Macron in need of oil, shifts stance over Maduro
The French President shakes hands with his Venezuelan counterpart despite describing him in 2019 as "illegitimate".
In a major foreign policy reversal, French President Emmanuel Macron shook hands and held a conversation on Monday with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, on the sidelines of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
The two presidents shook hands for one-and-a-half-minute and chatted on the sidelines of the summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, despite Macron describing Maduro in 2019 as "illegitimate."
"I would be happy if we could talk to each other for longer to engage in useful bilateral work for the region," Macron told Maduro, according to a video recording of the encounter.
Addressing Maduro as "President", he added that "I will call you."
France, the US, and several European allies did not recognize Maduro's democratic re-election to a second term in the 2018 elections and instead recognized his rival, Juan Guaido, as acting president, despite that the latter lost, democratically.
In 2019, Macron recognized Guaido as acting president, describing Maduro's election as "illegitimate" and calling for "a restoration of democracy" in the country.
However, in an earlier semi-reversal in mid-June, the French presidency called for a "diversification of supplies", including oil supplies from Iran and Venezuela to help bring down soaring crude prices fuelled by the war in Ukraine.
"We need producing countries to produce in an exceptional measure," the presidency said on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps.
"Excellent handshake with the President of France Emmanuel Macron," Maduro tweeted after the meeting. "The doors of Venezuela are open for the French people."
French President Macron very respectfully spoke with Venezuelan President Maduro at UN climate conference COP27— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 8, 2022
Macron made it clear France recognizes Venezuela's constitutionally elected government, referring to Maduro as president and proposing dialoguepic.twitter.com/n3tZ2QutVe
"Macron's Big U-turn on Maduro's Venezuela," commented France's left-wing daily Liberation.
Commenting on the two presidents' conversation, the leader of France's left-wing France Unbowed party (LFI) Jean-Luc Melenchon, tweeted that the "need for oil makes people polite."
Melenchon said that Macron had finally recognized the election of Maduro.
The encounter came as Macron prepares this week to host Colombia's first left-wing President Gustavo Petro, who has renewed diplomatic relations with its neighbor Venezuela and wants to normalize ties after a three-year rupture.
Venezuela is also sending a senior official to attend the Paris Peace Forum, a major annual conference backed by Macron that starts on Friday.
During the discussion between the two presidents, Maduro said that "France should play a positive role" in Latin America.
The conversation also saw Maduro declare that "we have very good friends in common" and ask Macron "when do you visit us?"