Putin cancels visit to France amid row over Syria

Russian President cancels visit to France after Francoise Hollande says Russia helped Syria commit a war crime in Aleppo.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff,

Hollande and Putin
Hollande and Putin
Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday cancelled a visit to France in a furious row over Moscow's role in the Syrian conflict.

The announcement from the Kremlin came a day after French President Francois Hollande said Syrian forces had committed a "war crime" in the battered city of Aleppo with the support of Russian air strikes.

Putin had been due in Paris on October 19 to inaugurate a spiritual center at a new Russian Orthodox church near the Eiffel Tower, but Hollande had insisted his Russian counterpart also took part in talks with him about Syria.

The unprecedented cancellation of a visit so close to being finalized is a "serious step... reminiscent of the Cold War", said Russian foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov.

"This is part of the broader escalation in the tensions between Russia and the West, and Russia and NATO," he told AFP.

Russia has been waging a punishing aerial bombing campaign in Syria for more than a year in support of President Bashar Al-Assad's forces, part of a multi-front war that has claimed some 300,000 lives and seen Moscow further estranged from the West.

Russia insists the air strikes are targeting the Islamic State and other "terrorist" groups, but the U.S. and its allies accuse Russia of targeting moderate rebels as well.

The French president had admitted he was agonizing over whether to meet Putin, but the Kremlin on Tuesday called off the visit.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was "ready to visit when it is comfortable for President Hollande", adding that Moscow would "wait for when that comfortable time comes".

Hollande responded that he was prepared to meet Putin "at any time... to further peace".

Speaking in Strasbourg, Hollande said France and Russia had had a "major disagreement" over Syria.

"It is necessary to have dialogue with Russia but it must be firm and frank," Hollande told the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe rights body.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson waded into the row, calling for anti-war campaigners to protest outside the Russian embassy in London.

Johnson said the "wells of outrage are growing exhausted" and anti-war groups were not expressing sufficient outrage at the conflict in Aleppo.

"Where is the Stop the War Coalition at the moment? Where are they?" he said during a parliamentary debate.

On Saturday, Russia blocked a draft French UN resolution calling for an end to the barrage of air strikes on the rebel-held east of Aleppo that have escalated in the last month, leaving hundreds of people dead, including dozens of children.

The move marked the fifth time that Russia used its veto to block UN action to end the five-year war in Syria.

In the aftermath of that decision, Hollande described the bombing of Aleppo as a "war crime".

He said in a TV interview on Monday: "Those who commit these acts will have to pay for their involvement, including at the International Criminal Court."

Syria announced an all-out offensive for Aleppo on September 22, shortly after a ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia fell apart.

On Tuesday, at least 12 civilians were killed in the heaviest Russian bombardment in days of Aleppo, a monitoring group said.

Despite cancelling his visit to Paris, Putin is still considering travelling to Berlin on October 19 for a meeting on the conflict in Ukraine, one of his aides told Itar-Tass on Monday.

AFP contributed to this report.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Yom Kippur in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)




top