French president flexes diplomatic muscles in Putin meeting

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Macron said today that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constituted a "red line" for France and "would result in reprisals and an immediate response, at least where France is concerned".

Mr Putin justified having received Mr Macron's rival, the extreme right-wing leader Marine Le Pen, during the French presidential campaign, and criticised worldwide sanctions against his country. And both leaders agreed they don't want Syria - where Russian Federation is propping up the government of President Bashar Assad - to collapse into a failed state.

Macron said he had a frank exchange of views with Putin, and that the two had aired their disagreements on a number of subjects. The allegedly Kremlin-linked disinformation campaign against Macron veered from Sputnik saying that Macron was rumored to be gay and having a secret affair, to a trove of Macron's campaign emails being published online, with false documents reportedly mixed among them on May 5, two days before the vote.

Media close to Mr Putin led a vicious campaign against Mr Macron, portraying him as a greedy banker counting stacks of banknotes, calling him a "sodomite" and his wife Brigitte a "paedophile".

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected allegations that Moscow meddled in France's presidential election.

Later Monday, Putin was visiting a newly built Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center near the Seine River that includes the Holy Trinity Cathedral. And the AP notes that on Monday, he did not hesitate to say two Russian media outlets, Sputnik and Russia Today, acted as spreaders of "propaganda" during the campaign. But a year later, in 2013, Obama was widely criticised for holding off on military action against Syria when he failed to get congressional approval for a strike in the wake of a chemical-weapons attack. "What I'd like is through Minsk agreement to find a solution and for the Ukrainian and Russian sides, a de-escalation", Macron said.

Monday's meeting between Macron and Putin was the first since Macron was sworn in as president May 14.

The Associated Press reports a previous visit from Putin, scheduled for last October, was even canceled after then-President Francois Hollande said Russian Federation could face war crimes for its role in supporting Assad.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview published Tuesday, said he was "convinced" the Syrian government was not behind an alleged chemical attack in the country last month that killed dozens. The US Government subsequently worked with Russian Federation on a deal that was supposed to rid Syria of such weapons.

Macron said he spoke to Putin about LGBT rights in Chechnya and about the rights of embattled NGOs in Russian Federation, vowing he would be "constantly vigilant" on these issues.

France has taken a firm line against Moscow over Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Relations between Paris and Moscow became increasingly strained under former president Francois Hollande.

Macron took the same stance, saying: "I want us to organize a democratic transition but also preserve a Syrian state".

Putin's visit comes after the 39-year-old French centrist made a successful debut on the world stage last week, holding his own against Trump at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels and at a G7 summit in Italy. "I don't believe in the diplomacy of public invective, but in my bilateral conversations, I will let nothing pass".

Ostensibly, the reason for Putin's visit was for him to tour an exhibition in Versailles about the 300th anniversary of Russian Czar Peter the Great's trip to Paris.

"You have to show you won't make little concessions, even symbolic ones", Mr Macron, 39, told the French weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday.

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