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Ukraine High On The Agenda As Macron Hosts Putin In Southern France

Putin (right) and Macron give a joint press conference following talks outside St. Petersburg in May 2018.
Putin (right) and Macron give a joint press conference following talks outside St. Petersburg in May 2018.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to try to convince his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to accept Ukraine's overtures of dialogue when the two leaders meet in southern France on August 19.

Macron, who held talks with Putin at the Palace of Versailles near Paris in 2017, will this time host the Russian president at his summer retreat at Bregancon Fort, near the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas.

The two are also expected to discuss tensions surrounding Iran’s nuclear program and the conflict in Syria.

The meeting comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier this month urged Putin to help halt the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.

Insisting that peace can be returned to Ukraine only by way of diplomacy, Zelenskiy has also called for a new round of talks within the Normandy format for negotiations aimed at putting an end to the war. The format involves France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia.

"President Zelenskiy has made offers to which -- it seems to us -- President Putin should respond in an encouraging way," AFP news agency quoted a French official as saying on condition of anonymity.

Zelenskiy’s election in April “gives us some room to maneuver," the official added.

Kremlin foreign-policy aide Yuri Ushakov said that the dialogue between Moscow and Paris had "intensified" in recent months and that Putin's visit to France was the "logical continuation" of his contacts with Macron.

Macron announced in June he planned to host Putin “in order to explore all the forms of cooperation on key topics of destabilization or conflict, without naivety but without closing the door.”

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014. Shortly thereafter, Moscow began supporting separatists in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Cease-fire road maps announced as part of the Minsk accords -- September 2014 and February 2015 pacts -- have contributed to a decrease in fighting in eastern Ukraine but have failed to hold.

Putin’s visit to southern France comes days before Macron and other world leaders are set to gather in the southwestern city of Biarritz on August 24-26 for a Group of Seven (G7) summit.

France holds the presidency of the G7 this year. The grouping also includes Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.

Russia was part of what was called the G8, but it was thrown out following its seizure of Crimea.

With reporting by AFP
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