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Putin, Macron Say Ukraine-Russia Prisoner Swap Gives Momentum For Peace Talks

Putin and Macron in the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas in southeastern France on August 19.
Putin and Macron in the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas in southeastern France on August 19.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin say a prisoner swap between Kyiv and Moscow has given momentum to talks on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The two leaders spoke by phone on September 8, the offices of both presidents said, touching on a broad range of security topics, including Iran, a day before a meeting of the Franco-Russian Council in Moscow.

Russia and Ukraine exchanged a total of 70 prisoners on September 7 in a move praised by the West as an opportunity to improve tense relations between Kyiv and Moscow.

"The two presidents confirmed that the current momentum will allow for the holding, in the next few weeks, of a summit under the Normandy format in Paris," the French presidency said in a statement.

The Kremlin added: "The sides discussed prospects for the resolution of the Ukrainian conflict and stressed that the Minsk Package of Measures has no alternatives as a basis for the conflict settlement. They reiterated mutual commitment to continue constructive joint work within the Normandy format."

More than 13,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine after Russia-backed separatists took up arms against government forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in April 2014.

After being elected in April this year, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for a four-way meeting with fellow Normandy format participants Russia, Germany, and France to revive peace talks with Putin.

The exchange is the first major prisoner swap between the two countries since 2017.

Macron and Putin also discussed Iran and keeping in place a 2015 deal that gave Iran access to world trade, including the sale of oil, in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and world powers including China, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia has been unravelling since the United States abandoned the accord last year.

"The sides discussed in detail the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program. Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron spoke for consolidation of efforts of all the parties concerned to save the JCPOA and observe it in full. They also exchanged information about Russia’s and France’s steps on that track," the Kremlin said.

Tehran has insisted for years that, despite Western accusations and indications of previous covert military aims, its nuclear ambitions are merely civilian.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani warned earlier this week that Tehran is on the verge of taking steps away from the 2015 accord that "will have extraordinary effects."

In response, European powers called on Iran to avoid any action that contravenes its commitments to the deal.

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and Reuters
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