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Europe

Putin to put off Paris visit after Syria row, French presidency

media Russian President Vladimir Putin Reuters/Ivan Sekretarev

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to postpone his visit to Paris, following President François Hollande's statement that he was questioning the value of a meeting between the two leaders because of differences over the Syria conflict, the French presidential palace announced Tuesday.

Contacted by the Elysée to propose a "working meeting" on Syria, the Kremlin said Putin wishes to put off his visit, scheduled for 19 October, Hollande's office said.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the cancellation.

"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," he said.

In an interview broadcast Monday, Hollande expressed some misgivings about meeting the Russian leader, following Moscow's veto of a French resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an end to the bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo at the weekend.

The French president seems to have overcome his doubts but France's response to the Syria resolution veto, which included suggestions that Russia should face the International Criminal Court along with President Bashar al-Assad's regime over the bombings, appears to have dampened Putin's enthusiasm for the Paris visit.

Its prime purpose was to allow him to open a "Russian Orthodox spiritual and cultural centre", including a cathedral, on the banks of the Seine.

Putin was in Turkey on Monday and Tuesday, where he discussed plans for a gas pipeline and defence contracts, signs of a thaw in relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Hollande was to visit the Council of Europe on Tuesday and was expected to address the Syria question in a speech there.

He said he was prepared to meet Putin "at any time ... to further peace".

"Dialogue is necessary with Russia but it must be firm and frank," Hollande added.

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