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France and Germany united on migration crisis, says Hollande

Patrick Kovarik, AFP | François Hollande and Angela Merkel called for European unity in the face of the migrant crisis.

French President François Hollande said Friday that Paris and Berlin had "the same spirit and the same will" in handling the migrant crisis, which has at times strained bilateral ties.


Hollande met Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris to discuss the crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands flooding to the EU to escape poverty and conflict, notably in Syria.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in February that Paris was "not in favour" of Merkel's proposal to set up a permanent system to redistribute more refugees around Europe.

"France has committed to take 30,000 refugees ... but no more," Valls said.

He also said that Merkel's liberal refugee policy, which brought 1.1 million asylum seekers to Germany in 2015, was not sustainable in the long run.

However despite their differences, Hollande insisted Friday that "France and Germany are working with the same spirit and the same will" on the crisis.

And Merkel said that "together, we are convinced that unilateral solutions won't help us. It won't lead to a reduction in refugee numbers."

Merkel said border slowdowns and closures had resulted in a bottleneck of migrants in Greece, overwhelming the cash-strapped country's resources.

Putin 'sincere' on ceasefire

Both leaders stressed that Russian leader Vladimir Putin confirmed his country's commitment to a ceasefire that took hold in Syria last weekend, a truce which world leaders hope will stem the flood of migrants fleeing the war zone.

"[Putin] has expressed his willingness to make sure the ceasefire is respected and that there are no attacks on civilian targets", Hollande said.

"There is also a willingness, that I believe is sincere, to help the civilian population in this human drama," he told the press conference. "What is happening in Aleppo is a humanitarian disaster and those held responsible for it will be judged very severely if it continues."

Merkel added: "I would like to stress one more time that the commitment to hold the ceasefire was confirmed as a key message by the Russian president: only attacks on Daesh [Islamic State (IS) group] and al-Nusra Front," Merkel said, referring to US- and Russia-backed plans for a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria that excludes groups such as IS and the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Turning to EU talks with Turkey on Monday to discuss efforts to stem the flow of migrants reaching Europe, Merkel said: "Our efforts are not done yet ... I understand that Turkey also expects Europe to deliver."

Hollande also confirmed that France was sending a naval vessel to patrol the eastern Mediterranean to control the flow of migrants, a move welcomed by Angela Merkel.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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