French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela
Merkel brought together Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian
president-elect Petro Poroshenko for a 15-minute meeting before they
joined other dignitaries for lunch.
Putin went on to have an equally short meeting with Barack Obama in
which, according to a White House official, the U.S. President urged
him to recognize Poroshenko as Ukraine's leader and to cut off arms
supplies to pro-Russian separatists.
French officials have been plotting for weeks to use the 70th
anniversary of the D-Day landings - a key event helping to end World
War Two - to try to break the ice in the most serious European
security crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Hollande's office said Putin and Poroshenko shook hands and agreed
that detailed talks on a ceasefire between Kiev government forces
and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine would begin within a
Poroshenko, brought to power by pro-Western protests which Putin has
termed a coup, was photographed looking unsmiling and earnest as he
stood with the Russian leader and Merkel.
"It was a normal, serious exchange between two leaders," an official
in Hollande's office said.
"This marks tentative progress which he (Hollande) welcomes,
particularly given this occasion so symbolic for peace," the
official said, adding they also discussed steps such as Russian
recognition of Poroshenko's election and economic relations.
Putin told traveling reporters he welcomed proposals set out by
Poroshenko for ending the conflict. However he declined to say what
they were and said Ukraine must halt what he called "punitive"
military operations against pro-Russian separatists.
But he added: "I felt the attitude was right as a whole ... If this
(plan) happens, then it creates conditions for the development of
relations in other areas, including the economy."
A senior French official present at the meeting said they had
discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, which Moscow has
threatened to cut in a dispute about payment of arrears, as well as
key elements of Poroshenko's inaugural address on Saturday.
"If all goes well, they will speak to each other again on Monday to
maintain the contact," the French official said.
Interfax in Ukraine cited Poroshenko as saying he expected a Russian
representative to come to Ukraine to discuss his ideas for a
settlement plan. He added that he saw "good chances" of it being
Hollande had invited Poroshenko to Normandy as his personal guest at
the last minute in an effort to break the ice between Moscow and
Kiev even as fighting continued in eastern Ukraine between
government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
The rebels shot down a Ukrainian army plane on Friday and killed a
member of the interior ministry's special forces in the separatist
stronghold of Slaviansk, where residents said shelling continued all
day. (Full Story)
A White House official said Putin and Obama, who had avoided contact
with the Russian leader while the two were in Paris on Thursday -
also spoke to each other before the lunch.
"President Obama made clear that de-escalation depends upon Russia
recognizing President-elect Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of
Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and
stopping the provision of arms and material across the border,"
deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
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"If Russia does take this opportunity to recognize and work with the
new government in Kiev, President Obama indicated that there could
be openings to reduce tensions," he added.
World leaders and veterans paid tribute to soldiers who fell in the
liberation of Europe from Nazi German rule, at a series of
ceremonies around the Normandy beaches where allied forces landed 70
years ago on June 6, 1944.
Wreaths, parades and parachute-drops honored history's largest
amphibious assault, in which 160,000 U.S., British and Canadian
troops waded ashore to confront German forces, hastening its defeat
and the advent of peace in Europe.
Flanked by stooped war veterans, some in wheelchairs, Obama earlier
joined Hollande to commemorate victory and reaffirm U.S-French
solidarity before the 9,387 white marble headstones of fallen U.S.
soldiers at the Normandy American Cemetery.
It will be the last major commemoration for most of the veterans,
most of whom are in their late 80s and 90s.
Obama said the 50-mile (80 km) stretch of Normandy coastline - where
allied soldiers landed under fire on beaches codenamed Omaha, Utah,
Gold, Sword and Juno - was a "tiny sliver of sand upon which hung
more than the fate of a war, but rather the course of human
"Omaha - Normandy - this was democracy's beachhead," said Obama.
"And our victory in that war decided not just a century, but shaped
the security and well-being of all posterity."
The president sought to link the sacrifices of World War Two to U.S.
servicemen killed in combat since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the
United States by al Qaeda Islamist militants.
The "9/11 generation of service members" understood that "people
cannot live in freedom unless free people are prepared to die for
it", he said.
Hollande declared that France "would never forget the solidarity
between our two nations, solidarity based on a shared ideal, an
aspiration, a passion for freedom".
Twenty-one foreign leaders attended the commemorations, including
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron, Canada's
Stephen Harper as well as Merkel and Putin, whose country suffered
the heaviest casualties and struck decisive blows on the eastern
front to defeat the Nazis.
(Additional reporting by Nick Vinocur in Paris and Roberta Rampton
in Normandy; Writing by Alexandria Sage and Mark John; Sabina
Zawadzki in Kiev; Editing by Paul Taylor and Philippa Fletcher)
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