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Macron, Putin meet, hoping to save Iran nuclear deal
French President Emmanuel Macron was to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg on Thursday. The leaders will take the time for an in-depth one-on-one discussion according to Macron's office, with the Iran nuclear deal as well as conflicts in Syria and Ukraine on the agenda.
This is Macron's first trip to Russia as president and follows a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.
The talks take place after US President Donald Trump in early May pulled out of the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran.
Washington is threatening fresh sanctions on Iran and countries that trade with it if Tehran does not comply with a set of strict new demands.
Macron has expressed his determination to save the deal, a rare point of agreement between Moscow and France.
France and its European allies have seen relations sour with Russia in recent years over crises in Ukraine and Syria, where they have been on opposite sides, as well as accusations of meddling in foreign elections and the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain.
Putin will welcome the French president to the Konstantin Palace, a former residence of Peter the Great, some 20 kilometres outside Saint Petersburg.
Macron will be accompanied by his wife Brigitte during the trip, which will also see him address the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.
On Wednesday US-based Human Rights Watch called on Macron to raise the issue of rights abuses with Putin, following a crackdown on dissent and pressure on minority groups in the country.
He must confirm "that France will never accept the increased repression in Russia as 'the new normal' ", the NGO said in a statement.