France’s President Emmanuel Macron has asked not to have individual meetings with presidents Trump and Putin during the their stay in Paris for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I so as not to overshadow the commemorations.
Russian newspaper ‘Kommersant’ reported that Macron had specifically asked Moscow and Washington to abstain from holding smaller meetings so as not to interfere with the events planned by the Elysée palace for this weekend, when US President Donald Trump, Russia's Vladimir Putin and other world leaders are expected.
A spokesperson for Putin had already stated previously that the presidents of both countries would refrain from full-fledged negotiations and instead only hold a short meeting, since the setting of the event would not allow otherwise. A date for the next more extensive meeting would be arranged at that opportunity, he added.
Trump had also already expressed doubts a full meeting would take place on that occasion but suggested that the G20 summit, which takes place in Buenos Aires from 30th November until 1st December, might be more suitable.
Since the two presidents did not seem to have plans for anything but smaller talks in Paris from the start, experts interpreted the Elysée palace’s statement as a way to save face. It could be a way to avert a negative result if the congregation of world leaders does not lead to new agreements over prominent issues.
The interpretation becomes more likely, considering the weakened position of Macron, ahead of the centennial commemorations in Paris to mark the end of World War I. According to AP, the French president has had a bruising week, with his domestic popularity at a new low following a turbulent tour of northeastern France where ordinary citizens he had hoped to reconnect with instead repeatedly bent his ear over unpopular policies.
The six-day swing across regions, towns and villages that were among the most brutalised by the 1914-1918 war was conceived by Macron himself, and billed by his office as unprecedented in its duration and scope, unmatched since the presidency of General Charles de Gaulle.
With stops at once-bloody battlefields and poignant WWI memorials, Macron achieved one of his main goals, to highlight soldiers' sacrifices and give renewed warnings about European division and rising nationalism, dangers he is increasingly concerned about. But he was distracted from the commemorative pathos and broader message by the more immediate concerns of citizens he met. Repeatedly, he had to fend off criticism about fuel policies and pensions.
Macron said, however, that he was happy for the opportunity to deal with people's grievances directly. "There are days when people are angry," he said during a stop at a Renault car factory. "I need to explain what I do to those who are angry, to respect them and listen to them. That's what I do."