Just a few days after the young French president made headlines for his white-knuckled, “not innocent” handshake with Donald Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin was prepared for his first meeting with Emanuel Macron, with the result captured on the following clip.
Macron – Putin handshake lasted 7 second pic.twitter.com/7M82845MHz
— Vocal Europe (@thevocaleurope) May 29, 2017
What followed was talks in private between the two leaders in Versailles that lasted for almost three hours during which the two leaders discussed a number of topics ranging from bilateral relations to the situations in Syria, Ukraine, Libya and the Korean Peninsula, and culminated with a press conference in which Macron said the “Franco-Russian friendship” was at heart of his meeting with Putin and called for improved ties with Russia but warned he would hold tough positions on sanctions and the civil war in Syria.
“I want us to win the fight against terrorists in Syria and build together lasting political stability. We have laid the ground for that work together today.” Macron said. “I believe we’ve had an extremely frank and direct exchange. We have told each other everything.”
Macron also admitted he has “some disagreements” with his Russian counterpart, but said that the two leaders discussed them openly. The French president concede that serious international problems cannot be resolved without Moscow, as he stressed the importance of the role Russia plays in the modern world.
“No major problem in the world can be solved without Russia,” he said during the press conference, and added that France is interested in intensifying cooperation with Russia, particularly in resolving the Syrian crisis. The French leader went on to say that this issue demands “an inclusive political solution.”
Macron said that fighting terrorism and ISIS remains an “absolute priority” for France and serves as one of the reasons for the reinforcement of cooperation with Russia. He also said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that should not be crossed, warning that the use of such weapons in Syria would trigger a “reprisal” from France. Previously, France demanded the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Kremlin ally, and accused his regime of staging a chemical attack in April that provoked a U.S. military response.
An unfazed Putin “welcomed the overtures” according to Bloomberg, while avoiding any public conflict with his French host, even over Macron’s accusation that Russian media spread lies and propaganda during the campaign, which came in response to a Russian reporter’s question.
“They didn’t act like the media, like journalists. They behaved like deceitful propaganda,” Macron told RT France head Xenia Fedorova during the joint press conference. “I have always had an exemplary relationship with foreign journalists, but they have to be real journalists,” explained Macron, who defeated Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election, earlier this month. “All foreign journalists, including Russian journalists, had access to my campaign.”
Macron attacks RT and Sputnik as propaganda organizations to Putin's face pic.twitter.com/fIvtqQctJO
— Mathieu von Rohr (@mathieuvonrohr) May 29, 2017
Macron described RT and Sputnik as “organs of influence and propaganda” adding that both “produced infamous counter-truths about him.”
Putin again denied any efforts to meddle in the vote (shortly after the summit, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow “does not agree” with Macron’s statements about the two news organizations), and agreed that while the two leaders have some differences, he said that they assess many issues in a similar way, and that French-Russian relations could be “qualitatively” improved.
“We sought … common ground [in dealing] with key issues of the international agenda. And I believe that we see it. We are able to … at least try to start resolving the key modern problems together,” Putin said.
Putin said he outlined Russia’s position on Syria to Macron and said that terrorism cannot be defeated by destroying a host nation’s statehood. “It is impossible to fight a terrorist threat by dismantling the statehood of those countries that already suffer from some internal problems and conflicts,” he said at the joint press conference.
Putin said that Russia and France are determined to cooperate in resolving the crises in Syria, Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula, as well as to fight terrorism together. The Russian leader added that he and Macron had particularly agreed to establish a working group on fighting terrorism.
As Bloomberg adds, Macron met Putin “amid the gold and marble of Versailles and showed him around an exhibition commemorating Russian czar Peter the Great, who visited France in 1717.”
The invitation was intended to establish ties after months of strained relations during the French campaign. Putin openly supported two of Macron’s rivals, Republican Francois Fillon and then Marine Le Pen, and Macron’s team accused the Russian government of involvement in a series of cyber attacks on their systems.
“What’s important is that during our talks today we sensed that we look at many things in the same way, although there are some differences,” Putin said. “What we have in common gives us the reason to believe that we can not only intensify but significantly improve our cooperation.”
A full replay is available below.