President Hollande may cancel Paris meeting with Putin after Aleppo veto
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French President François Hollande may cancel his meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Paris next week after the Kremlin blocked a UN Security Council bid to end to the bombing of Aleppo, the French government said Monday.
Putin is due to visit the French capital on October 19 to inaugurate a new Orthodox church next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The Socialist president indicated that he might not meet the Russian leader when he visits France, condemning Russia's "unacceptable" support for Syrian air strikes and describing the scorched-earth campaign in Aleppo as a "war crime".
"I asked myself the question... Is it useful? Is it necessary? Can it be a way of exerting pressure? Can we get him to stop what he is doing with the Syrian regime?" Hollande told France's TMC channel.
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Putin still planned to visit France.
"Preparation for Putin's upcoming visit to Paris continues," Peskov told journalists.
Paris had not informed Moscow of any changes to their plans, he added.
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France Inter radio on Monday, "If the president decides that the Russian president is coming it will not be to exchange pleasantries, it will be to speak the truth," he said, calling the Syrian and Russian bombardments of Aleppo a "gift to terrorists".
"These bombings - and I said it in Moscow - are war crimes," Ayrault said. "It includes all those who are complicit for what's happening in Aleppo, including Russian leaders.
Ayrault said that the bombing of the city should be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Russia remains a "partner"
However, despite the tough talk, Ayrault added that Russia remained "a partner" of France.
On Saturday, Russia blocked a draft French UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the barrage of air strikes on the city's rebel-held east which have escalated in the last month, leaving hundreds of people dead, including dozens of children.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed by Russian war planes and Iranian support, have been battling to recapture eastern Aleppo, the rebel-held half of Syria's largest city.
The 250,000 inhabitants of the rebel-held east have been living in a constant state of siege for months, with food, water and medical supplies all running out.
It was the fifth time that Russia used its veto to block UN action to end the five-year war in Syria.
A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 sparked the civil war and so-called Islamic State militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.
Half of Syria's 22 million people have been uprooted and approximately 400,000 killed.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)