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France's Macron vows 'immediate retaliation' to Syria chemical attacks


France has demanded the ouster of Kremlin ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and accused his regime of staging a chemical attack in April that provoked a US military response. Macron said fighting the Islamic State is an "absolute priority" and is a major reason to cooperate with Russian Federation.

"It's the guiding principle of our action in Syria and in which I want. for us to be able to strengthen our partnership with Russian Federation".

Macron told the press during a news conference that he had raised the issue with Putin during the Russian president's visit to France on Monday, CNN reports.

Macron advocated "a democratic transition that preserves the Syrian state", warning that "failed states" in the Middle East were a threat to the West.

"The use of chemical weapons by anyone will be the object of reprisals and immediate retaliation on the part of France", Macron said.

As the pair emerged from a three-hour talk to speak to reporters, Macron launched into a remarkably frank discussion of two Russian state news outlets - Sputnik and Russia Today - that he accused of behaving as "organs of influence, of propaganda, of lying propaganda".

Moscow and RT itself rejected allegations of meddling in the election.

Moments later, however, the French president left little doubt that he was convinced the Russian government had tried to prevent his election by spreading false rumors about him through two state-owned news networks, Russia Today and Sputnik. Putin cancelled his last planned visit in October after Hollande accused Russian Federation of war crimes in Syria.

Coming so soon after an election in which the Kremlin was widely seen as backing Macron's far-right rival Marine Le Pen - with Putin hosting her during a surprise visit to Moscow - the encounter in Versailles will have an added personal edge.

He did not specify what form such reprisals could take, but France flies warplanes over Syria and Iraq, striking IS targets as part of an worldwide coalition. The two leaders vowed to improve relations and jointly address global problems.


Mr Hollande also reportedly refused to take part in the opening of the newly built Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Centre in Paris, which Mr Putin is due to belatedly visit after meeting Mr Macron on Monday.

Putin did not comment on Macron's statement.

"Macron gave himself enough wiggle room, which opens up a new diplomatic and political window", said the diplomat.

Macron's relatively simple greeting of Putin belies a complicated relationship between the two leaders.

In Syrian conflict Moscow backs President Bashar al-Assad while France supports rebel groups trying to overthrow him.

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

Macron made no mention of Western sanctions on Russian Federation over Ukraine, though Putin repeated Moscow's view that their continued enforcement would not help stabilise the situation in Ukraine's east.

Relations between the European Union and Russian Federation have been fraught since Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Later Monday, Putin is to visit the center near the Seine River that includes the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

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