France has invited Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko (pictured) to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day next week, officials said Wednesday, prompting speculation of a possible meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin, who is also due to attend.
The officials said President François Hollande has invited both men to the June 6 ceremonies in Normandy in a slick diplomatic manoeuvre that comes amid heightened tensions between Kiev and Moscow.
The announcement of Poroshenko's invitation came after Kremlin aides confirmed that Putin would have dinner with Hollande on the eve of the ceremonies, in what will be his first face-to-face encounter with a Western leader since Russia's March annexation of Crimea.
"The sides will discuss various multilateral international questions including the Ukraine crisis," said Putin presidential aide Yury Ushakov.
US President Barack Obama, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also due to attend the commemorations, along with a number of other world leaders from countries involved in World War II.
Putin may also hold informal meetings with other Western leaders on June 6, Ushakov added, in what appeared to be a reference to Obama's reluctance to be seen to be normalising ties with Putin following the stand-off created by Russia's actions in Crimea and its alleged backing of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
"I personally think that if there are bilateral contacts, they will not be organised but will be 'on the hoof', as they say," Ushakov said.
The White House said earlier this month that Obama had no plans to meet one-on-one with Putin in France. French officials confirmed Wednesday that Obama would have a bilateral meeting on June 5 with Hollande.
The D-Day ceremonies will be preceded by a meeting in Brussels of the leaders of the G7 major industrialised powers, of which Russia is not a member. The erstwhile G8 grouping – which had included Moscow – was suspended after the annexation of Crimea.
Poroshenko, known for his pragmatism, wasted no time after being elected in Sunday's vote in promising to negotiate an end to the pro-Russia militant insurgency in the east and saying he was willing to begin talks with Moscow.
He supports building strong ties with Europe but has also stressed the importance of mending relations with Moscow.
Russia quickly welcomed the offer from the 48-year-old chocolate tycoon, raising hopes that his election will indeed ease the protracted crisis that has fuelled a level of tensions unseen since the end of the Cold War.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2014-05-28