The leaders of Russia and France avoided each other's gaze as they made short, stiff statements in the Kremlin on Thursday before talks on countering Islamic State in Syria.
Francois Hollande wants to unite major powers in a single "grand coalition" to fight the militants behind the Paris attacks but Vladimir Putin's air force has mostly hit Western-backed rebels combating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
By the end of the evening, Hollande appeared more relaxed and French officials were touting a potentially significant advance in cooperation with Moscow.
"It's major because of the agreement not to strike groups that are fighting Islamic State," a French official said. "What matters is coordination -- the fact that we have a common objective to fight IS. It's the result that matters, destroying Daesh (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State)."