France's new President Emmanuel Macron will host Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday in the latest test of his diplomatic mettle after vowing firm stands on Ukraine and Syria.
"It is essential to talk to Russia because there are many international issues that will not be resolved without a tough exchange with the Russians," Macron said at the G7 summit in Sicily which wound up on Saturday.
The 39-year-old centrist leader's meeting with Putin, 64, caps a whirlwind of diplomacy including the G7 talks as well as last week's NATO summit in Brussels.
He told a French weekly that he was not "bothered" by leaders who "think in terms of power ratios," citing Putin as an example along with US President Donald Trump.
But Macron, who became France's youngest president just three weeks ago, said he does not believe in "the diplomacy of public invective but in bilateral dialogue."
As a candidate, Macron had tough words for Russia, accusing it of following a "hybrid strategy combining military intimidation and an information war."
Since the start of the war in Ukraine in 2014, Russia has flexed its muscles with a series of war games involving tens of thousands of troops in areas bordering NATO Baltic states.
Discussion on Syria
The Syrian conflict will also be high on the agenda, with Macron saying he was in favour of "building an inclusive political solution in a much more collective way."
Macron regretted that none of the G7 states is party to Syria peace talks under way in the Kazakh capital Astana initiated by Russia, Turkey and Iran, although there are US observers.
Separate UN-backed negotiations have been taking place in Geneva over the six-year-old Syrian conflict.
Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov told a Moscow news briefing that he expected an "interesting and frank" discussion on Syria.
"France is among the countries with a very severe stance towards the regime of [Syrian regime leader] Bashar al Assad," he said.
The visit comes seven months after the Russian leader cancelled a trip to Paris for the opening of a Russian cathedral complex near the Eiffel Tower in a spat over Syria with then-president Francois Hollande, who had said Russia's bombing of Aleppo could amount to war crimes.