French president flexes diplomatic muscles in Putin meeting

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet Putin on May 29, 2017, in Versailles, for talks on Syria and Ukraine.

Standing in the opulent Gallery of Great Battles, a spacious ode to France's military achievements, the two men vowed close cooperation in fighting terrorism - though it was plain that differences remain in their approaches to Syria, where the two countries back opposing sides.

Just before the French election, Macron's campaign announced it had been targeted by a massive hacking operation - and several experts were quick to point a finger at Russian Federation.

"Donald Trump, the President of Turkey or the President of Russian Federation are of a mindset of power relations, which doesn't bother me", Macron said, adding: "I don't believe in diplomacy of the public invective but in bilateral dialogues".

Still, on Monday morning in Versailles, the two leaders set aside those frictions for the cameras, donning big grins and walking side by side into the golden, gilded palace, where the tough talk promised by Macron is likely to commence.

France is in the coalition backing Sunni Arab and Kurdish rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has strong military help from Russian Federation and Iran.

In an apparent warning to Assad and Russian Federation, he said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "red line" for his presidency and would draw an "immediate response" from France.

The two leaders held a joint press conference on Monday after a meeting at the lavish Palace of Versailles, now the host of an exhibition commemorating the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great's diplomatic visit to Paris and surrounding areas, France24 reported.

The French president was clear in the days leading up to the discussion that he expected it to be a hard one.

The Russian strongman defended hosting Macron's far-right rival Marine Le Pen - seen as the Kremlin's favorite - for a visit during the race, saying he had no cause to deny her request for an audience.

Speaking about Sputnik and Russia Today, Macron said the two organizations "did not behave like press outlets, but behaved like agents of influence and propaganda" that spread "serious falsehoods". 'We want more young French people to go to study in Russia and the Russians to do it here in France, ' he said. "Our relations must be normalized".

He says they're "totally distinct from diplomatic contacts" that Macron, the president, now has.

Since being elected, Macron appears to have toned down the rhetoric, although he noted the two leaders still had "diverging positions" in their first phone call.

During his G-7 news conference on Saturday, Macron promised to have a "demanding dialogue" with Russian Federation, especially over Syria.

He also shrugged off allegations that Russian hackers infiltrated Macron's campaign. Earlier Monday, human rights activists protesting near the Eiffel Tower displayed a banner that said, "Stop homophobia in Chechnya".

Human Rights Watch said in a new report last week that high-level officials in Russia's Chechnya humiliated inmates during visits to detention facilities where gay people were allegedly held and tortured.

Newly inaugurated French President Emmanuel Macron drew worldwide headlines when his knuckles turned white during an intense handshake with President Donald Trump at the G-7 meeting - an encounter he later called a "moment of truth".

The Russian president, hoping to mend ties with the West that have grown increasingly strained in recent months, refrained from picking up the fight over the Russian RT television and Sputnik news agency.