French President Emmanuel Macron met Russia's Vladimir Putin near Paris on Monday, promising some frank talking with the Kremlin leader after an election campaign in which his team accused Russian media of trying to interfere, Reuters reported.
Macron, who took office two weeks ago, has said dialogue with Russia is vital in tackling a number of international disputes. Nevertheless, relations have been beset by mistrust, with Paris and Moscow backing opposing sides in the Syrian civil war and at odds over the Ukraine conflict.
Fresh from talks with his Western counterparts at a NATO meeting in Brussels and a G7 summit in Sicily, Macron was hosting the Russian president at the sumptuous 17th Century palace of Versailles outside Paris.
Amid the baroque splendor, Macron will use an exhibition on Russian Tsar Peter the Great at the former royal palace to try to get Franco-Russian relations off to a new start.
The 39-year-old French leader and Putin exchanged a cordial, businesslike handshake and smiles when the latter stepped from his limousine for a red carpet welcome, with Macron appearing to say "welcome" to him in French.
The two men then entered the palace to start their talks.
"It's indispensable to talk to Russia because there are a number of international subjects that will not be resolved without a tough dialogue with them," Macron told reporters at the end of the G7 summit on Saturday, where the Western leaders agreed to consider new measures against Moscow if the situation in Ukraine did not improve.
"I will be demanding in my exchanges with Russia," he added.
Relations between Paris and Moscow were increasingly strained under former President Francois Hollande.