Macron meets with Syrian opposition shortly after hosting Assad ally Putin

France presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron will faceoff Marine Le Pen in an intense French presidential election. "They are influence operations", Macron said, as Putin shifted uneasily from side to side.

He said the news outlets "on many occasions produced untruths about me and my campaign and so I determined that they had no place, I confirm it, in my headquarters".

WikiLeaks, which posted online hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign during last year's USA presidential race, tweeted a link to the campaign documents.

The United States has also blamed Assad's government for the attack.

Cybersecurity analysts detected Russian fingerprints behind the hacking of the Macron campaign's e-mails and internal communications earlier this month.

The leaders' first handshakes - relatively brief and cordial - after Mr Putin climbed out of his limousine at Versailles were far less macho than Mr Macron's now famous who-will-blink-first handshake showdown with US President Donald Trump when the two leaders met for the first time last week.

Former US president Barack Obama put himself in a tough spot with his ultimatum to Syria on the use of chemical weapons when he first used the "red line" phrase in August 2012.

The two countries are in stark opposition over the Syrian civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and France supporting rebel groups trying to overthrow him. Putin denied any effort to meddle in the vote.

FRANCE-RUSSIA

As cameras rolled, Mr Macron held on tight to Mr Trump's notorious power grip as the two men sat next to each other, the Frenchman's mouth clenched and eyes firmly fixed at the 70-year-old tycoon's squinty stare.

In Versailles, he and Macron inaugurated an exhibition marking the visit of Russia's modernising tsar Peter the Great to France in 1717. "It was an exchange that was extremely frank, direct, with a lot of things that were said".

Macron also said that Putin has promised to start a number of initiatives aimed a helping the LGBTQ Chechen community.

Footage of the handshake as the pair met for lunch at the US Embassy in Brussels ahead of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit last Thursday has gone viral. On Monday, he appeared set on opening discussions on a variety of topics, including Russia's involvement in Ukraine and Syria.

Vladimir Putin has vowed to investigate "the whole truth" about Chechnya's gay concentration camps, according to France's president.

France has also taken a tough line on European Union sanctions on Russian Federation, first imposed when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and cancelled a $1.3 billion warship supply contract in 2015. Mr Macron said he is looking toward strengthening France's partnership with Russian Federation against the fight with so called Islamic State (ISIS) and wanted a democratic transition. "Let's fight for all the restrictions in the global economy to be scrapped".

On human rights, Macron said he had raised the troubles facing gay and transgender people in Chechnya and those of nongovernmental organizations. He said he wasn't sure if France's Syria policy was "independent" because it was part of a US-led alliance, adding that Paris and Moscow had points of disagreement and agreement over Syria.

  • Leroy Wright


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