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


Emmanuel Macron gave the warning on Monday during "frank talks" at Versailles palace with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who is a staunch ally of Assad.

It is President Macron's latest diplomatic test after the G7 talks in Sicily and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels where he turned the tables on US President Donald Trump by holding him in a clenched handshakeuntil their knuckles went white.

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".

Macron also took the bull by the horns on human rights, saying Putin had promised him "the whole truth" about an alleged crackdown on gay men in Russian-controlled Chechnya and warning he would be "vigilant" on the issue.

Mr Putin emphasised the need for closer co-operation between Russian Federation and France, two nuclear-armed permanent members of the UN Security Council. "When press organs sow defamatory untruths, they are no longer journalists, " he said.

Putin welcomed the overtures while avoiding any public conflict with his French host, even over Macron's accusation that Russian media spread lies during the campaign, which came in response to a Russian reporter's question. "Let's tell things like they are: Russia Today and Sputnik didn't behave like organs of the press and journalists, they behaved like organs of influence and mendacious propaganda".

Macron was the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the Group of Seven summit the French leader attended over the weekend, where relations with Russian Federation were a key topic.

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During the election, Macron's people accused Russian Federation of meddling with the French political process after a trove of hacked campaign emails were released online.

Moscow strongly denied all allegations of election meddling.

Putin said that terrorism can not be defeated by dismantling a country's statehood. 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. He did, however, defend his decision to receive the pro-Russia Le Pen in Moscow in late March, a month before the first vote in the two-round French election. It was also a chance for Macron to show France and the rest of Europe what kinds of issues will matter to him in worldwide relations.

"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 did not specify the form of such reprisals, but France flies warplanes over Syria and Iraq, striking Islamic State targets as part of an global coalition.

Yet Macron's not afraid to go up against with not-so-friendly types, which is why he pulled off a "not innocent" handshake with President Trump to ward off an Alpha-Omega relationship.

The assessment echoed a remark by Trump during a September presidential debate in which he said of the DNC hacks: "It could be Russian Federation, but it could be China, could also be lots of other people". On Syria, Putin underlined the importance of securing the Syrian state, adding that it's essential for combating terrorism.