French President Emmanuel Macron hosts Russian leader Vladimir Putin at his summer residence on Monday and his office is adamant about what the get-together is not.
France isn't playing the role of go-between with Russia and other world powers, Macron's office says, after being stung by a tweet from President Donald Trump earlier in August that suggested Paris was trying to mediate between Iran and the U.S., Bloomberg wrote.
Nor does Putin's visit to the medieval seaside fortress at Bregançon signal a Russian return to the G-8, they say, even if it comes just a week before the Group of Seven nations meet in another French resort for their annual summit. Instead, the meeting with Macron is evidence France is pursuing its own independent foreign policy, officials argue.
Putin may see things differently, said Vladimir Frolov, a foreign-policy analyst in Moscow. Russia was expelled from the G-8 in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. While French officials say they don't favor Russia's return until those issues are resolved, amid continued international sanctions on Moscow, the Kremlin will regard the invitation to the South of France as a victory, he said.
"It's a no-lose visit for Putin, it completely eliminates the idea that he was isolated," said Frolov. "Putin will be focusing on Trump in the dialogue with Macron, whom he looks down on as an upstart," Frolov said. "or Putin, Trump is more important than Macron."
Russia removed one potential irritant from Monday's visit when a Moscow court last week ordered French investor Philippe Delpal transferred to house arrest after six months of pre-trial detention in a fraud case that's shocked Russia's investment community. Delpal, a partner at Moscow private-equity firm Baring Vostok Capital Partners, was detained with other colleagues in February. They deny wrongdoing and say the charges stem from a business dispute with local investors.
Macron repeatedly spoke to Putin about the case and "here, just before the visit, was the decision of the court," Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Friday.
Macron will push Putin to take advantage of recent peace gestures by Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. France also wants Russia to pressure the Syrian regime into refraining from an assault on rebel-held Idlib, and to use its influence to convince Iranian authorities to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord that Trump has abandoned.
Putin is unlikely to agree to much on Ukraine, where the stalemate continues despite Zelensky's calls for a new push for peace, said Frolov.