Robert Harneis -TDO- (FRANCE) French President Emmanuel Macron will host his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for a round of talks on 29 May at the Versailles palace outside of Paris. The two are set to discuss Syria and Ukraine, among other issues.
The President is currently totally engaged in five days of foreign policy meetings starting with NATO in Brussels and lunch with Donald Trump moving on to the G7 meeting in Taormina in Sicily on 26 and 27 May.
The NATO meeting was notable for the expected demand by Trump that the European nations contribute more. "The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia, and on NATO's eastern and southern borders," he said, describing the situation of some members below the agreed contribution of 2% as chronic. However, the unpredictable President has dropped referring to NATO as obsolete. NATO on its side has finally agreed to join the coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq rather than just support it. This is likely to be a result of the change of French President. Former President Hollande was opposed to joining the coalition. Whilst at the conference Macron made much of his close relationship with Chancellor Merkel of Germany
Before the conference he took the opportunity to meet the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The meeting apparently took place at the Steinberger Hotel on Thursday and was closed to the press. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also attended the meeting.
According to presidential sources, the meeting between the two leaders covering bilateral political and economic relations passed in a positive manner. Both leaders agreed on cooperation in the defense industry and increasing bilateral trade volume between Turkey and France to 20 billion euros, which was 13.4 billion euros in 2015.
Developments in the region, Syria and Iraq in particular, were also covered in the meeting between Erdoğan and Macron. Both leaders underlined the importance of the joint fight against all types of terrorist groups.
The G7 meeting features the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States and the two Presidents of the European Union Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker. In addition, the Italian leader Paolo Gentiloni has invited the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tunisia to attend the conference.
The announcement of the final meeting of the series for the French President, with President Putin came as a surprise. Under his predecessor Hollande relations had reached an all-time low with Putin doing little to disguise his contempt for the French leader. A meeting scheduled for the 19th October 2016 was cancelled by Putin. During the presidential elections in France there were accusations that the Russians had attempted to influence the result. Despite this and the tension with Russia over the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the new French leader has moved swiftly to improve relations with a country that has been a traditional ally since the end of the 19th Century and has on two occasions done much to safe Russia from her powerful neighbor Germany, in 1914 and during the Second World War. He will be anxious to limit the damage done to this relationship by the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West including the cancelling of the sale of two Mistral warships that Russia had already paid for. Particularly as the sanctions seem to he is hurting France more than Russia. There has been much criticism of the sanctions by many French political leaders and Macron is anxious to be seen to be reacting to these criticisms.
Macron will be aware that as recently as 2004, President Chirac became the first Western leader to visit Russia's top-secret Titov space control center of the Russian military space forces — the control point for all of Russia's satellites, which is also involved in launches of Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles. He was also the last. In 2003 France Russia and Germany united to oppose the United States attack on Iraq.
President Macron’s five-day foreign policy marathon will, he hopes, take him away from the hurly burly of the parliamentary elections in full swing in France and emphasize his statesmanlike qualities. The effect will have been spoilt, in France at any rate, by a corruption scandal that has burst around one of his closest colleagues the Secretary General of his party, Republique en Marche, and the Minister of Territorial Cohesion. He will be hoping that it will not spoil what is in part, at any rate, an image building electoral exercise.