French Election: Hollande, Merkel Congratulate Macron

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have congratulated French President-elect Emmanuel Macron.

While Hollande wished him success in addressing France’s challenges, Merkel expressed delight in his support for a social market economy.

Germany woke on Monday to confirmation that centrist Emmanuel Macron was elected French president on Sunday.

Macron, who has a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeated Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.

With virtually all votes counted, Macron had topped 66 percent against just under 34 percent for Le Pen – a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested.

German commuters reacted with relief that Le Pen had not won but were less than overjoyed that Macron was the only alternative.

The French president-elect spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after his election win, promising to visit Berlin soon, and discussed Brexit with British Prime Minister Theresa May, sources said.

Merkel said, “I was delighted about the fantastic electoral success of Emmanuel Macron and I congratulated him personally yesterday by telephone.

“Emmanuel Macron carries the hopes of millions of French people and of many people in Germany and the whole of Europe. He conducted a brave, pro-European campaign. He stands for openness to the world. He stands firmly behind a social market economy and we know that Germany and France are bound by fate.”

Putin Announces Ceasefire Deal With Ukraine

Ukraine Presidentukraine, Vladimir Putin, has announced ceasefire after meeting all night in Belarus with leaders of Russia, France and Germany, to secure a peace deal. The leaders of Russia and Ukraine have announced that ceasefire will begin in Eastern Ukraine on 15 February.

After marathon talks with leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany, Russia President, Vladimir Putin said “We have managed to agree on the main issues.”

French President, Francois Hollande also said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

The meeting in Belarus – which began on Wednesday – was focused on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone in Eastern Ukraine.

Before the meeting started, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had said that achieving a ceasefire was significant. Thousands of people have been killed and indisposed in the fighting.

Russia has been accused of arming and reinforcing pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine, a claim That was denied.  The talks are set to focus on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone.

The Ukrainian and Russian presidents barely looked at each other when they were forced to shake hands. At a family photo of the leaders, not a single person was smiling. There was even an image of Vladimir Putin inside the negotiations snapping a pencil in two.

Heavy shelling was reported in the rebel-held city of Luhansk; by a freelance reporter, Pierre Sautreuil, (in French) that a rebel military base seemed to be the target of one bombardment in the south-east of the city.

Mr Poroshenko had earlier said that the situation threatened to spin “out of control” if the parties did not agree to ceasefire.

The Ukrainian warned that his government was prepared to impose martial law, adding that the Minsk summit was one of the final chances to bring about an unconditional ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.

US President Barack Obama has refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev if diplomacy fails, but Russia says that would worsen the crisis.

Hollande, Merkel Urge Putin To Broker Ukraine Ceasefire

Members of a group of separatists stand outside an office in the town of Druzhkovka, Donetsk regionFrench President, Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, urged Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Thursday to encourage separatists in Eastern Ukraine to reach an agreement with the Ukrainian authorities, the French President’s office said.

Hollande and Merkel stressed in a conversation with the Russian President, the importance of implementing a deal reached in Berlin on Wednesday between the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in order to achieve a bilateral ceasefire, according to the statement from Hollande’s office.

“They (Hollande and Merkel) called on the Russian President to support the organization of a meeting of the contact group before July 5 in order to define conditions for the ceasefire,” Hollande’s office said in the statement.

“To this effect, they asked President Putin to intervene to encourage the separatists to negotiate and find an agreement with the Ukrainian authorities.”

Hollande and Merkel are due to hold a phone conversation with Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko in the coming hours, Hollande’s office added.

Hollande Steps Up France Security Over Mali And Somalia

French president Francois Hollande has ordered security step up around public buildings and transport areas because of military operations in Africa.

He was responding to the risk of Islamist attack after French forces attacked militants in Mali and Somalia.

A pilot was killed as air strikes were launched on Malian rebels.

In Somalia, two French soldiers were “sacrificed” in a raid to free a French hostage who was eventually killed.

His remarks came within hours of one of the Islamist groups targeted by French military action in Mali threatening reprisals against France.

An Ansar Dine spokesman told Reuters news agency, there would be consequences for French citizens throughout the Muslim world.

The operations in Mali and Somalia were launched within hours of each other but were “totally unconnected”, according to government officials.

French troops were deployed in Mali on Friday after the army lost control of a strategically important town to Islamists who were advancing south. The rebels took control of a huge swathe of northern Mali last April.