May 24, 2018 / 8:02 PM / 5 months ago

Macron will attend World Cup if France reach semi-finals

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said he would travel to Russia for the soccer World Cup if France reach the semi-finals, turning a deaf ear to calls from human rights groups to boycott the tournament.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference after the talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Human rights groups calling for the boycott over Russia’s involvement in Syria’s civil war met with Macron’s advisers earlier this week, saying it would send a strong symbolic message if the 40-year-old leader did not attend the World Cup.

“If the French team passes beyond the quarter-finals I will come and support,” Macron said during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Macron has banked on nurturing relationships with awkward leaders such as Putin, appearing engaged on the world stage but remaining non-committal and trying to mediate among opposing sides without unsettling anyone.

France have been drawn to face Australia, Denmark and Peru in Group C at the World Cup, which runs from June 14 to July 15. The top two in the group will progress to the round of 16.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Writing by Richard Lough; editing by John Stonestreet

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