Macron Asks Turkey To End Syria Offensive

French President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference at the end of the Global Fund meeting to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria on october 10, 2019, in Lyon, central eastern France.  Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday urged Turkey to immediately end its offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, saying it risked boosting Islamic State (IS) extremists.

“I condemn vehemently the unilateral military offensive in Syria and I urge Turkey to put an end to it as quickly as possible,” Macron told reporters in the French city of Lyon.

“Turkey is today forgetting that the priority of the international community in Syria is the fight against Daesh and terrorism,” he said, using an alternative name for IS.

“It is creating a humanitarian risk for millions of people.”

Turkey risks “helping Daesh to rebuild its caliphate. And this responsibility is the responsibility of Turkey alone in front of the rest of the international community,” Macron said.

He was also asked to respond to a threat earlier Thursday by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to send millions of refugees in Turkey to Europe if the EU criticised the operation.

But an angry-looking Macron said that beyond his comments “I have nothing more to say on the subject”.

French officials have already been bitterly critical of the Turkish operation with Turkish ambassador Ismail Hakki Musa summoned to the foreign ministry in Paris on Thursday.

Turkey’s intervention has sparked international anger, raising fears of a new refugee crisis in northern Syria and concern that thousands of jihadists being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could use the opportunity to escape.

The Turkish military, supported by Syrian proxies, launched the offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, despite widespread international warnings.

After an initial phase of air strikes and artillery fire, troops moved across the border and attacked some of the key towns in the area.

Macron Vows To Fight Terrorism After Police Killings

 

French President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday vowed an “unrelenting fight” against Islamist extremists at a memorial ceremony for four Paris police staff stabbed to death last week by a colleague who had converted to a radical version of Islam.

Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old computer expert in the police intelligence-gathering department, used a kitchen knife and an oyster shucker to kill one female and three male colleagues in a 30-minute rampage that ended when an officer shot him dead.

“We will wage an unrelenting fight in the face of Islamist terrorism,” Macron said at the ceremony at police headquarters, where the attack took place.

The killings in the police’s inner sanctum have shocked France, where the government is being pressed to explain how Harpon’s radicalisation had failed to raise red flags.

Macron said it was “inconceivable and unacceptable” that Harpon, who had worked for the police since 2003, had managed to carry out an attack “in the very place where we pursue terrorists and criminals”.

He blamed the attack on “a distorted, deadly Islam” which he vowed to “eradicate” and to build in France a “society in a state of vigilance”.

He called on all of France to unify and act in order to overcome what he termed the “Islamist hydra”, referring to a multi-headed serpent of Greek mythology.

But he also warned against lapsing into a climate of permanent suspicion, emphasising: “This is not a fight against a religion but against the distortion of it which leads to terrorism.”

Thursday’s bloodshed — the first deadly attack in France in 10 months — brought to 255 the number of people killed in a string of assaults blamed on, or claimed by Islamist radicals, mainly the Islamic State group, since 2015.

The security forces have regularly been targeted.

In one of the grisliest attacks, a police couple were stabbed to death in front of their three-year-old son at their home near Paris by a man claiming allegiance to IS, who broadcast the attack live on Facebook.

 Propaganda videos 

Harpon, a father of two, had converted to Islam about 10 years ago and adopted increasingly radical beliefs.

He had been in close contact with a hardline Salafist imam in the months before his rampage last week, according to investigators.

His wife was released from custody on Sunday after three days of questioning.

Le Parisien newspaper reported Tuesday that a USB key containing details on dozens of his police colleagues had been found among his possessions.

The paper, citing sources close to the inquiry, said it was not clear if Harpon had gathered the data as part of his job or had surreptitiously extracted it, nor whether he had shared it with others.

The key also contained several IS propaganda videos, it added.

Police told BFM TV that 160 investigators have been dedicated to combing through data captured on Harpon’s computers.

