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Hollande may cancel Putin Paris meeting over Syria

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Russian President Vladimir Putin Reuters/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Russia on Monday insisted that President Vladimir Putin will visit Paris on 19 October, despite President François Hollande's statement that he might refuse to meet the Russian leader because of Moscow's alleged involvement in "war crimes" in the Syrian city of Aleppo.


Preparations for Putin's visit, during which he will open a new Russian cultural and religious centre on the banks of the Seine, were going ahead on Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said, adding that discussions with the French president were planned.

"We have no other information from our French colleagues," he added.

Russia on Saturday vetoed a French resolution at the UN Security Council calling for an end to air raids on the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Earlier Hollande had said that any nation that vetoed the proposal would be "discredited in the eyes of the world".

In an interview to be broadcast Monday but made public on Sunday, Hollande said he was considering whether or not to meet Putin.

"I have asked myself the question ... Is it useful? Is it necessary?" he told TMC television. "Could it be a means of applying pressure? Can we ensure that he can stop what he is committing with the Syrian regime, that is to say support for the regime's air force, who are dropping bombs on the people of Aleppo?"

International Criminal Court

Ayrault, who moved the resolution at the Security Council, on Monday said that the bombing of the city should be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"Who has been bombing? Obviously there are the Syrians but above all there are the Russians," he told France Inter radio.

Since Syria is not a member of the ICC, any proceedings for crimes against humanity or war crimes would have to be approved by the Security Council.

If Hollande meets Putin it will not be for "polite conversation" but to "tell some home truths", he said.

Hundreds killed in Aleppo

Several hundred civilians have been killed in Aleppo cince the end of the ceasefire on 19 September, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, and the US has broken off discussions with Russia over a truce because of the bombardment.

France is also pushing for sanctions for use of chemical weapons, ahead of a report from the UN chemical weapons watchdog.

Investigators have found the Syrian forces used chlorine in two attacks in April 2014 and March 2015 and mustard gas in August 2015, according to the Reuters news agency.