Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron about the armed conflict in eastern Ukrainian and Iranian nuclear deal on September 8, according to the Kremlin's website.
Their phone conversation came a day before a meeting between the Russian and French foreign and defense ministers in Moscow, where they are expected to discuss developments in the Persian Gulf, including Iran, the situation in Ukraine, and Central African Republic, according to the TASS news agency.
Talks will be "candid” on many topics, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly told TASS ahead of the meeting.
"There are many geo-strategic challenges, on which France and Russia have shared interests," she said. "Of course, we disagree with each other on some issues, but this is what prompts us to strengthen dialogue. We want to foster a candid and demanding dialogue on all these issues showing openness and also putting forward our conditions.”
Parly is scheduled to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu while French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Le Drian told French television before his departure that it "was too soon" to lift sanctions on Russia that the European Union has imposed for taking over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The discussion between Macron and Putin also came a day after Russia and Ukraine each exchanged 35 prisoners in what both sides said they hoped would lead to a "normalization of relations" between Moscow and Kyiv.
Macron "positively assessed the prisoner swap," according to the statement.
Meanwhile, Putin said that any future four-way talks between Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany -- known as the Normandy format -- "should be thoroughly prepared” in advance to find peace in the conflict.
The Donbas conflict started in April 2014 when Kremlin-backed separatists started taking over government buildings and wrested control over parts of Ukraine’s easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
More than 13,000 people have been killed in the war, according to the UN, and some 1.5 million have been internally displaced, the largest internal migration of people on the European continent since World War II.
Kyiv accuses Moscow of stoking the conflict by leading, supplying, training and fighting beside the separatists, allegations that Russia denies, calling it a "civil war."
The last Normandy talks took place in Berlin in 2016.
Macron and Putin also "thoroughly examined" the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord that offered sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran placing curbs on its nuclear program.
Tehran has scaled back on its nuclear commitments since the United States, one of five signatories to the accord including Russia and France, withdrew from the deal last year and reimposed sanctions.
Macron, Putin Discuss Ukraine Conflict Before Their Defense, Foreign Ministers Meet
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