The four victims of the attack — Damien Ernest, Anthony Lancelot, Aurelia Trifiro and Brice Le Mescam — were on Tuesday posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest military and civilian award.

Ernest, a father of two with 28 years of service, had been planning to get married to his long-time partner, Macron said.

The coffins of the four, which were draped in French flags, were borne into the courtyard of the building by fellow officers.

 Interior minister under fire 

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has faced opposition calls for his resignation after initially claiming that Harpon never gave the “slightest reason for alarm” before going on the rampage.

On Tuesday, the minister appeared before a parliamentary committee, where he conceded there had been a “malfunction” in not reporting signals of Harpon’s seeming radicalisation.

He will also be questioned by a Senate panel on Thursday as to why Harpon, who told colleagues that the 12 people killed in the 2015 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper “deserved it”, did not set off alarm bells.

Parliament speaker Richard Ferrand on Tuesday announced a commission of inquiry into the attack.

And the interior ministry has set up a dedicated cell to track potential Islamist radicals within the ranks of the security forces.

Le Parisien reported Tuesday that 19 interior ministry employees were under surveillance.

AFP

Google Can’t Escape Copyright Laws – Macron

 

Google cannot escape French law obliging the US online giant to pay royalties to media outlets for displaying their articles, pictures and videos in search results, French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday.

Google routinely shows extracts of news articles or small “thumbnail” images in its results and on Google News, without paying the publishers.

A new EU rule, which France is the first to implement, requires internet companies to pay for such content.

Google has baulked, saying it will not use the content in search results unless publishers make it available for free.

But Macron criticised Google’s operations in France and Germany and said that “the desire of an operator today is not to pay the newspaper, not to pay the journalists”.

“A company, even a very large company, can not get away with it when it decides to operate in France,” the French president insisted, during a visit to mark the centenary of the La Montagne newspaper in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

“We are going to start implementing the law,” he said.

The new European legislation, which comes into force on October 24, seeks to ensure media firms are paid for original content displayed by Google, Facebook and other technology giants which dominate the online advertising market.

The new rules create “neighbouring rights” to ensure a form of copyright protection — and compensation — for media firms when their content is used on websites such as search engines.

However, on September 25, Google said it had no intention of paying European media outlets.

“It’s up to the publishers to decide how they promote their content,” Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president in charge of news, told journalists in Paris then, after meeting French Culture Minister Franck Riester.

At Google, he added, “we don’t pay for links to be included in search results” because “it would undermine the trust of users”.

Macron Hails Ukrainian Film-Maker Oleg Sentsov’s Release

French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday hailed Ukrainian director Oleg Senstov’s release by Russia as part of a landmark prisoner swap.

“I hail the release of film-maker Oleg Sentsov under a prisoner exchange conducted today between Russia and Ukraine. We have always been by his side,” he said in a tweet.

AFP

Amazon Fire: Bolsonaro Open To G7 Aid If Macron ‘Withdraws Insults’

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka.  Jacques Witt / POOL / AFPbolso

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he was open to discussing G7 aid for fighting fires in the Amazon if his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “withdraws insults” made against him. 

Bolsonaro’s remarks come amid an escalating war of words with Macron over the worst fires in years that have sparked a global outcry and threatened to torpedo a huge trade deal between the European Union and South American countries.

Hours earlier, a top Brazilian official had rejected the G7 countries’ offer of $20 million to combat the fires devastating the forest in Brazil and Bolivia, saying Macron should take care of “his home and his colonies.”

“Mr Macron must withdraw the insults he made against me,” Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital Brasilia.

“To talk or accept anything from France, with the best possible intentions, he has to withdraw these words, and from there we can talk,” Bolsonaro said.

Macron on Monday condemned “extraordinarily rude” comments made about his wife Brigitte by Bolsonaro a day earlier.

Bolsonaro hit back, accusing Macron of treating Brazil like “a colony or no-man’s land.”

