An end to the conflict in the region known as the Donbass could also lead to the eventual lifting of EU sanctions against Russian Federation linked to the eastern Ukraine fighting, which the Kremlin and European businesses have pushed for.
But with biting jokes directed against the Russian strongman, many wondered how long the show would survive on Russia's airwaves.
Thousands have been killed and one million people have fled their homes since pro-Russia militias in eastern Ukraine launched a bid for independence in 2014 - kicking off a conflict that deepened Russia's estrangement from the West.
The leaders met at the presidential palace in Paris before sitting down with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
After the round table -format known as Normandy, due to the place where the first summit of the style took place- the two heads of state held their first bilateral meeting.
"If we stick to the path, upon which we started out, again, in Paris, we would be able to talk about some progress in the resolution of this conflict", said Alexei Pushkov, a senior member of the upper house of Russian parliament.
"I think we will find something in the middle", he suggested. "But it's different here, it's different biomechanics, so to speak".
"If the summit meeting is to be meaningful, it should have a result, and the result should very much be on the Steinmeier Formula", said Dr Gerhard Mangott, a professor of worldwide relations at Austria's Innsbruck University. "But I will be honest - it is very little, I wanted to resolve a larger number of problems", he said.
"Some say we can do without such dialogue", Zelenskiy said in a recent video recorded in a gym, as the AP reports. The coming months will be a test: if the parties do actually implement what they agreed this week there will be far more cause for optimism that this conflict can finally come to an end. It may also be the initial conference involving the brand-new Ukrainian president together with Kremlin master.
Minsk, Belarus, has hosted several summits for dialogue on the Donbas war. Putin and Zelenskiy also held a separate one-on-one meeting.
Before becoming embroiled in the political turmoil that led to impeachment efforts against President Trump, Zelensky was a comedian who played a disgruntled teacher in "Servant of the People", where his viral rants catapulted him to a fictional presidency. He later referred to the summit as "very useful".
A major breakthrough at the summit is unlikely, and Ukrainian protesters in Kyiv are heaping pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy not to surrender too much to Russian President Vladimir Putin at their first face-to-face meeting. In October, he vowed to disengage forces at three locations, and publicly accepted a version of the Steinmeier formula.
"A president like Mr Zelenskiy _ a normal human being who doesn't think he's some sort of deity _ is exactly what Russian Federation needs", Moscow region municipal deputy Vladislav Naganov tweeted.
The Kremlin insists that's not an option, and the separatists hope that Russia, France and Germany refuse Zelenskiy's requests.