Hollande sworn in as French president 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There can be no solution to the crisis in Syria without President Bashar Assad
quitting power, French President François Hollande told journalists on Friday
after he met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Elysee Palace in
“There will be a possible end to this situation only with the
departure of Bashar Assad,” Hollande declared, adding that Assad’s departure
would be “the preamble to a political transition” in Damascus.
new-old chief of the Kremlin remained unconvinced, preferring, as he said, to
“take no side” in the internal conflict in Syria.
Asked by the
journalists about this issue, Putin answered: “Assad has visited Paris more
often than Moscow,” in a reference to the two official visits – now
controversial – of the Syrian leader, in recent years, to the Elysee, at the
invitation of then-president Nicolas Sarkozy. Then French president Jacques
Chirac invited Assad’s predecessor as president of Syria, his father, Hafez
Assad, to Paris in 1998.
Hollande interfered: “Concerning the visits of
Assad father and son, I have no responsibility.”
According to Putin, “It
is essential to avoid the evolution of the situation toward the worst scenarios,
[and] to fight against the possibility of a civil war... Look at what is going
on in Libya and Iraq.”
Repeating what he said in Berlin during a meeting
with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier on Friday in Berlin, Putin
reiterated his will to “reconciliate all the parties in conflict,” since “what
worries us is the radicalization of the situation [that might) get out of
Reacting to Hollande’s call for Assad’s departure, the Russian
leader said: If we get rid of a sitting president, do you believe there will be
total happiness in the country the next day? No! Merkel reported to journalists
about her meeting with Putin, “We both said clearly that we want a political
solution and we want the plan [of UN/Arab League envoy Kofi Annan] to be a