Idea of early Syria elections 'provocative': French president

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2016 9:26 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - The idea that elections should take place in Syria in the coming months is "provocative" and "unrealistic", French President Francois Hollande said on Friday, highlighting a key difference over the Syrian peace process between Europe and Russia.

Asked about the prospect at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, Hollande said he could not speak for President Vladimir Putin after a telephone conference call between the Russian leader and other European leaders held earlier on Friday.

"Here I am speaking in the name of France," he said. "The idea... is not just provocative it is really unrealistic and would be proof that there is no negotiation and no discussion taking place."

A statement issued by the Kremlin after the conference call said plans by Bashar al Assad's government to hold elections in April "will not hamper steps towards a peace process."

The conference call was aimed at solidifying a tentative ceasefire in the war-torn country. The French, Italian, German and British foreign ministers also met on the issue in Paris on Friday. Syrian opposition co-ordinator Riad Hijab was also in Paris for talks. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir is due to make a declaration in Paris on Saturday.

(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Leigh Thomas)