Putin meets Macron, says North Korea summit end regrettable

Putin meets Macron, says North Korea summit end regrettable

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, said Thursday that North Korea fulfilled its promises ahead of the cancelled summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

At a joint news conference at the Konstantin Palace presidential residence outside St. Petersburg, Putin said the North Korean leader "did everything that he had promised in advance, even blowing up the tunnels and shafts" of the country's nuclear testing site. "After which, we heard about cancellation of the summit by the United States."

He said Russia regretted the development, adding that "we had very much counted on it being a significant step in sorting out the situation on the Korean peninsula and that it would be the beginning of the process of denuclearizing the whole Korean peninsula."

Macron expressed hope that the efforts in Korea for "engagement toward a process of non-proliferation and denuclearization can continue."

"France is completely disposed to help, but I think it's for the entire international community ... and the United Nations has a particular role to play to work on it," the French leader said.

Macron met with Putin amid deep differences between them over Syria, Ukraine and alleged Russian meddling abroad. But both men want to salvage the Iranian nuclear deal that the U.S. has withdrawn from.

On Iran, Macron said the agreement has been "placed in a situation of risk by the Americans, but I want to see elements of optimism."

Putin reiterated support for the pact and said any unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran would be illegitimate.

Macron's aides insist he is not cozying up to Putin or seeking to pivot away from France's longstanding alliance with the U.S. in favour of one with Russia and China.

Rather, they say Macron wants to keep a dialogue open to help solve world crises. France also wants Russia to use its influence with Iran to ensure it respects its nuclear commitments despite Trump's decision.

The Iran issue marks the first time that Russia, France and Germany have agreed on such a major matter in years.

Ahead of the meeting, the provocative Russian performance art group Pussy Riot issued a letter to Macron calling on him to demand the release of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned in Russia on a conviction of conspiracy to commit terror acts. Sentsov began a hunger strike last week.

Macron said he raised the issue with Putin, along with that of film director Kirill Srebryannikov, who is under house arrest in an embezzlement case.

"These two are sensitive questions for France because the French intellectual elite have anxiety about them," he said.

Macron also said he plans to attend some of the World Cup soccer matches in Russia this summer. There had been speculation he would stay away to protest the poisoning of an ex-Russian agent in Britain.

"Because I am an optimist by nature, I can say with assurance that I probably will come to support our team in several weeks," Macron said.

The Associated Press