Vladimir Putin has decided not to travel to Paris as planned next week as tensions between Russia and France over Syria escalate, News Agencies report.
The Russian president had been scheduled to visit the French capital on 19 October to meet with President Francois Hollande, inaugurate a new Orthodox church next to the Eiffel Tower and visit a Russian art exhibition.
But Paris, angry at Moscow’s stance on Syria, suggested turning Mr Putin’s trip into a working visit on the Syrian war.
“There were contacts between the Kremlin and the Elysee this morning to offer to Putin a working visit on Syria, but excluding all other events that President Hollande could have taken part in,” a source at Mr Hollande’s office told the Reuters news agency.
“In response to this proposal, Russia has just indicated that it wants to postpone the visit.” While France has said it is vital to keep dialogue going with Moscow and not cut ties, events in Syria have damaged their relations with the two parties supporting opposite sides in the conflict.
Over the weekend Russia, which backs Bashar al Assad, blocked a UN Security Council resolution proposed by France and Spain on ending the hostilities in the country.
And on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Russia for possible war crimes in Syria. Diplomats have also said Paris was leading discussions on whether to impose new European Union sanctions on Russia specifically over Syria.
In the UK, MPs are today holding an urgent debate on the humanitarian situation in Aleppo. Ex-international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has likened Russia’s behaviour in Syria to that of the Nazis in the bombing of Guernica, Spain, in 1937.