Hollande uncertain about Putin visit after Aleppo veto
FRENCH President Francois Hollande has not yet decided whether to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Paris next week, after the Kremlin blocked a UN bid to end the bombing of Aleppo.
Mr Putin is due in Paris on October 19 to inaugurate a new Orthodox church near the Eiffel Tower in a visit that is fast turning into a diplomatic headache for France.
On October 9, Mr Hollande left open the question of whether he would receive Mr Putin, describing the scorched earth campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo as a war crime.
“I asked myself the question ... Is it useful? Is it necessary? Can it be a way of exerting pressure? Can we get him to stop what he is doing with the Syrian regime?” Mr Hollande told the TMC channel.
The Kremlin, however, said preparations for Mr Putin’s visit were continuing as scheduled.
“There are plans for talks with the Elysee Palace and Mr Putin will take part in the inauguration of the Russian spiritual centre,” his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
Paris had not informed Moscow of any changes to their plans, he added.
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France Inter radio that Mr Hollande would decide whether to meet with Mr Putin “in light of the situation in Aleppo and Syria”.
If Mr Hollande agrees to meet Mr Putin, “it will not be for pleasantries, it will be to speak the truth,” he said, calling the Syrian and Russian bombardments a “gift to terrorists”.
Mr Ayrault was given short shrift in Moscow last week as he tried in vain to persuade his opposite number Sergei Lavrov to implement the Aleppo ceasefire plan.
But Mr Ayrault said Russia was still “a partner” of France and there might also be talks to try to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
He did not give details but France and Germany have for weeks been trying to organise a meeting between Mr Hollande, Mr Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.
During his visit on October 10 to Istanbul, Mr Putin outlined a potential first step toward getting badly needed aid into Aleppo.
“We have a common position which is to do everything to get humanitarian aid to Aleppo ... The problem is ensuring the safety of these deliveries,” Mr Putin said.
Russia blocked a draft French UN resolution calling for an end to the barrage of air strikes on the city’s rebelheld east that have escalated in the last month.
It was the fifth time that Russia used its veto to block UN action to end the five-year war in Syria, which has claimed 300,000 lives. –
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at Mabeyn Palace, in a handout picture released by the Turkish Presidency Press Service on October 10.