PARIS (REUTERS) - Mr Emmanuel Macron told Mr Vladimir Putin that the Belarusian opposition leader was open to dialogue and the Russian President should talk to her, the French presidency said on Thursday (Oct 1).
Mr Macron spoke to Mr Putin by telephone after visiting exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the first leader of a major Western power to meet her in person.
"President Macron... recalled that she was open to dialogue with Russia and encouraged President Putin to take it into consideration," the French leader's office said.
It added that Mr Putin and Mr Macron shared the idea that the best way forward was to resort to mediation by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Belarus is a close Russian ally, and Moscow has firmly backed veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko, who was declared the winner of an Aug 9 presidential election which Western countries and the opposition say was rigged.
Since the vote, Belarus has seen mass demonstrations against Mr Lukashenko's 26-year rule.
Thousands of people have been arrested and all major opposition figures have been jailed or driven into exile.
Mr Lukashenko denies election fraud and says the crisis is a result of Western meddling.
In its readout of the call with Mr Macron, the Kremlin said Mr Putin had spoken against outside interference in the Belarus crisis.
"The Russian leader reaffirmed the position of principle that any interference in the internal affairs of the sovereign state and external pressure on the legitimate authorities is unacceptable."