MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday urged French election winner Emmanuel Macron to bridge deep rifts and work together in the face of the “growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism”.
“The citizens of France entrusted you to lead the country in a difficult period for Europe and for the entire world community. The growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism is accompanied by an escalation of local conflicts and the destabilisation of entire regions,” Putin said in a congratulatory telegram released by the Kremlin.
“In these conditions it is especially important to overcome mutual distrust and join forces to ensure international stability and security,” it said.
The Kremlin statement said Putin “confirmed his readiness for constructive joint work on current bilateral, regional and global issues, expressing certainty that this would be in the fundamental interests of the Russian and French people.”
“Putin also wished Macron strong health, prosperity and success in such a responsible position at the head of state,” it said.
The Kremlin was widely seen as backing Macron’s far-right opponent Marine Le Pen, with Putin hosting her during a surprise visit to Moscow in the run-up to the vote.
Adding to the tensions, alleged cyberattacks on Macron’s campaign were linked to Moscow and his supporters accused Russian state media of trying to smear the candidate.
Ties between Russia and France are currently strained as Paris has helped spearhead the West’s punitive response to Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.
The EU has imposed tough economic sanctions on Russia over its 2014 seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and backing for eastern insurgents in a three-year conflict that has killed some 10,000 people.
France and Germany have led mediation efforts to end the conflict but a 2015 peace plan they brokered has hit a brick wall.
Russia and France are also at odds over the war in Syria where Moscow is flying a bombing campaign in support of leader Bashar al-Assad, who Paris insists must leave power.
Xi congratulates Macron
Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Macron on his presidential election victory, saying their countries share a “responsibility toward peace and development in the world.”
“China stands ready to work with France to move the strategic Sino-French partnership to a higher level,” Xi said in a congratulatory note, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
Xi recalled that France was the first Western power to establish diplomatic relations with Communist-ruled China in 1964.
In an editorial, Chinese daily Global Times hailed Macron’s victory as a win against a “populism trend” following US President Donald Trump’s election last year.
“It may be too early to conclude that today’s peak of popularism in world politics is beginning to wane,” the nationalist newspaper said.
“Years later when we look back upon this election, we may find that France made a wise choice for human civilisation in helping to keep it moving forward at such a crucial time, rather than setting it back,” it said.
Beijing and Paris maintained good relations during the five-year term of President Francois Hollande, after his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, angered China by meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Macron served as Hollande’s economy minister between 2014 and 2016.