Macron, Putin clash on Syria in rare bilateral visit to EU

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The Russian president said phone conversations with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had given him some hope of a resolution.

France seeks to play the role of mediator in Russia's conflict with Ukraine, and Macron has stressed the importance of keeping dialogue open with Moscow.

Macron, who hosted Putin at his summer residence in southern France, made clear he wanted to keep contacts with Moscow alive on a range of issues even at a time of spiralling tensions with the West.

France is seeking to play the role of mediator in Russia's conflict with Ukraine.

Iran will also feature high on the agenda, with Paris keen for Moscow to use its close ties with Tehran to prevent a further escalation of conflicts in the Middle East.

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Macron said, however, that "a return to the Group of Eight as well as a return to fully normalized relations with the European Union requires a solution to the Ukraine question".

For the sake of European security, President Macron wants at least an informal dialogue between the G7 and Russian Federation where the exclusive economic club could be used as a forum to de-escalate tensions and avoid misunderstandings-especially between the United States, Britain and Russian Federation. He added that he hopes Russian Federation would respect the demonstrators' freedom of speech. "It's vital that the ceasefire agreed in Sochi is put into practice", he told Putin.

"I am a guest here and it's uncomfortable for me to talk about this", said Putin, before reeling off casualty tolls from the yellow vest protests. He debunked Putin's claims and argued that unlike in Moscow, France allows members of the opposition to run for office. During the press conference, Macron called for the respect of free speech and free elections in Russian Federation, where authorities have been cracking down on anti-government protesters in Moscow. "I'm glad that they express themselves freely in elections because it reduces confrontation", Macron said.

The G7 summit will be held on August 24-26 in Biarritz, France. "We never said that in Idlib terrorists would feel comfortable", he added.

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