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Vodka may be key to a Franco-Russian deal on Syria

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-01

Agreement on the Syrian crisis might be found over a bottle of vodka or “fine wine”, Russian President Vladimir Putin quipped on Thursday, as France and Russia seek to find common ground on a visit to Moscow by French President François Hollande.

Finding a common approach on the crisis in Syria may require a bottle of vodka or a “ fine wine”, Russian President Vladimir Putin quipped on Thursday.

Putin was speaking at a joint press conference in Moscow following talks with French President François Hollande.

Putin told reporters that while there was a significant gulf between the two countries’ approaches to the Syrian conflict, this might be resolved “only with a bottle of vodka, or a bottle of fine wine”.

The bilateral discussions centred mainly on the need to improve economic, trade and investment ties between Russia and the European Union, and the civil war raging in Syria was largely relegated to the back seat – with Hollande saying only that he wanted “greater dialogue” on the issue.

Both leaders agreed that they wanted to avoid the break-up of Syria, but they were frank in admitting that they had different approaches on how to avoid it.

France, for its part, was the first country to recognise the rebel Syrian National Coalition as the "legitimate representative" of the Syrian people while Russia remains close to its beleaguered regime.

Why Russia is an important market for France

Russia, which still considers Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a key ally, believes that any transition to a new government and an end to hostilities can only be achieved by dialogue involving all parties, including Assad.

Along with China, Russia has consistently blocked efforts at the United Nations Security Council to demand that Assad step down in the face of an almost two-year-long rebellion that has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives.

‘Feel how warm things are’

Putin visited France in June 2012, just a month after presidential elections in which Hollande defeated his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who had a close relationship with the Kremlin.

The relationship between the two current presidents is widely reported as remaining frosty.

But that might be about to change.

When asked by a French reporter on Thursday if the relationship had “thawed”, Putin joked: “Come a little bit closer, and feel how warm things are over here.”
 

Date created : 2013-02-28

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