe 1 radio, said he believed that Macron was "much more flexible" on the Syrian question, though he did not say why he thought this.

A tense atmosphere was, of course, to be expected after NSA Chief Mike Rogers confirmed that Russian Federation was behind what Macron claimed was a massive email hack of his campaign.

France's Macron holding 'tough' talks with Putin near Paris