The latest official figures show 1,659 new fires were started in Brazil between Sunday and Monday, taking the total this year to 82,285 — the highest since at least 2013 — even as military aircraft and troops help battle the blazes.

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin.

In the hard-hit northwestern state of Rondonia, thick smoke has choked the capital Porto Velho in recent days as fires blacken swaths of the rainforest.

Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva on Monday claimed that the fires were “under control.”

“It has been exaggerated a little that the situation was out of control — it wasn’t,” he said. “The situation isn’t simple but it is under control.”

Although about 60 percent of the Amazon is in Brazil, the vast forest also spreads over parts of eight other countries or territories, including the French overseas territory of Guiana on the continent’s northeast coast.

Bolsonaro — a climate-change skeptic — has faced criticism at home over his delayed response to the fires and thousands have protested in Brazil in recent days to denounce the destruction.

Bestselling Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, meanwhile, took to the internet to apologize — in French — for Bolsonaro’s behavior.

“This is a rather sad video to ask forgiveness of my French friends for the crisis — I would even say the hysteria of Bolsonaro regarding France, the French president, the French president’s wife,” he said in a message posted on Twitter.

“As Amazonia burns, they have no argument except to insult, deny, say anything to avoid taking responsibility,” he added.

AFP

Macron Condemns ‘Extraordinarily Rude’ Bolsonaro Insults

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka. Jacques Witt / POOL / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday condemned “extraordinarily rude” comments made about his wife Brigitte by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

“He has made some extraordinarily rude comments about my wife,” Macron told a press conference when asked to react to statements about him by the Brazilian government.

“What can I say? It’s sad. It’s sad for him firstly, and for Brazilians,” he added.

On Sunday, a Bolsonaro supporter posted a message on Facebook mocking the appearance of Brigitte Macron and comparing her unfavourably with Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro.

“Now you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?” he wrote next to an unflattering picture of Brigitte Macron, 65, who is 28 years older than Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle.

Bolsonaro replied on Facebook: “Do not humiliate the guy, ha ha.”

“I think Brazilian women will probably be ashamed to read that from their president,” Macron said. “I think that Brazilians, who are a great people, will probably be ashamed to see this behaviour…

“And as I feel friendship and respect towards the Brazilian people, I hope that they will very soon have a president who behaves in the right way.”

AFP

Macron, Johnson Meet In France Over Brexit

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech to the press next to French President Emmanuel Macron (R) reacting prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on August 22, 2019.  GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

 

French leader Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of a month of further talks to find a solution to Brexit while ruling out major compromises as he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for talks on Thursday.

Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Macron supported allowing another 30 days to find a solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border which has bedevilled negotiations since 2017.

“We need to try to have a useful month,” Macron said alongside Johnson who insisted that solutions were “readily available” to prevent checkpoints returning in divided Ireland.

But Macron, who admitted he had a reputation as the “hardest in the gang” on Brexit, has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement for Ireland negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May.

At stake is the so-called “backstop”, which is a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of Britain.

Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.

“The technical solutions are readily available (to avoid checkpoints) and they have been discussed at great length,” Johnson said. “You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing.”

The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island where anti-British violence has claimed thousands of lives.

“I want to be very clear. In the coming month, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the fundamentals,” Macron said at the Elysee palace in central Paris.

Since Johnson’s ascent to power last month, the chances of a “no-deal” Brexit on October 31 have risen, which economists see as likely to wreak economic damage on Britain and the EU.

“The EU and member states need to take the possibility of a ‘no deal’ outcome much more seriously than before,” a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

A French official said on Wednesday that this was becoming the “most likely” scenario.

Glimmer of hope? 

The Paris visit was the second leg of Johnson’s first foreign trip as prime minister.

On Wednesday, he was in Berlin for talks with Merkel who appeared to offer a glimmer of hope by saying Britain should try to find a breakthrough to the issue over the next month.

“I want a deal,” Johnson told Macron. “I think we can get a deal and a good deal.”

