Macron wishes Putin 'success in modernising Russia'

AFP , Monday 19 Mar 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron gives a joint press conference with Germany's chancellor at the Eylsee presidential Palace in Paris, France March 16, 2018 (Source: Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron wished Vladimir Putin success Monday in "modernising Russia" after his re-election, but urged Moscow to shed light on the "unacceptable" attempted assassination of an ex-spy in Britain.

Macron also expressed concern over the war in Syria, in which Moscow plays a key role as the regime's closest ally, in a carefully-worded statement that steered clear of congratulating Putin directly for his election win.

"The president offered Russia and the Russian people, in the name of France, his wishes for success in the political, democratic, economic and social modernisation of the country," the statement said.

"He stressed his commitment to a constructive dialogue between Russia, France and Europe."

But the statement maintained Macron's tough line on the March 4 poisoning of a former double agent living in southwest England, as Western allies backed Britain in the escalating row.

"The president called on Russian authorities to shed light on the responsibilities for the unacceptable attack in Salisbury, and to firmly regain control of any programmes that have not been declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," it said.

"He informed the Russian president of measures taken to ensure the security of our citizens," it added, without elaborating.

On Syria, Macron expressed "great concern" over the situation in Afrin -- captured by Turkish-led fighters Sunday -- and in Eastern Ghouta which has been pummelled by the Moscow-allied regime.

He "called on Russia to do its best to stop the fighting and civilian casualties."

Macron is balancing tricky priorities when it comes to Russia, regarding a relationship with Putin as crucial to resolving conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

He has made the case for keeping a dialogue open between Russia and the West, and on Monday again stressed that the relationship was "essential to Europe's security" and in everyone's interest.

Last week, however, Macron announced he would take unspecified measures in the coming days over the spy poisoning as he joined Britain, Germany and the US in pointing the finger at Russia.

On Ukraine, the statement said France "remained firmly committed to the full re-establishment of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders".

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