• France's news in English
 

Hollande presses Putin on Syria crisis

Published: 28 Feb 2013 11:19 GMT+01:00

Hollande, making his first visit to Russia since being elected president in May, will seek to reconcile France's vision of a post-Assad Syria with Moscow's insistence that only Syrians can decide their destiny.

Accompanied by his partner Valerie Trierweiler, Hollande will also be looking to find the same personal chemistry with Putin that existed with his predecessor and vanquished rival Nicolas Sarkozy.

Asked In a press conference on Thursday whether the two leaders would discuss French actor Gerard Depardieu, now a proud resident of Russia, Hollande said: "There is one thing certain with President Putin and that is we will talk about everything."

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 said to much laughter.

Syria top of the agenda

In a radio interview early Thursday, Hollande said he intended to discuss political transition in Syria with Putin and voiced cautious optimism that the leaders could bring their opposing positions closer.

"We will discuss this question and I hope Putin and I will manage to have a dialogue about the transfer of power," Hollande told Echo of Moscow radio station in comments translated into Russian.

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 two-year 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.

Taking a conciliatory approach, Hollande stressed his willingness to find a common language with Putin, whom he described as frank, while acknowledging that Putin would not back his call for Assad to stand down.

"When (Putin) says something, he says it honestly and it is his position," Hollande said. "That is President Putin... We do not yet share one position but it is changing and should come to a consensus decision."

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

Hollande stressed Russia's key role as a member of the United Nations Security Council, where it has vetoed resolutions that would have put pressure on Assad to end hostilities.

"A lot will depend on the position of President Putin and on our position too, of course. We must finally start the process of political dialogue that has not yet started on the territory of Syria."

"President Putin and I both understand all the seriousness of the situation. And even though our positions at the moment differ, we want to find the best solution for Syria."

Hollande expressed optimism that international powers would find apolitical solution to stop the raging conflict from spiralling in the coming weeks.

"I think that in the next few weeks we will manage to find a political solution that will stop the conflict from escalating," he said.

Hollande spoke before a Friends of Syria meeting of foreign ministers wasto begin in Rome and United States Secretary of State John Kerry met Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib to discuss greater aid for the rebels.

France has led moves to have the opposition Syrian National Coalition recognized internationally as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

On a mission to find common ground with Russia, Hollande said that he would bring up rights issues, without specifying, but added that he "would not like to use any provocative approach."

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

Hollande also downplayed the fallout from Putin's decision to grant citizenship to French star Gerard Depardieu in a whirl of publicity after the actor rowed with the French authorities over high tax demands.

"I'm sure the Russian president made a choice that does not damage our interests," he said.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
English reigns in French TV series 'Versailles'
The gates of the Palace of Versailles which has been given a very Anglo makeover for a TV series. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

English reigns in French TV series 'Versailles'

The makers of what will be France's most-expensive TV series ever, "Versailles" have succumbed to the domination of the English language in the global TV industry, meaning the French King will infact be British. READ  

Ancient tomb of Celtic prince found in France
A bronze-decorated cauldron that was used to store watered-down wine. Photo: Pasale Mollard/AFP

Ancient tomb of Celtic prince found in France

An "exceptional" tomb from the fifth century BC, likely that of a Celtic prince, has been unearthed in a small French town, shedding light on Iron Age European trade, researchers said Wednesday. READ  

France to remain on high terror alert 'for months'
Ile-de-France and Alpes-Maritimes will remain on high alert for terror attacks for several months. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

France to remain on high terror alert 'for months'

France will remain on high terror alert for months, it emerged on Wednesday, despite the huge cost of the heightened security. It's not all bad news however, with the increased presence of the police and army prompting a drop in the number of burglaries and thefts. READ  

France to save €4b more to appease Brussels
The French finance ministry which must make further savings. Photo: AFP

France to save €4b more to appease Brussels

France's president has revealed plans to find €4 billion in a new "savings package", to meet demands from Brussels. The move will also please German Chancellor Angela Merkel who noted that France was "on the right track". READ  

Tête-à-tête - France and smacking children
'No one would ever say you can slap your wife'
France is in violation of a treaty because it doesn't fully ban smacking. Photo: Shutterstock

'No one would ever say you can slap your wife'

After human right's watchdog the Council of Europe declared that France should ban smacking completely, The Local talks to the UK charity whose complaint prompted the ruling and a French families organisation who are staunchly against outlawing corporal punishment. READ  

French baker accused of selling 'racist' cakes
Racist cakes or harmless pastries? Photo: CRAN

French baker accused of selling 'racist' cakes

A cake maker in the south of France has been threatened with legal action for inciting racial hatred unless he stops selling cakes deemed “obscene” by an anti-racism group in France. The baker told The Local he's a victim of "intellectual terrorism". READ  

Paris is pricey, but is that good news for Parisians?
Paris is pricey but it's not all bad news. Photo: AFP

Paris is pricey, but is that good news for Parisians?

