• 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
France examines new crackdown on prostitutes
Sex workers at a protest in Paris are against the new bill. Photo: AFP

France examines new crackdown on prostitutes

The divisive issue of how France could crackdown on the world's oldest profession was once again back on the table on Monday with French lawmakers set to debate whether to punish prostitutes or their clients. READ  

French job seeker given 26,000 years to pay €3k
Photo: AFP

French job seeker given 26,000 years to pay €3k

France's national employment agency Pôle Emploi has made a bizarre repayment request, asking a Frenchman to cough up 1 centime a month for the next 26,126 years. READ  

Body of British man washed up on Riviera
Photo: The village of Eze on the Côte d'Azur, where the body of a British man was washed up. Photo: Jim MacDougall/Flickr

Body of British man washed up on Riviera

Police in the south of France are investigating after it emerged on Monday that the body of a British man was washed up on the Côte d'Azur. READ  

French drunk gives kiss of life to 'dying' dinghy
The inflatable boat in this picture is not the one that underwent CPR in the story. Photo: Rootology/Wikimedia Commons

French drunk gives kiss of life to 'dying' dinghy

A good (but very drunk) Samaritan spent the night in prison after police found the Frenchman trying to breathe life into an inflatable boat in Brittany, western France. READ  

French local elections 2015
French local elections: Who won and who lost
Should Marine Le Pen be feeling disappointed after Sunday's election results? Photo: AFP

French local elections: Who won and who lost

Even though only half of the French people turned out to vote, Sunday's local elections could have a significant impact on the country's political landscape with the next presidential election almost within sight. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
The story of the doomed Germanwings flight
An emergency worker combs the mountainside after the Germanwings crash. Photo: AFP

The story of the doomed Germanwings flight

More details from the black box recordings from the crashed Germanwings jet have revealed how everything seemed ordinary as the flight took off but it ended with the horror of the pilot screaming "open the damn door". READ  

Bond legend in racism row with French mag
Roger Moore is in a row with a French magazine over an interview in which he talked about the possibility of a future black James Bond. Photo: AFP

Bond legend in racism row with French mag

James Bond legend Roger Moore insisted Saturday he had said nothing racist about fellow British actor Idris Elba -- tipped to play the superspy next -- in a French magazine interview. READ  

Local elections
French socialists take a beating in local elections
Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the victory of his centre-right alliance that routed the Socialists in the local elections. Photo: AFP

French socialists take a beating in local elections

France's ruling Socialists lost out to the right in the country's local elections on Sunday as Nicolas Sarkozy said the French public had massively rejected the Hollande government. Reports said the National Front failed to take control of a council. READ  

Right expects boost from Sunday’s local polls
Photo: AFP

Right expects boost from Sunday’s local polls

France's ruling Socialists look set for a drubbing in local polls Sunday that are expected to deliver a boost for former president Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. READ  

Gay support for National Front on the rise
Gay rights leader Sebastien Chenu with Marine Le Pen. Photo: AFP

Gay support for National Front on the rise

A recent survey shows gay support for the National Front is rising. Some gays say the far-right party is more open to minorities than France’s mainstream parties, despite a history of homophobia. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
What's on in France: Ten things to do in April
National
Images released of the harrowing search at Alps plane crash site
IN PICTURES: Grieving relatives visit plane crash site in Alps
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
National
Paris: France mulls lifting ban on casinos
Damaged black box could hold key to Alps plane crash probe
Does low cost mean low safety? Questions after Germanwings crash
Gallery
IN PICTURES: A timeline of the Alps plane crash
National
So what might have caused the plane crash in the French Alps?
National
Videos emerge of Alps crash site wreckage
National
What we know so far about the plane crash in the French Alps
National
Where in La Belle France do British expats avoid?
National
IN PICTURES: 'Tide of the century' draws tens of thousands
National
Paris ends smog-fighting restrictions as the air finally clears
National
The main mistakes made by French property buyers
National
International French Language day: But what does the future hold?
National
IN PICTURES: What went on behind the clouds during Friday's eclipse
National
French food porn: What is the Gallic grub that goes viral the most?
Culture
France treated to rare Northern Lights show
Politics
Shady candidates undermine French far-right's election bid once again
Politics
French minister takes a swipe at overuse of Franglais in workplace
French gastronomy set for global charm offensive
French newspaper stuns readers with porn film pics on front page
Sport
The reasons why Zlatan Ibrahimovic might really think France is s**t
National
France could soon ban skinny models from catwalks
Health
Is France's much-envied health care system under threat?
National
There are jobs in France where you don't need to speak French
National
New plan to improve life in rural France drawn up
Education
Paris universities on the up in new rankings
Sport
We meet one of the most entertaining footballers in France
National
New plan to improve life in rural France drawn up
Features
Forget Paris. Is Bordeaux the best place to live in France?
Travel
Runaway plane mows down skier on the slopes of French Alps
Society
Friday 13th: A look at France's superstitions
Culture
France is ready to end its stubborn resistance to the English language
Features
'Hedgehog' and other words that French people simply can't say
Society
The worst 'nightmares' of living in France (written by a Frenchman)
Health
French hospitals crisis: 'It's like the UK under Margaret Thatcher'
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in France
VIDEO: Footage emerges of the moment two helicopters collided
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Helicopter crash kills 10, including French sports stars
Culture
What's on in France: Ten things to do in March
New French rail strike: RER B and regional trains to be worst hit
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