He added that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by his talks with Merkel. “I admire that ‘can do’ spirit that she seemed to have.”

But many Brexit watchers see Merkel’s remarks as fitting a pattern in which she has often been more conciliatory in public about Brexit than Macron, whose abrasive remarks have caused anger in London in the past.

“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” a senior aide to Macron said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

The EU official in Brussels added that the EU was “a little concerned based on what we heard yesterday (in Berlin).”

“We are waiting for new facts, workable ideas,” the official added.

 Blame game 

Johnson, who has deployed his French language skills to charm diplomats in Paris before, has staked his leadership on withdrawing Britain from the EU by the current deadline of October 31  — “do or die”.

Some analysts see a risk of relations between Macron and Johnson becoming stormy in public, which could lead to a blame game about a “no-deal” Brexit.

Johnson reportedly once called the French “turds” over their stance on Brexit during his time as foreign secretary — remarks he later said he could not recall.

But Macron pre-empted any attempt to deflect blame onto the European side during a press conference on Wednesday before Johnson’s arrival.

“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.

Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.

At the weekend, Macron, Merkel and Johnson will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of both Brexit and Johnson, at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

AFP

Macron To Meet India PM Modi Over Kashmir

French President Emmanuel Macron/ AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss tensions in the divided region of Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two meet in Paris this week, a French official said on Tuesday.

The two leaders are set to sit down for a working dinner at the Chateau de Chantilly outside Paris on Thursday ahead of a G7 summit in France this weekend, to which Modi has been invited.

“Of course it (Kashmir) will be on the agenda,” the French diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “We have a strategic partnership with India, that means having confidence in each other. We are not going to be aggressive towards India, but we expect the Indian prime minister to explain how he sees things.”

On August 5, Modi’s Hindu nationalist government scrapped the autonomy of Indian-controlled Kashmir, a divided Muslim-majority region that has enjoyed special status in the Indian constitution since the country’s independence in 1947.

The move has enraged many Kashmiris and led to tensions with nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, which also claims the region.

India resents any outside interference in Kashmir and its Western allies have historically avoided taking public positions on the dispute, despite allegations of human rights abuses there.

The French diplomat recalled France’s position that Pakistan and India should resolve their differences between themselves and that both sides should avoid raising tensions.

Modi has been invited to this weekend’s Group of Seven meetings of major economic powers in Biarritz and is seen by France as a crucial ally in the fight against climate change.

Macron is hoping the newly re-elected Indian leader will announce new pledges to curb Indian carbon emissions and will also sign up to a coalition of countries to tackle pollution from so-called HFC gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioning.

AFP

Macron Seeks Lead EU Role In Iran Crisis

Macron Signs Controversial French 'Anti-Rioters' Bill Into Law
France’s President Emmanuel Macron talks to journalists after a European Council meeting in Brussels on April 11, 2019. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to lead European diplomatic efforts to find a face-saving solution to the latest crisis between Tehran and Washington, with the EU looking to buy time and soothe tensions, diplomats and experts say.

Macron dispatched an envoy to Tehran for the second time in a month on Tuesday in another attempt to convince the Iranian government to come back into compliance with a landmark 2015 deal limiting its nuclear programme.

After President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the deal in May 2018, Iran has begun enriching uranium to higher levels, leading to fears the faltering accord could be doomed.

If it falls apart and Iran continues enriching uranium all the way to levels approaching those that could be used in a weapon, diplomats see a high risk of conflict in the Middle East involving the United States and possibly its ally Israel.

“We are buying time. The Iranians are too,” a European diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. “We need to bring Iran back on board in exchange for a symbolic gesture from the United States.”

Analysts agree that European efforts in the short-term have to be two-fold: convincing Iran to stop enriching, then convincing Trump to suspend some of the crippling new economic sanctions he has imposed on Tehran.

“It’s about creating the conditions for both sides (the US and Iran) to back away from the corners they are stuck in because the end-game here is negotiation,” Sanam Vakil, an expert at the Chatham House think-tank in London, told AFP.

