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Macron urges Putin to help end civilian suffering in Syria

© POOL/AFP/File | In a telephone call, Macron (R) "asked Vladimir Putin to do everything so that the Syrian regime puts an end to the unbearable deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib," a statement said

PARIS (AFP) - 

French President Emmanuel Macron urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday to help ease civilian suffering caused by Syrian government attacks on rebel positions.

In a telephone call, the French leader "asked Vladimir Putin to do everything so that the Syrian regime puts an end to the unbearable deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib," a statement said.

Russia has intervened alongside Syrian regime forces in the seven-year civil war and Putin is seen as the foreign leader with the most influence over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Fresh air strikes hit the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Friday, AFP correspondents reported, the fifth straight day of a bombing campaign that has killed more than 220 civilians.

Macron added that he was "worried about indications suggesting the possible use of chlorine on several occasions against the civilian population in Syria these last few weeks".

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that "all the evidence" suggested the chemical was being used.

But Defence Minister Florence Parly was more reserved on Friday when asked if Damascus had crossed a "red line" set out by Macron in May when he said the use of chemical weapons would spark reprisals from France.

"At the moment because we don't know what happened and the consequences of what happened, we can't say we are where you say we are," she told France Inter radio when asked about the "red line".

In his call with Putin, Macron hailed the "dynamic of our bilateral relations" since the pair's first meeting at the Versailles Palace outside Paris at the end of May, the statement said.

Macron also confirmed he would travel to Russia for his first time as president to attend the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum scheduled for May 24-26.

© 2018 AFP