Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin tried to mend fences after months of strained relations on Syria, the Crimea, and alleged poisonings.
The French President turned on his vaunted charm as he sat next to his Russian counterpart at an economic forum in St Petersburg on Friday.
He referred to Putin as as ‘Dear Vladimir’ and the two men nodded in agreement with each other about a range of issues.
The pair were also joined by French First Lady Brigitte (second from left) at a ‘Stars of the White Nights’ gala reception after the economic forum
Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin tried to mend fences after months of strained relations on Syria, the Crimea, and alleged poisonings
The pair were also joined by French First Lady Brigitte at a ‘Stars of the White Nights’ gala reception after the economic forum.
The two leaders put their disagreements behind them and bonded over something they have mutual concerns about – U.S. President Donald Trump.
They found a common ground in their shared unease at the former reality TV host’s policies on Iran, climate change, and international trade.
Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal meant Russian or French companies doing business with the regime could be hit with unilateral U.S. sanctions.
Speaking at a question-and-answer session in front of an audience of business executives and Russian officials, Putin said the U.S. withdrawal was damaging and counter-productive.
‘If international agreements are revised every four years it would offer zero horizon for planning. It will create the atmosphere of nervousness and lack of trust,’ he said.
The French President turned on his vaunted charm as he sat next to his Russian counterpart at an economic forum in St Petersburg on Friday
President Macron referred to Putin as as ‘Dear Vladimir’ and the two men nodded in agreement with each other about a range of issues
Mr Putin said the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 agreement came even as the international nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran was fulfilling its obligations.
‘What should it be punished for, then?’ he asked.
He also railed against the United States applying its laws beyond its borders to punish foreign companies. ‘This is unacceptable and it has to end,’ he said.
Macron, who had travelled to Washington in an unsuccessful bid to persuade Trump to keep faith with the Iran deal, did not explicitly criticise the U.S. leader.
He said he had a strong relationship with Trump, but he acknowledged there are ‘issues on which we have differences’.
He said he would try to convince Trump to return to talks about Iran’s nuclear programme, and was also critical of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, out of step with the stance of most European governments.
‘That was not desirable,’ Mr Macron said, adding that the embassy move played a part in sparking fatal clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces.
The two leaders put their disagreements behind them and bonded over something they have mutual concerns about – U.S. President Donald Trump
However, it wasn’t all smiles as President Macron said EU sanctions on Russia would not be lifted unless there was progress on Ukraine
Macron also said Mr Trump had, de facto, lost an international argument over the Paris climate change agreement because the international consensus in support of the accord had held, even though Trump had decided to exit the deal.
President Trump’s administration last month imposed sanctions on a raft of major Russian companies.
The step also hurt European and other international firms who had to cut off business ties with the sanctioned entities for fear of punitive action by Washington.
As he sat alongside Putin, President Macron referred repeatedly to the need to establish ‘European financial sovereignty’ – a jab at European economies’ reliance on the U.S. financial system.
He also arrived in St Petersburg with a large delegation of French business executives keen to sign deals with Russia, despite the new U.S. sanctions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, welcomes International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, left, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, his wife Akie, second right, French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, and his wife Brigitte Macron, third left, to attend the Gala reception
The presence of Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and their statements in favor of cooperation were important for Putin, indicating that the U.S.-led efforts to isolate Russia face increasing obstacles
Putin accused the United States of undermining global trade rules by using sanctions as a weapon in its drive towards protectionism.
The Russian leader also engaged in a tongue-in-cheek exchange with President Macron, saying with a smile that Russia could help protect Europe if its rift with the U.S. widens over Iran.
‘Don’t you worry, we will help ensure your security,’ Putin said. President Macron responded on a serious note that France and its allies could stand for themselves.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke at the forum and called for closer cooperation with Russia.
The presence of Macron and Abe and their statements in favor of cooperation were important for Putin, indicating that the U.S.-led efforts to isolate Russia face increasing obstacles.
Earlier in the visit, President Macron and his wife Brigitte attended a wreath laying ceremony at the monument of the ‘mother country’ in the Piskarevskoie memorial cemetery
While her husband was charming Putin at the forum, Ms Macron toured the city from a riverboat
The Russian leader also pointed to the presence of many foreign executives at the event as evidence that the U.S. sanctions were failing to achieve their aim.
However, it wasn’t all smiles as President Macron said EU sanctions on Russia would not be lifted unless there was progress on Ukraine.
‘The ball is in the camp of Russia and Ukraine. It’s as simple as that. We won’t lift the sanctions if nothing’s done,’ he said.
‘That’s what we discussed with Vladimir Putin,’ Macron told a news conference after meeting with his Russian counterpart.
EU countries will meet in July to consider extending the sanctions imposed on Russia in 2015, President Macron said.