On Saturday, when Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky landed in Hiroshima, Japan, cameras focused on the aircraft, which was identified as a military jet by the French government.
Despite Paris giving Ukraine significant military and financial support, French President Emmanuel Macron's diplomatic outreach has sometimes angered and alarmed some of his friends since Russia invaded Ukraine.
But on Friday, when Zelensky made his first stop in Jeddah for his speech to the Arab League, a French Airbus with the tricolor flag signaled a victory for Macron.
The notion of inviting the president of Ukraine to the G7 has been in the works for a few weeks, according to French officials, following early conversations with the Japanese hosts in especially given a larger list of guests.
The summit will also include representatives from the “Global South,” a grouping of largely low- and middle-income countries that includes Brazil and India, two states that have maintained diplomatic relations with Moscow.
A French presidential representative stated, “The Ukrainians requested that President Zelenskiy be transported by the French army,” adding that the choice had been taken on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian team, according to the authorities, was picked up at the Polish border before boarding a four-hour flight to Jeddah as part of Zelenskiy's larger initiative to engage nations that have stayed neutral in the crisis.
A second French official added, “It was an opportunity for him to explain his position with countries he doesn't usually talk to.”
Prior to a private meeting with Macron in Hiroshima, Zelenskiy congratulated France and said that he had heard “positive signals” from Arab nations without going into more detail.
One of the representatives who took the 15-hour trip from Saudi Arabia to Japan, passing through Chinese airspace en way, said it was remarkable how exhausted they were and that they had taken advantage of the chance to catch up on sleep.
However, the source said that Zelenskiy had summoned his military and diplomatic teams on multiple occasions to practice handling the various personalities and perspectives on the conflict that each prospective interlocutor would have. According to French authorities, the goal was to change their opinions.
Paris has already stepped in to provide its aeronautical comforts. Zelenskiy was flown from Brussels to Poland in February after a conference of European chiefs of state, according to French sources.
After meeting Zelenskiy, Macron tweeted, “A plane in the colors of the French Republic has arrived in Hiroshima.” The Ukrainian delegation joined us and our colleagues at the G7 to work for Ukraine's success and the reestablishment of peace in Europe.