PARIS, Aug. 13 - France hopes President Vladimir Putin will respond positively to moves by his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to end the five-year-old conflict in the country's east, AFP reported Tuesday citing a French presidency official.
French President Emmanuel Macron is due to host Putin for talks at his holiday residence in Bregancon in southern France next Monday, a rare bilateral visit by the Russian strongman to the West after years of growing tensions.
"President Zelenskiy has made offers to which -- it seems to us -- President Putin should respond in an encouraging way," said the French official, who asked not to be named.
"We will intensify our efforts on the question of Ukraine, notably within the Normandy format" that groups Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.
"The election of President Zelenskiy gives us some room to maneuver," the official added.
Macron has taken a keen interest in brokering an end to the conflict in the east of Ukraine that began in 2014, hosting Zelenskiy for talks in June for one of the former comedian's first foreign trips as president.
Zelenskiy has offered to meet Putin for face-to-face talks, saying "let's do it", and spoke to him by phone last week when four Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a grenade attack.
"I called him urgently. I told him that this brings us no closer to peace," Zelenskiy said.
Since 2014, an estimated 13,000 people have been killed in the war between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.
The meeting will provide a crucial chance for Macron to try to find common ground with Putin ahead of hosting the Group of Seven summit starting August 24 in Biarritz, southwest France.
Russia was excluded from what was the G8 following its 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. (afp/ez)