Updated Oct. 11, 2016 8:43 a.m. ET
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday canceled plans to travel to Paris next week, amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over the conflict in Syria.
French President François Hollande said he had demanded that a meeting with Mr. Putin be devoted solely to a discussion of the situation in Syria, where some Western officials have said Russia’s involvement in the bombing of Aleppo could amount to war crimes. The Russian leader refused, he said.
“I consider it necessary to have a dialogue with Russia,” Mr. Hollande said at the Council of Europe. “However, this dialogue must be firm and honest, otherwise it has no purpose and it’s a sham.”
“There are war crimes and we must assign responsibility.”
— French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the visit had been canceled after events marking the opening of a Russian religious and cultural center were dropped from the visit’s schedule, Russian news agencies reported. The spokesman said Mr. Putin would reschedule his visit to Paris at a “convenient time” for Mr. Hollande.
“The president is not isolated,” added Mr. Peskov. “His very intense international schedule is proof of the opposite.”
The cancellation follows a rapid deterioration of relations between Russia and the West after the Syrian regime, backed by Russia, launched an offensive in Aleppo late last month following the collapse of a cease-fire deal brokered between Moscow and Washington.
Russia’s ties with Europe have also hit new lows in recent days, as Germany said it would consider pushing for European sanctions against Russia for its actions in Syria. On Saturday, Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution drafted by France calling for a cease-fire.
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Russian leaders might face war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.
“There are war crimes,” Mr. Ayrault said on French radio. “Then we must assign responsibility.”
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