• France's news in English
 

Hollande and Putin go cold on Syria solution

Published: 28 Feb 2013 18:22 GMT+01:00

Hollande said both Russia and France had the same goal to bring peace while avoiding the collapse of Syria but differed in particular on the role of President Bashar al-Assad in a power transfer.

"We have the same objective - to avoid disintegration of this country and to avoid allowing terrorists to profit from this chaos. We want political dialogue," Hollande said, after his first trip to Russia as president.

But he added: "There is the question of the manner of how to get there through political dialogue."

Putin said the French leader brought with him to Moscow new proposals on how to solve the two-year conflict in the Middle Eastern country but quipped that reconciling their countries' positions would be hard without copious amounts of alcohol.

"We had a very active debate and even argued when it came to some issues," Putin said.

"It seemed to me a good bottle of wine - even vodka - would be needed to sort this out," Putin told a news conference to laughter from officials. In an effort to play along with his host, Hollande quipped that he would prefer a bottle of port.

France has been one of the strongest international backers of urgent action to bring about a power transfer in Syria that excludes Assad and can end a conflict that according to the United Nations has claimed 70,000 lives.

Russia has denied it has a policy of propping up Assad, a long-term ally, but has not backed calls for him to stand down, saying this must be the Syrians' decision.

Without releasing details, Putin said that during the talks Hollande had formulated new proposals on the Syrian conflict, adding he was in favour of them being discussed together with other world powers.

"I think we need to heed our partners' opinion on some aspects of this difficult problem," Putin said.

The two men had met once before in Paris last June when their differences on the Syria conflict were laid bare in a news conference after the talks.

After their meeting Thursday, the two leaders were keen to play up the cordial atmosphere as Hollande sought to find the same personal chemistry with Putin that existed with his predecessor and vanquished rival Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hollande thanked Putin for Russia's support for France's military operation in Mali, while Putin said he and his French guest were free to discuss any
issues.

Human rights avoided

The French president however appeared to tiptoe around the controversial issue of human rights, saying his duty was to state facts but not to judge.

Human Rights Watch had urged the French leader in the run-up to the visit to press Putin on the rights situation after the worst year for "human rights in Russia in recent memory".

Later Thursday, Hollande was scheduled to meet with several prominent rights activists including representatives of top rights watchdog Memorial and editor of fiercely anti-Kremlin magazine The New Times.

Putin, addressing the widespread criticism of violations of human rights in Russia, dismissed the issue, pointing to tensions during the electoral campaign that saw him return to the Kremlin for a third term in May.

When challenged by a reporter to comment on a seeming lack of a particular warmth between him and Putin, Hollande said curtly: "I will leave it up to you take the temperature of our relations."

The French president also attempted to make light of the Depardieu furore, without specifically naming the now infamous French tax-exile.

When asked about giving French visas to Russian investors Hollande said: "We must limit immigration but that should not discourage a Russian investor or an entrepreneur, even artists or other famous people from coming to France.

"We don't stop anyone from coming to Russia," Hollande added to much laughter.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Two Frenchmen mauled in Bayonne bullfight
Bullfighting is a popular tradition in the region. File photo: AFP

Two Frenchmen mauled in Bayonne bullfight

The Bayonne Festival in southern France ended on a sour note on Sunday when a bull jumped out of the bull ring and gored two men — one in the scrotum. READ  

Experts to meet in Paris over Boeing 777 debris
Officials come the waterside in Réunion looking for more clues. Photo: AFP

Experts to meet in Paris over Boeing 777 debris

French and Malaysian aviation experts will meet in Paris on Monday to probe the disappearance of Flight MH370, after mystery plane debris washed up on the French island of Réunion last week. READ  

Riviera beach to reopen as Saudi king moves on
The beach is located just below the Saudi king’s Riviera villa in Vallauris. Photo: Valery Hache/ AFP

Riviera beach to reopen as Saudi king moves on

King Salman of Saudi Arabia unexpectedly left the French Riviera on Sunday, local officials said, adding that a beach that had been controversially closed for the royal's holiday would now reopen to the public. READ  

Réunion wreckage
More debris found on Réunion in MH370 hunt
Local volunteers search for more potential plane debris and items on the shore in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. Photo: Ouissem Gombra / Imaz Press Renuion / AFP

More debris found on Réunion in MH370 hunt

Investigators probing missing flight MH370 collected more debris on an Indian Ocean island on Sunday as Malaysia urged authorities in the region to be on alert for wreckage washing up on their shores. READ  

