Putin cancels visit to France amid tensions
France says Russian President Vladimir Putin has cancelled his visit to Paris planned for next Tuesday after the French insisted on holding talks only on Syria.
“There were contacts between the Kremlin and the Elysee this morning to offer to Putin a working visit on Syria, but excluding all other events that President Hollande could have taken part in,” President Francois Hollande’s office said Tuesday.
“In response to this proposal, Russia has just indicated that it wants to postpone the visit planned on October 19,” a source at the office was quoted as saying.
The Kremlin confirmed that President Putin has indefinitely postponed the visit, which envisaged the opening of a Russian cultural center and an exhibition.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the French side had revised the program and insisted that the visit should focus extensively on Syria.
“Regrettably, those events dropped out of the program,” Peskov said, adding it’s up to the French side to explain the reason.
“The president decided to cancel the visit,” Peskov said.
Russia on Sunday vetoed a French-drafted resolution calling for an immediate halt of anti-terror airstrikes in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo.
Moscow said halting airstrikes “provides cover to terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra” and other militant groups allied with them.
Relations between Paris and Moscow have soured as they back opposite sides in the Syria crisis.
On Monday, Hollande said he had not decided yet whether to meet Putin and claimed that Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, had committed a “war crime” in Aleppo.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Moscow last week before heading to Washington in a bid to garner support for the French draft resolution for a ceasefire in Aleppo.
Last month, Russia brokered a ceasefire in cooperation with the US but it collapsed after an American airstrike killed 83 Syrian troops in Dayr al-Zawr.
The US also failed to implement an important requirement of the peace deal to separate what Washington calls moderate militants from terrorists such as al-Nusra Front members.
Under the deal, the US military had also undertaken to join Russia in targeting terrorists in Aleppo but Washington fulfilled none of the pledges.
The calls for a ceasefire come as the Syrian army is tightening the noose around the terrorists in Aleppo as part of its bid to retake the country’s second largest city.