May 26, 2017 / 1:31 PM / 3 months ago

Kremlin: Putin, Macron meeting a chance to get acquainted

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the presidential council for physical culture and sports in the southern city of Krasnodar, Russia, May 23, 2017.Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A meeting next week near Paris between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin will be an opportunity for both leaders to get to know each other, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said on Friday.

During the French presidential election campaign, Putin granted an audience in Moscow to Macron's far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen, while Macron's campaign manager accused Russia of deploying "fake news" to discredit him. Russia denied that.

Macron will meet Putin at the palace of Versailles outside Paris on May 29 to inaugurate an exhibition marking 300 years of Franco-Russian diplomatic ties.

"This provides us with an opportunity to talk frankly and to get a better feel for each other," Ushakov told reporters. He said the meeting would also allow Moscow and Paris "to get a better feel for the nuances of each other's position".

"The main thing for the presidents is to get acquainted with each other and discuss the topical issues of the international situation," Ushakov said.

The Kremlin expects that the four-way "Normandy format" negotiations on settling the conflict in Ukraine would continue after Macron's election, Ushakov said. Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are part of this process.

Syria will also loom large on the two men's agenda, Ushakov said, adding that the Kremlin was expecting "a frank conversation" with Macron.

"France belongs to those countries which have the toughest attitude to (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad's regime," Ushakov said.

After Macron's election victory, Putin, in a change of tack, told him in a congratulatory message that he wanted to put mistrust aside and work with him.

Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Christian Lowe and Tom Heneghan

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