French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin have held talks in southern France to discuss a range of world issues, including conflicts in Ukraine, Iran and Syria.
Macron told a news conference ahead of the meeting at his summer home on the French Riviera Monday that he hoped the two leaders would make progress towards resolving the crisis in Ukraine following recent elections there. He said there was a "real opportunity" for peace in Ukraine after the election of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Putin told reporters that phone conversations with Zelensky, who has offered an olive branch to the Russian president, had given him cautious grounds for optimism.
France is seeking to play the role of mediator in Russia's conflict with Ukraine.
During the press conference, Macron also called for the respect of free speech and free elections in Russia, where authorities have been cracking down on anti-government protesters in Moscow.
Putin said Moscow does not want protests like the" yellow vest" ones that have taken place in France, but that peaceful demonstrations were fine.
"We would not want such a thing to happen in the Russian capital," Putin said, referring to the French demonstrations. He said those guilty of breaking Russia's protest laws should be held responsible.
France has strongly criticized Russia's arrests of more than 2,000 demonstrators and the "clearly excessive use of force'' against protesters.
The two leaders also addressed the conflict in Syria. Macron expressed "profound worry" about the bombing of the Syrian town of Idlib, and said "it's vital that the ceasefire agreed in Sochi is put into practice."
However, Putin said that Moscow supports attacks by the Syrian army against "terrorists" in the northern province of Idlib.
"We never said that in Idlib terrorists would feel comfortable," he said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is backed by Russia, has been carrying out a military offensive in Idlib, a rebel-controlled area of Syria. France has been pushing for a truce in fighting that could prevent more civilian deaths.
Monday's bilateral meeting in Macron's summer home comes ahead of a meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Biarritz, France at the end of the week. Russia was excluded from the group after it annexed Crimea in 2014.