PARIS, Aug. 20 - French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin on Monday agreed changes in Ukraine had bolstered the chances of peace in its east, AFP reported.
Macron, who hosted Putin at his summer residence in southern France, made clear he wanted to keep contacts with Moscow alive on a range of issues even at a time of spiraling tensions with the West.
The pair both expressed optimism that the arrival of Volodymyr Zelenskiy as Ukraine's president had improved the chances of ending the half-decade conflict during their meeting which lasted four-and-a-half hours.
Macron said he hoped to attend a summit with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and Germany -- the so-called Normandy format -- "in the next few weeks" to try to end fighting in eastern Ukraine.
"There is a real opportunity to put an end to the conflict that has been going on for five years," he told reporters in an open-air press conference at the start of talks.
Putin said: "There are things that are worth talking about and that give grounds for cautious optimism."
Russia was slung out of what was the G8 in 2014 after it seized Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, an annexation unrecognized by the international community.
The annexation was followed by a war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists which has so far claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Macron has taken a keen interest in brokering an end to the conflict and forging any progress would be a major feather in his cap as an international statesman.
"Relations between Russia and the European Union have an irritant, a subject of disagreement, which is Ukraine, which is a problem we have to resolve," Macron told the Russian leader.
"We need to keep up our pressure, our energy to resolve this problem," he added. (afp/ez)