French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday hosts Vladimir Putin for a rare bilateral visit by the Russian strongman to a major European Union power, seeking to press the Kremlin to help end the conflict in Ukraine.
Macron and Putin said they would also discuss how to de-escalate tensions over Iran. 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.
However, Putin said that Moscow supports attacks by the Syrian army against "terrorists" in the northern province of Idlib.
Putin, in his turn, said there were "grounds for cautious optimism" regarding chances of peace in eastern Ukraine.
In his first comments on six weeks of protests in Moscow over the exclusion of some opposition candidates from an election in the Russian capital next month, Putin told reporters that protesters had to respect the law.
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Macron was since November past year rocked by the yellow vest protests over social inequalities, although they have now eased somewhat.
The yellow vest protests, named after motorists' high-visibility jackets, began in November over fuel tax increases but evolved into a sometimes violent revolt against politicians and a government seen as out of touch.
"We need to keep up our pressure, our energy to resolve this problem", he added.
Putin told Macron that he saw no alternative to the "Normandy" format talks but on Monday stopped short of signing up to a new summit.
Macron intends to share the outcomes from his meeting with Putin with other world leaders in Biarritz Aug. 24-26. "We don't rule anything out".
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The US is now trying to gather together a maritime coalition against Iran, which Washington says is aimed at protecting oil shipments in the Persian Gulf against Iranian interference.
He said this during the meeting with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, as AFP news agency reports.
The two leaders also disagreed about the conflict in Syria.
The Russian and French leaders met at Brégançon - a medieval fort on an island in the Mediterranean that serves as the French president's summer holiday retreat - with the conflict in Ukraine set to be one of the main issues during their discussions.
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