BORMES-LES-MIMOSAS, France: French President Emmanuel Macron held talks Monday with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at his Bregancon summer residence in southern France, seeking to press the Kremlin to help end the conflict in Ukraine and respect freedom of speech and fair elections in Russia.
Macron also urged Putin to respect the ceasefire in Syria's Idlib, following air strikes in the region and an attack on a Turkish army convoy on Monday.
"I must express our profound worry about the situation in Idlib. The population in Idlib is living under bombs, children are being killed. It's vital that the ceasefire agreed in Sochi is put into practice," Macron told Putin.
Macron was hosting Putin at his summer retreat of the Bregancon fortress on the Mediterranean coast, just days before he hosts world leaders including US President Donald Trump for the August 24-26 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Biarritz.
Macron said he hoped the two leaders would make progress towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine after its new president offered an olive branch to Putin.
"We called this summer for freedom of protest, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and the freedom to run in elections, which should be fully respected in Russia like for any member of the Council of Europe," Macron told a joint news conference ahead of their meeting.
"Because I believe in a European Russia."
Moscow has been rocked by weekly protests for more than a month after the authorities barred opposition candidates from running in an election for the city's legislature in September.
Macron and Putin said they would also discuss how to de-escalate tensions over Iran.
Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that he saw no alternative to the "Normandy" format for heads of state talks on the Ukraine crisis, but stopped short on Monday of signing up to a new summit on the subject.
He said phone conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy had given him cautious grounds for optimism, but stressed that he believed that any meeting aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis should yield tangible results.