Macron holds 'extremely frank' talks with Putin

The two leaders emerged from their first meeting - discussions at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles that lasted more than an hour longer than planned - clearly still at odds on multiple issues, but also seemingly keen not to let their differences define their fledgling relationship.

Macron said he spoke to Putin about LGBT rights in the Russian republic of Chechnya and about the rights of embattled non-governmental organizations in Russia, vowing to be "vigilant" on these issues.

Putin emphasised the need for closer cooperation between Russian Federation and France, two nuclear-armed permanent members of the UN Security Council.

After Macron's emails were hacked on the eve of the election, cybersecurity firms blamed groups tied to Russia, and state-backed Russian news outlets spread rumors about Macron.

"They behaved like organs of influence, of propaganda and of lying propaganda", he said.

The two leaders discussed a variety of important issues, including the Syrian and Ukrainian crises, the situation in Korea, the fight against terrorism, and the cultural and economic ties between Russian Federation and France.

Ahead of the visit, Macron told a French weekly that he was not "bothered" by leaders who "think in terms of power dynamics".

But he also launched an extraordinary attack on two Russian media outlets he accused of spreading "lying propaganda".

Moscow strongly denied all allegations of election meddling, and Putin on Monday again poo-pooed the idea as unfounded press speculation.

"We don't see one concrete fact either about hackers or about some secret probes into election meddling in nearly every Western country, or on the issue of accusations of rights abuses of LGBT representatives in Chechnya", Lavrov told journalists.

He said the meeting with Ms Le Pen did not represent an attempt to sway the race.

France flies warplanes over Syria and Iraq, striking Islamic State targets as part of an global coalition.

Mr Macron portrayed the meeting as just a first step in resetting the country's relations with Russian Federation.

Monday's visit comes seven months after Putin cancelled a trip to Paris amid a row over Syria with Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande, who had said Russia's bombing of Aleppo could amount to war crimes.

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.

Macron, who was elected on May 7 by a wide margin, said it is "indispensable to talk to Russian Federation because there are a number of worldwide subjects that will not be resolved without a tough dialogue with them".

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron, left, at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, May 29, 2017.

Putin moved quickly after the French election to try to smooth things over, congratulating Macron and urging him to work to overcome their countries' "mutual distrust".

On Syria, Mr Putin underlined the importance of securing the Syrian state, adding that it is essential for combating terrorism.

  • Leroy Wright