Putin rebuffs Hollande’s demand for Assad to leave

There can be no solution to crisis in Syria without President Bashar Assad quitting power, Hollande told journalists.

June 3, 2012 02:54
1 minute read.
Hollande sworn in as French president

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 Paris.

“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.

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The 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 control.”

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 starting point.”

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