Paris has once again been named the world’s second most expensive city in a global study this week, meaning it's pricier than the likes of Oslo, Zurich and Sydney. But those behind the report say it's not all bad news for people living in the French capital. READ  

France hunts men behind 1982 Jewish diner attack
The scene after the bombing at the Chez Jo Godenberg restaurant in 1982 that left six people dead. Photo: AFP

France hunts men behind 1982 Jewish diner attack

UPDATED: France has issued international arrest warrants for three men suspected of involvement in a deadly attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris in 1982, a judicial source told AFP on Wednesday. READ  

France 'violates treaty on smacking children'
France is in violation of a treaty because it doesn't fully ban smacking. Photo: Shutterstock

France 'violates treaty on smacking children'

A top European human rights watchdog gave France a stern telling off on Wednesday ruling that the country was in violation of a European treaty because it did not fully ban the smacking of children. READ  

More drones give Paris police the run around
Drones have been spotted over Paris several times in the last two weeks. Photo: David Rodriguez Martin/Flickr

More drones give Paris police the run around

As many as ten drones were seen flying over Paris on Tuesday, with police chasing one through the streets of the capital before being given the slip by the unmanned aircraft. It’s just the latest in a series of baffling overflights. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Study finds Frenchmen top the tables when it comes to 'manhood'
Culture
Marine Le Pen says yes to having a drink with Madonna
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in France
National
'No one would ever say you can slap your wife, so why children?'
Sponsored Article
Free spirit or tourist: what sort of expat are you?
Society
Latest job vacancies in France: Porn stars - 'Beginners welcome'
Society
Who are these two children found by a homeless man in France?
National
From planes to 1,000 cows - France's most controversial building projects
National
Time to move home? Pyrenees hamlet cut off after massive mudslide
National
Over 200 skeletons found in mass grave under Paris supermarket
Culture
Madonna has compared France and Europe to Nazi Germany
Culture
Are you also unimpressed by your French boss?
National
UK councillor blasted for 250km French commute
National
Say it with Nutella: Except the words 'lesbian', 'Muslim' and many more
Culture
Looking for something different to do in France in March? Here's 10 ideas
National
How can France enforce a no-drone zone over Paris?
Gallery
Here's how to be cool in Paris, according to Parisians
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best one to work in?
National
Why do so many women in France smoke throughout their pregnancy?
National
VIDEO: Banned but beautiful - Paris seen through the eyes of a drone
National
Would you want this Frenchman to squeal at YOUR wedding?
National
'We're back' - Charlie Hebdo magazine returns with a bite
Society
Handsome men on the Paris Metro are unknowingly going viral
Society
What are the little things that make France so different?
National
Should we be worried about drones being flown over Paris?
Travel
Another deadly avalanche in the French Alps
National
Text offences: Why French workers need to watch out in future
Gallery
Mont-Saint-Michel cut off as 'supertide' season opens in France
Gallery
Ten great moments for France throughout Oscar history
Culture
Anglo-French marriage problems begin long before anyone says 'Oui'
Travel
'The stars are aligned': Why now is the time to buy a house in France
National
IN PICTURES: 'Supertide' brings crowds to the French coast
Gallery
French property Face-off: Two luxury chalets in the French Alps
Travel
French coastal towns are braced for the 'tide of the century'
Politics
Socialist rebel MPs are angry but not ready to topple French government
Society
France to welcome another US fast food giant
Culture
Les Entrepreneurs: How to watch Paris theatre shows in English
Culture
So where are all these swinging sex clubs in Paris?
Sport
VIDEO: 'We're racist' - Chelsea fans push black man off Paris Metro
Culture
Sex clubs touted as latest fashion in Paris
Culture
In pictures: The ever-colourful Dunkirk carnival
National
Do you worry about your French accent? Perhaps you have no need to
National
VIDEO: 'Fear and loathing' - Being a Jew in Paris
National
Why the DSK trial could spell bad news for French prostitutes
Society
The sorry recent history of anti-Semitic attacks in France
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
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