France's Hollande to Eat Dinner Twice to Keep Obama and Putin Apart

Alexander Smith

French officials have gone to great lengths to prevent President Barack Obama and his frosty counterpart Vladimir Putin from having to endure an awkward meeting while the pair visited Paris on Thursday.

The leaders were in the French capital ahead of Friday's 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. But after Obama gave a fiery speech in Poland on Wednesday warning Russia to leave alone former members of its Soviet bloc, there were no indications the solemn proceedings would spur a warming of relations.

President Barack Obama, President Francois Hollande and President Vladimir Putin.
Getty Images

French President Francois Hollande has gone so far as to plan two separate dinners on Thursday evening—first with Obama, and then with Putin—to avoid a confrontation in the corridors of his Elysee Palace residence.

Hollande will meet Obama in a restaurant overlooking the Champs-Elysees, according to an itinerary reported by the Reuters news agency, before going back to his residence for a late supper with Putin.

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The French president expressed hopes of brokering a meeting between Putin and the new Ukrainian President Elect Petro Poroshenko, despite continued fighting between Kiev's forces and pro-Russian insurgents in east Ukraine.

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"This is an important occasion to express gratitude and fraternity, but it is also major international event which should serve the interests of peace," the French leader told a Brussels news conference, according to Reuters, after a meeting of the G-7 nations in Brussels to which Putin was pointedly not invited.

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If this whirlwind of geopolitical tête-à-têtes were not enough, Hollande will squeeze in another meeting with Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who is traveling by train from London to commemorate the anniversary.

—By Alexander Smith, NBC News, with reporting by Reuters