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Macron 'confident' of progress in Russia ties after Libya talks with Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a video conference at the Élysée Palace in Paris on June 26, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a video conference at the Élysée Palace in Paris on June 26, 2020. © REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron is confident of progress in key areas with Russia, notably the crisis in Libya, his office said on Friday after a video conference with Russia leader Vladimir Putin.

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Macron is "confident that we can make progress with Russia on a number of subjects", a senior French presidential official told reporters, citing "a common interest in the stabilisation of Libya and the reunification of its institutions".

Macron has in recent months pursued a policy of rapprochement with Russia, reaching out to Putin over key areas of disagreement such as Ukraine, in an approach that has discomforted some EU allies.

His call with Putin comes amid a spat between France and Turkey, which Macron has accused of playing a "dangerous game" in Libya.

Turkey has intervened decisively in recent weeks in Libya, providing air support, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help the government based in Tripoli repel a year-long assault by eastern military leader Khalifa Haftar.

Russia backs Haftar, and France is also suspected of favouring him — although Paris insists it is neutral in the conflict.

In the talks with Putin, Macron expressed "all the worries that the reinforcement of the Turkish presence in Libya cause", the official said.

But the official added that Macron also raised with Putin "foreign interference in Libya" including the presence of mercenaries from the Wagner group, a Russian paramilitary organisation reportedly run by a confidant of Putin.

According to the Kremlin website, Putin told Macron: "I know your mindset aimed at organising joint work on many of these subjects. We will support your proposals in any way possible."

The Kremlin said both leaders called for a ceasefire in Libya and a return to dialogue.

>> The Interview: Libya 'faces a real risk of partition'

Invitation to Russia

The French official said that during two hours of talks Putin had also invited Macron to Russia and the French president had accepted, although no date has been set. 

The visit would likely take place "in the next months" and "before the end of the year" although the coronavirus crisis would have to be taken account of, the official said.

A balancing act: France's relations with Russia
The Kremlin also said that Putin extended an invitation to "dear Emmanuel" to visit Russia.

The French leader had planned to attend events in Red Square last month to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

But that event was cancelled as a result of the pandemic, although it then went ahead – without Macron in attendance – in Moscow on Wednesday.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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