Macron holds 'extremely frank' talks with Putin


The use of chemical weapons in Syria, gay rights and Russian media coverage of the recent French presidential election were high on the agenda during talks Monday between new French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Mr Macron said any use of chemical weapons in Syria was a "red line" for France and would be met by "reprisals" and an "immediate riposte" from the French Government, Mr Macron said.

"Our absolute priority is the fight against terrorism", he added, calling for the "eradication of terrorist groups" - and Isis in particular - through closer partnership with Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, Macron said he wants to cooperate with Moscow over the conflict in Syria and the eradication of terrorist groups, especially IS, adding that he hoped for a democratic transition that would preserve the Syrian state.

At the G7 summit in Sicily at the weekend Mr Macron said: "It is essential to talk to Russian Federation because there are a number of worldwide issues that will not be resolved without a tough dialogue with them".

The pair discussed the Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its military involvement in Ukraine as well as allegations of Russian meddling in France's election campaign.

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

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

Macron had also said Monday that France would respond immediately to any use of these arms.

Ahead of the visit, Macron told a French weekly that he was not "bothered" by leaders who "think in terms of power dynamics". Monday's meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven's summit over the weekend where relations with Russian Federation were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks.

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The two leaders agreed on the need of a new round of talks on the violence in eastern Ukraine.

Macron, whose intriguing handshake with Trump and meeting in Sicily with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went down a storm on social media, is looking in good shape going into next month's French legislative elections.

Regarding the conflict in Syria, the French President also had strong words for Russian Federation and its allies, including Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

After the president chose to fire James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation director in early May, Putin told CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer that Comey's dismissal would have "no effect" on U.S. -Russia relations.

Commenting on anti-Russian sanctions, Macron warned that new sanctions against Russia may only be caused by escalation of the Ukrainian conflict.

He says they're "totally distinct from diplomatic contacts" that Macron, the president, now has.

But French President Emmanuel Macron didn't hold back his criticisms while he played host Monday.

The meeting took place on the 300th anniversary of Russian Tsar Peter the Great's visit to Versailles.

Putin later visited a new Orthodox cathedral complex in central Paris.