Biden ‘prepared’ to talk with Putin if serious about ending war in Ukraine

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden said Thursday he’s open to talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin about bringing an end to the war in Ukraine but only if the Russian leader is serious about peace negotiations.

“The fact of the matter is I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin,” Biden told reporters as he stood alongside French President Emmanuel Macron at a joint news conference.

“I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war,” Biden said. “He hasn’t done that yet. If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and my NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants, has in mind. He hasn’t done that yet.”

Biden and Macron pledged to work together to hold Russia accountable and mitigate the war’s impact on the rest of the world.

“We’ll continue the strong support for the people of Ukraine as they defend their homes and families and their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression, which has been incredibly brutal,” Biden said. “I knew Russia was, but didn’t anticipate it to be as brutal as it was.”

Macron told reporters the U.S. and France “clearly condemn” Russia’s “war crimes.”

Speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Macron said he believes negotiation is still “possible” with Putin to end Russia’s invasion and that he was going to speak to Putin “in the coming days.” Macron previously held a call with Putin in March, but said there was nothing reassuring about the conversation.

“A good peace is not a peace which will be imposed to the Ukrainians by others, No. 1,” Macron told Stephanopoulos, adding, “A good peace is not a peace which will not be accepted on the mid-to-long run by one of the two parties.”

Macron’s state visit this week is the first of the Biden administration, and will culminate with a dinner on the South Lawn Thursday night in a candlelit pavilion.

“The design of this dinner was inspired by the shared colors of our flags — red, white and blue — and our common values: liberty and democracy, equality and fellowship,” Jill Biden said Wednesday as she previewed the event. “These form the bedrock upon which our enduring friendship was built.”

Ahead of the state dinner, the two families dined in Washington on Wednesday night before a formal meeting at the White House on Thursday morning.

The diplomatic tradition, put on hold for the past several years due to COVID-19, highlights the crucial partnership between the U.S. and France, officials said.

Along with Ukraine, Biden and Macron discussed the challenges posed by China, how to strengthen African economies and continuing support for the people of Iran and calling for accountability for those committing human rights abuses.

They also “outlined a shared vision to strengthen security and increase prosperity worldwide, combat climate change, build greater resilience to its effects, and advance democratic values,” according to a joint statement following their closed-door meeting in the Oval Office.

“My administration’s built our foreign policy around the strength of our alliances, and France is the very heart of that commitment,” Biden said at the joint press conference.

Still, the bilateral relationship has also been fraught at times, including last year when Australia canceled a massive, multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France in exchange for a partnership with the U.S and the U.K.

More recently, French officials and other European leaders have raised concerns about climate and energy provisions included in the sweeping Inflation Reduction Act, specifically the tax subsidies for American-made technologies related to renewable energy, like components for electric vehicles. European Union leaders have said the subsidies may break the rules of the World Trade Organization and will have negative side effects for their economies.

Pressed by a reporter on the issue, Biden said Thursday he makes “no apologies” for the Inflation Reduction Act but acknowledged there are changes they can make to ensure European companies can participate.

“I never intended to exclude folks who were cooperating with us,” Biden said. “That was not the intention.”

Macron said the U.S. and France “need to resynchronize” on the issue of trade but both countries intend to create a clean energy future.

“We want to succeed together, not one against the other,” Macron said.

Macron, France’s president since 2017, was also the first foreign leader that then-President Donald Trump invited for a state visit. The two at first had a cordial relationship that turned sour over policy differences on issues like the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

Macron began his U.S. visit on Tuesday by joining Vice President Harris at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they vowed to cooperate on space and in other realms.

On Friday, Macron will travel to New Orleans to meet with state leaders and the Francophone community, participate in a cultural event, meet with local companies involved in the transition to renewable energy and promote French language instruction in under-served communities in Louisiana, French officials said.

ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.

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