Hollande and Putin to discuss Syria ahead of Ukraine meet
President Francois Hollande and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet to discuss the Syria crisis on Friday before a summit on the Ukraine peace process in Paris, the French presidency said Thursday.
In the wake of Russia launching air strikes in the war-ravaged country, the two presidents will “discuss bilateral subjects, and obviously Syria,” said a member of Hollande’s entourage.
France and Russia both oppose the Islamic State group (IS), but differ on the proposed fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a long-time ally of Moscow who Paris would like to see removed from power as soon as possible.
“Cooperation in the Syrian theatre can only be considered if three conditions are met,” said the French official.
“First, that air strikes in Syria do target the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda and not other objectives; second, the end of chemical weapon attacks; and third, a political transition which centres on the departure of Bashar al-Assad.”
The first air strikes by Russia this week targeted areas associated with a range of insurgent and opposition groups, not just IS.
Putin is also due to meet privately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after his talks with Hollande.
“It’s obvious” that the Syrian question will “influence the climate” of later talks about the Ukraine peace process, said the source in Hollande’s office, although officially, France has been adamant that the two issues should be treated separately.