• France edition
 
Hollande presses Putin on Syria crisis
Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

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
French welfare spending 'not sustainable'
Photo: AFP

French welfare spending 'not sustainable'

As France topped the latest global rankings for welfare spending, the analyst behind the report tells The Local, France’s much admired welfare system is simply unsustainable. READ  

French minister slams US police killings
French minister Christiane Taubira quotes Bob Marley to express her anger over US police killings. Photo: AFP

French minister slams US police killings

France's black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira on Tuesday waded into the conflict over racially charged killings in the United States, quoting Rastafarian reggae icon Bob Marley on Twitter to express her anger. READ  

Frenchman develops scented flatulence pills
A new pill allegedly makes wind from flatulence smell like chocolate. Photo: Shutterstock

Frenchman develops scented flatulence pills

A Frenchman may have come up with the perfect solution to one of life's major problems after he claimed to have invented a pill that makes bodily gases smell like roses and chocolate. READ  

Pope tells Europe to do more to help migrants
Pope Francis has told Europe to do more for migrants. Photo: AFP

Pope tells Europe to do more to help migrants

Pope Francis urged an "haggard" Europe to do more for migrants and fight rising nationalism in a speech to the EU parliament on Tuesday, telling MEPs the Mediterranean must not turn into a "vast cemetery". READ  

The Mistral conundrum
Hollande halts warship delivery indefinitely
France has postponed delivery of Mistral ship to Russia "until further notice". Photo: AFP

Hollande halts warship delivery indefinitely

French President François Hollande on Tuesday delayed the controversial delivery of a high-tech warship to Russia "until further notice" over the Ukraine crisis. Russia later said it does not plan to sue France by way of response. READ  

Rare Shakespeare work found in northern France
William Shakespeare's first folio, Comedies, Histoires et Tragedies, a copy of which was found in northern France. Photo: Caso

Rare Shakespeare work found in northern France

A library in northern France has unearthed a literary treasure that it has been sitting on unknowingly for two centuries - a rare copy of a collection of William Shakespeare’s plays titled "First Folio" - printed just seven years after his death. READ  

French pensioners in hospital 'suicide pact'
The tragedy has reignited France's heated debate on assisted suicide and euthanasia. File photo: Jazz Beaunola/flickr

French pensioners in hospital 'suicide pact'

In what was an apparent suicide pact, an 84-year-old man entered the hospital ward of his 82-year-old terminally ill wife and shot her before turning the gun on himself. The tragedy has reignited France’s debate on assisted suicide. READ  

Pope's Strasbourg visit riles French secularists
François Hollande with Pope Francis in the Vatican earlier this year. Photo: AFP

Pope's Strasbourg visit riles French secularists

Pope Francis visited the eastern French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday where he will address the European Parliament on subjects such as immigration. French secularists are unhappy about the visit of a religious leader to a European political institution. READ  

Paris-Berlin report says 'freeze wages in France'
The finance ministers of Germany and France - Wolfgang Schäuble and Michel Sapin - meet for an informal Franco-German conference earlier this month. Photo: AFP

Paris-Berlin report says 'freeze wages in France'

France and Germany are set to present a joint economic reform paper this week that proposes Paris would freeze wages, make the 35-hour week more flexible and Berlin would hike public investment, a news report said. READ  

Paris pollution: 'Like a room with eight smokers'
This air in Paris was the same as being in a room with eight smokers. Photo: AFP

Paris pollution: 'Like a room with eight smokers'

Although the City of Light has a lot to offer its visitors, fresh air isn’t one of them. At its worst, pollution in Paris is as bad as being stuck in a 20-square-metre room with eight smokers, a report showed on Monday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
French government gives 10 reasons to be proud: No. 1 - The Economy
Sponsored Article
Win your Christmas list: €250 at Marks & Spencer
Politics
France's 'first ladies': A look back at the other halves
National
Would background music make the RER in Paris feel safer?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
National
Trierweiler to break her silence... in the UK
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Winter is coming to the French Alps
Gallery
Don't confuse France with Paris: Here's ten reasons why
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
National
From the homeless to migrants: A portrait of modern France in ten stats
Culture
Are you brainy enough to be Miss France? Take the quiz
Gallery
France's most notorious celebrities. How many do you know?
Society
City of Love? Seven Paris myths debunked
Education
Why is France worst in the EU at English?
National
C'est pas possible! Paris is 'world's cheapest city for young people'
National
Looking to save space? France allows toilets in kitchens for first time
National
Find out how women in France are getting stung for a hidden tax
Culture
Which one is your favourite? The top 10 heartiest French winter dishes
Face Of The Week
Nabilla - 'France's Kim Kardashian' held for attempted murder
National
So who's scaring everyone by flying drones over France’s nuclear plants?
Education
Whoever thinks French was a dying language should read this
Politics
OPINION: 'One day France will be grateful to François Hollande'
Gallery
IN IMAGES: A history of France's most controversial architecture
National
How to make an 8-square-metre Paris apartment perfectly liveable
Gallery
VIDEO: France's raunchiest TV ads, including that infamous Perrier one
National
Five reasons why you should work a ski season in France and five not to
National
10 art exhibitions not to miss this autumn in Paris
Culture
What's on in France: 11 things to do this November
National
How French have you become? Take our quiz to find out
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
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