Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed Russia's appreciation for efforts by European countries to save the nuclear deal with Iran despite the withdrawal of the United States while warning of "lamentable consequences" if it was not preserved.
Putin made the comments at a May 24 news conference in St. Petersburg after talks his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron who traveled to Russia to discuss the Iran nuclear deal as well as conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
Bilateral relations "are developing despite all the current complications. Trade is growing," Putin said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
Macron's trip to Russia is his first one as president and follows a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.
Putin and Macron met in France last year, just weeks after Macron's inauguration. Putin had met with Macron's rival, Marine Le Pen, in Moscow during the presidential race.
Europe and Moscow are currently on a diplomatic offensive to save the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, now under threat after the recent U.S. withdrawal -- a rare point of agreement between Russia and EU countries, which have seen relations worsen in recent years over crises in Ukraine and Syria, as well as accusations of Moscow's meddling in foreign elections and the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain.
The French and Russian leaders will "take the time for an in-depth, one-on-one discussion," the French Presidency said in a statement.
On May 24, Human Rights Watch called Macron to raise the issue of rights abuses with his Russian counterpart, following a crackdown on dissent and pressure on minority groups in the country.
Macron must confirm "that France will never accept the increased repression in Russia as 'the new normal'," the rights watchdog said in a statement.
Macron will also address the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
The meeting takes place after President Donald Trump on May 8 pulled the United States out of the 2015 pact that placed limits on Iran's nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions.
Washington is threatening fresh sanctions if Tehran does not comply with a new set of strict requirements.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also visit Russia later in the week.