“For Iran to come back to the negotiating table, they have made it abundantly clear there will have to be sanctions relief granted.”

Macron to Tehran? 

Macron has taken an active mediation role, speaking to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump in recent days.

Last year, he was weighing whether to become the first French leader to travel to Tehran since 1976. But tensions over the nuclear issue and Iran’s involvement in the wars in Syria and Yemen meant he never accepted an invitation to visit.

Iran’s alleged role in a plot to bomb a meeting of opposition activists at a political meeting near Paris in June killed off any possibility, diplomats say.

But recent French media reports suggest Macron might once again be considering travelling to meet Rouhani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Individually he is probably the best placed to be the E3 leader,” said Vakil, referring to the E3 group of European powers which comprises France, Germany and Britain.

“Everyone is talking to each other,” the European diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Mixed results 

Macron relishes the world stage, but his efforts at mediating in the Middle East have led to mixed results.

He successfully intervened in November 2017 to free Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after he was detained by Saudi authorities during a trip to the country.

But his efforts in forge a solution in war-torn Libya have yet to yield fruit and he has made enemies in Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, as well as in the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

Past efforts at lobbying Trump to respect the nuclear deal, particularly during a state visit to Washington in April 2018, came to nought.

Experts say that for the moment Iran is not close to enriching uranium to levels that could be used for a weapon, which would spark a regional arms race and acute security fears in Israel.

But it is considered by European nations to be in breach of its commitments.

The country’s atomic energy organisation announced on Monday that it had surpassed a cap on the level to which it can enrich uranium, reaching 4.5 per cent, above the 3.67 per cent limit stipulated in the deal.

It has also exceeded limits on its stockpile of enriched uranium set in the 2015 accord signed by the US, Iran, Russia, China, Britain, Germany, France and the EU.

European nations are seen as wanting to avoid triggering a dispute mechanism in the text which could lead to sanctions being reimposed.

Such a move would heighten tensions, while the threat of fresh sanctions remains one of few levers available to the Europeans as they seek to convince Iran to respect the deal.

“But the road they are taking (by enriching further) could force us to take a road we don’t want to take,” said a French diplomat on condition of anonymity.

AFP

Macron Asks Iran To ‘Immediately’ Reduce Enriched Uranium Reserves

Emmanuel Macron/AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Iran Tuesday to “immediately” reduce its enriched uranium reserves, a day after Tehran announced it had breached limits under a 2015 nuclear deal to retaliate against new US sanctions. 

In a statement, Macron said he had “noted with concern” Iran’s overstepping of the limit set in the 2015 deal with world powers and called on Iran “to immediately reverse this overshoot and abstain from any other measure that would undermine its nuclear obligations”.

READ ALSO: China Slams Trump’s ‘Gross Interference’ In Hong Kong

AFP

Macron Honours Jean Vanier, Ally Of Mentally Disabled

Late Jean Vanier and French President Emmanuel Macron

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday lauded the life and work of Jean Vanier, who founded a pioneering network of communities for people with mental disabilities and lived at one of them in northern France until his death this week.

“This great spiritualist and humanist left us a more inclusive and better-shared world,” the presidency said in a statement following Vanier’s death on Tuesday.

He was 90 years old and had been fighting cancer for several weeks, according to L’Arche (The Ark), a network of some 150 residential communities operating in around three-dozen countries, with more than 10,000 members.

Vanier, the son of a Canadian diplomat, was an officer in the British and Canadian navies before abandoning the military to study theology in Paris, with the idea of becoming a priest.

But after being shocked by the conditions at a mental institution he visited, he gave up everything in 1964 to live with two mentally handicapped men in the village of Trosly-Breuil in northern France, which quickly attracted new residents.

The concept spread as some of his colleagues went on to establish more centres around the world.

“At the Ark, you start by wanting to help people, and you end up realising that it’s the people with a handicap who change you, who show you another picture of life and humanity,” Vanier told AFP in a 2014 interview.

