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Russian President Putin cancels France visit amid tensions over Syria

In an effort exert pressure on Moscow, France pushed ICC to launch an investigation into 'war crimes' committed by Syrian and Russian forces in Aleppo. Photograph: (Getty)

WION Moscow, Russia Oct 11, 2016, 11.48 AM (IST)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cancelled his planned visit to France next week after escalating tensions between Moscow and the Western nations over Syria. "The president has decided to cancel this visit," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to a long-planned trip to Paris set for October 19.

Moscow's decision to veto a French-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria over the weekend angered French officials, leading them to reconsider whether to host Putin.

The French presidency had told the Russians President Hollande would only meet Putin for talks on Syria during the planned visit. 

"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," the source said.

But the Kremlin declined the offer, saying Putin will meet Hollande when the French president is ready. "From the very start of his exchanges with his French colleague, President Putin noted that he is ready to visit Paris when it is comfortable for President Hollande. So we'll wait for when that comfortable time comes."

The Russian leader was scheduled to inaugurate a new Russian Orthodox cathedral and visit a Russian art exhibition in the French capital.

France has said it is vital to keep the dialogue with Moscow open and not completely cut ties. But with Russia blocking UN action to end the bombing in Syria, using its veto power for the fifth time, relations have further deteriorated. 

French President Francois Hollande said he was prepared to meet Vladimir Putin "at any further peace" after his Russian counterpart cancelled a visit to Paris in a row over Syria. "Dialogue is necessary with Russia but it must be firm and frank," Hollande said in the northeastern French city of Strasbourg.

French officials have been grappling for ways to put new pressure on Russia. Hollande even suggested Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of the Syrian city Aleppo, a move supported by the United States. France had also lead discussions on whether to impose new European Union sanctions on Moscow over Syria. 

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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