PARIS: Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled a planned visit to Paris because he was “embarrassed” about Russia’s bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo, the French foreign minister said Wednesday.
Putin had been due in Paris on October 19 to inaugurate a spiritual centre at a new Russian Orthodox church near the Eiffel Tower and open an exhibition of artworks assembled by a Russian collector.
But French President Francois Hollande insisted Putin also took part in talks with him about Syria, where Moscow is providing military support to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Kremlin cancelled Putin’s trip on Tuesday.
“Vladimir Putin refused to come and talk about Syria, that’s what we must remember. And I regret that,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Europe 1 radio.
Considering the situation in Syria, Ayrault said it would have been “completely surreal” for Putin to come and not discuss the conflict.
“In reality Vladimir Putin has stepped up his bombardment of Aleppo, so I imagine coming to Paris to talk about Syria would have been very embarrassing,” he said.
Russia has been waging a punishing aerial bombing campaign in Syria for more than a year in support of Assad’s forces, part of a multi-front war that has claimed some 300,000 lives and seen Moscow further estranged from the West.
On Saturday, Moscow blocked a draft French UN resolution calling for an end to air strikes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo that have escalated in the last month, leaving hundreds of people dead, including dozens of children.
Asked about British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s call for demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in London, Ayrault said: “Is it the job of a foreign minister to organise demonstrations?”