The next year he was awarded the Templeton Prize, a $1.7 million honour for “entrepreneurs of the spirit”.

Vanier also created in 1971 the Faith and Light network, which now counts nearly 1,500 communities that bring together mentally disabled adolescents and adults along with their families.

In 2000 he founded Intercordia, which offers young people around the world the chance to participate in solidarity projects.

Pope Francis also mourned Vanier as “a man who understood the Christian command” to care for those rejected or marginalised by society.

France, Italy Mark 500th Anniversary Of Leonardo da Vinci’s Death

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Italian President Sergio Mattarella (2L) arrive for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Italian Renaissance painter and scientist Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), in Chambord, France, on May 2, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella on Thursday kicked off commemorations to mark 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci died in France, paying their respects to the Renaissance genius in a show of unity after months of diplomatic tensions.

“The bond between our countries and our citizens is indestructible,” Macron said after the two men lunched at the Clos Luce, the sumptuous manor house where Leonardo spent the last three years of his life.

The two heads of state began their visit at the royal chateau in Amboise, where they laid wreaths at Leonardo’s grave.

The joint celebrations come after months of mounting diplomatic tensions between Paris and Rome over the hardline policies of Italy’s populist government and its support for France’s anti-government “yellow vest” protesters.

In the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries since World War II, Paris briefly recalled its ambassador from Rome.

Amboise, a sleepy town on the Loire River where Leonardo died in 1519, was in virtual lockdown because of fears of protests by France’s grassroots “yellow vest” movement.

Traffic in the town of just 13,000 was banned within a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius and the usually teeming restaurants and shops shuttered. On Wednesday, dozens of cars were towed away, with some foreign owners apparently unaware of the draconian security measures.

The presidential helicopter arrived on a river island in the heart of the town, touching down on a pad usually used to launch hot-air balloons over the chateau-studded valley.

Later Thursday, the two presidents headed to the sprawling chateau of Chambord — whose central double-helix staircase is attributed to Leonardo though the first stone was not laid until four months after his death.

Among glitterati attending the events were Italian star architect Renzo Piano, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and historian Stephane Bern, a prominent French television personality.

But a new scandal hung over the event after a French arts magazine revealed Tuesday that an investigation had been opened into the alleged destruction of listed property during extensive renovation work at the Clos Luce in 2017.

The online La Tribune de l’Art said workers removed 18th-century woodwork and a fireplace and made major alterations to floors and ceilings in the privately owned mansion.

 ‘Architect of the king’

Francis I, known as the “Sun King of the 16th century”, is widely credited with bringing the Renaissance to France, even if his predecessor Louis XII had begun the process by bringing in architects and artisans from Florence, Milan and Rome.

Leonardo was 64 when he accepted the young Francis I’s invitation to Amboise, at a time when rivals Michelangelo and Raphael were rising stars.

With Leonardo’s commissions drying up, it came as a great relief and no small vindication for the Tuscan artist, who received a handsome stipend as the “first painter, engineer and architect of the king”.

At the time, Francis I was barely 23, and his ambitious mother Louise of Savoy “knew that Leonardo would be the man who would allow her son to flourish”, Catherine Simon Marion, managing director of the Clos Luce, told AFP.

Leonardo brought with him three of his favourite paintings: the Mona Lisa, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and Saint John the Baptist — all of which today hang in the Louvre museum in Paris.

Italy and France have also sparred over an accord under which Italy will lend several Leonardos to the Louvre in October.

With fewer than 20 Leonardo paintings still in existence, many Italians are resentful that the Louvre possesses five of them, as well as 22 drawings.

During his three years in Amboise, Leonardo organised lavish parties for the court and worked to design an ideal city for Francis at nearby Romorantin — one of the polymath’s many unrealised projects — all while continuing his research.

Macron is the first French president to visit the town since Charles de Gaulle came in 1959.

AFP