Hollande to talk Syria settlement with Putin

  • Associated Press
  • February 28, 2013 - 1:19 AM

MOSCOW - French President Francois Hollande said Thursday that he hopes to discuss political transition in war-torn Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose stance on Syria is crucial to hopes for a peace settlement.

Speaking ahead of this meeting with Putin at the Kremlin on Thursday afternoon, Hollande told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that Putin's position on Syria can determine how soon peace will come to Syria.

"A lot will depend on President Putin's stance," he said. "We must finally launch the political dialogue" in Syria.

The conflict in Syria has claimed more than 70,000 lives, according to the U.N. Russia, the most influential backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has dismissed all settlement plans involving Assad's departure.

Hollande said he is encouraged by the fact that Russia has acknowledged the influence of the Syrian opposition but would like to see Russia promoting talks on political transition in Syria.

"We see that the Syrian opposition grows stronger and taking on legitimacy as well as some responsibility for the future of the country, and this opposition does not see itself getting engaged in a dialogue with Bashar Assad," he said. "We're going to discuss this and hopefully will have a discussion about power transition."

Hollande also lauded Putin for "creating conditions" for the opposition to engage with the Syrian government.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier this week called on Damascus to hold negotiations with the opposition and offered to host them in Moscow.

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