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French president praises talks with Putin for making headway on Syria

Negotiations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Versailles helped Russia and France make progress on the Syria issue, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche weekly on Sunday.

"After the negotiations with the Russian president in Versailles, I state that we are moving forward on both these issues. Cooperation between our special services on the ground has been raised to a completely different level than before," the French president said.

"I'm set to hold a tough position on anyone's use of chemical weapons in Syria. In the event that this happens, I have ensured that France actually gives a prompt response to this even before it resorts to words. I also demand that humanitarian aid be provided in order to ensure the salvation of civilians in the battle area. These are my two red lines on the Syrian dossier," Macron said.

The French president also noted differences between France and Russia on the Syria issue.

"Vladimir Putin is an ally of Bashar Assad while I hold the position that I do not consider the removal of Bashar Assad from power as an obligatory condition for any further initiatives on Syria," the French president noted.

"But at the same time I am looking for those measures that would allow for restoration in that region while putting an end to terrorism," Macron said.

"This is the difference in the position with my predecessor in the presidential post," Macron said, meaning former French President Francois Hollande.

The first talks between Putin and Macron took place on May 29 and lasted about three hours. The Russian leader visited France on the invitation of the French president.

[Source: Itar Tass, Paris, 16Jul17]

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