May 24, 2018 / 8:47 PM / a year ago

Macron will attend World Cup if France reach semi-finals

French President Emmanuel Macron sits into a car at an airport as he arrives to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia May 24, 2018. Alexander Ryumin/TASS/Host Photo Agency/Pool via REUTERS

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said he would travel to Russia for the soccer World Cup if France reach the semi-finals, turning a deaf ear to calls from human rights groups to boycott the tournament.

Human rights groups calling for the boycott over Russia’s involvement in Syria’s civil war met with Macron’s advisers earlier this week, saying it would send a strong symbolic message if the 40-year-old leader did not attend the World Cup.

“If the French team passes beyond the quarter-finals I will come and support,” Macron said during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Macron has banked on nurturing relationships with awkward leaders such as Putin, appearing engaged on the world stage but remaining non-committal and trying to mediate among opposing sides without unsettling anyone.

France have been drawn to face Australia, Denmark and Peru in Group C at the World Cup, which runs from June 14 to July 15. The top two in the group will progress to the round of 16.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Writing by Richard Lough; editing by John Stonestreet

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