French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were those who brought together Russian and Ukrainian leaders for a 15-minute meeting before they joined other dignitaries for lunch.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin later had a short meeting with the U.S. president Barack Obama in which, according to a White House official, Obama urged his colleague to recognize Poroshenko as Ukraine’s leader and to cut off arms supplies to pro-Russian separatists.
French officials have been thinking over the possibility to use the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings – a key event helping to end World War Two – to launch talks on dealing with the most serious European security crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Hollande’s office revealed to reporters that Putin and just elected Petro Poroshenko shook hands and agreed that detailed talks on solving conflict between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine would begin within next few days.
The Ukraine leader, 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 added, revealing that the parties also discussed further actions and steps such as Russian recognition of Poroshenko’s election and economic relations.
Putin reportedly approved proposals made by Poroshenko for ending the conflict. However, the Russian president 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 French official who was present at the meeting told reporters that Poroshenko and Putin had discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, which Moscow has threatened to stop 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.
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.
“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.