Calais migrants
Ending Calais migrants crisis is 'top priority'
French gendarmes stand facing a group of seated migrants as they block their way in the Eurotunnel site in Coquelles near Calais. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Ending Calais migrants crisis is 'top priority'

France and Britain vowed on Sunday that ending a crisis which has seen thousands of attempts by migrants to reach England from Calais in recent weeks is a "top priority". READ  

Calais migrants
Eurotunnel migrant activity down overnight
Photo: Philippe Huguen/ AFP

Eurotunnel migrant activity down overnight

French police said on Saturday some 300 migrants in Calais attempted to reach Britain via the cross-Channel tunnel overnight, a significant drop from previous nights as the security presence is beefed up. READ  

Reunion wreckage
Possible MH370 plane part arrives in France
The plane part arriving in Paris on Saturday morning. Photo: Richard Bouhet / AFP

Possible MH370 plane part arrives in France

A piece of Boeing 777 wreckage that washed up on an Indian Ocean island arrived for analysis in France early Saturday, after Malaysian authorities said the part was almost certainly recovered from missing flight MH370. READ  

Calais Migrants
Migrant: 'France will protect me more than UK'
Migrants building a home in the New Jungle in Calais. Photo: AFP

Migrant: 'France will protect me more than UK'

While the intense media coverage of Calais might suggest that all migrants there want to make it to the UK, an increasing number of them are now actually choosing to stay in France. READ  

Reunion wreckage
Experts confirm Réunion debris is Boeing 777
People comb the beaches of Réunion looking for more plane wreckage. Photo: AFP

Experts confirm Réunion debris is Boeing 777

Malaysian authorities confirmed on Friday that plane wreckage washed up on France's island of Réunion was from a Boeing 777, meaning the part is almost certainly from missing flight MH370. READ  

France names capital cities for new regions
Here is the full list of the new proposed capitals. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

France names capital cities for new regions

French officials have revealed their suggestions for the capital cities of the country's newest regions. But not everyone is happy about the choices. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Réunion's plane debris to be probed in France
Ten things you didn't know about Gay Paris
France eyes boost to holiday leave rights
Business & Money
French dating sites 'not protecting client privacy'
Features
Learn more about the Bayonne festival - France's wildest party
Features
What's on in France: Ten things to do in August
Features
What to see and do at the Paris Plages this summer
Saudi royals 'bar' French policewomen from beach
Take a closer look at the 560,000-year-old tooth found in France
National
Swiss army pilfers French water to give to thirsty cows
National
'B**ch' and 'brainless': French shop slurs clients
Travel
French cops rebel over order to give kids sweets
National
New measures to stop migrant deaths in Calais
Travel
Here are some of the most ridiculous comments you'll read about France
Features
Life may be about to get easier for expats settling in France
National
Burning tyres and blocking roads is just the way the French do strikes
National
Muslim tourists visiting French Alps are reminded of burqa ban
Opinion
Slim and chic: Are French women fed up of the stereotypes?
French officials defend handing public beach over to Saudi royals
Society
French kiss: Should expats in France do 'la bise' among themselves?
National
Paris commuters and tourists face summer of travel trouble
This man learnt the entire French vocabulary in nine weeks, but why?
French speed cameras snare tens of thousands of British drivers
Gallery
What kind of expat in France are you: A lover or a loather?
Society
French tweeters reveal the trials and tribulations of #GrowingupFrench
Where to find the best (and worst) quality of life in France
National
Riviera rumpus as Saudi royals grab public beach all for themselves
What we know about France's foiled terror plot
Features
Here are ten places in Paris where you can escape the summer heat
National
Coup d'état fails in France after being snubbed by military
Are shoppers in northern France the most honest in the world?
French woman fined €90 for driving in flip-flops
Cyclists in Paris get the green light to jump red
'Adieu France': Angry mum's parting rant goes viral
Franco-German rift opens over Greece and it could take time to heal
The Megavalanche: The most spectacular cycling event in France
Ex-French PM's daughter creates a buzz by going topless for photo shoot
Could Parisians be bathing in the Seine by 2024?
Paris unveils new mobile app to help non-French speakers
France declares war on public transport sex pests
So where's the best place to live in France if you want to be happy?
Opinion
Paris: The City of Light, Romance, Style and the worst loos in Europe?
National
Eight ways living in France will change your lifestyle for good
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,623
jobs available