10:58 Oct. 20, 2016
Ukraine discussions took place against backdrop of tensions over Russian bombing campaign in Aleppo
Germany and France pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend a pause in air strikes in Syria and halt the "criminal" bombardment of civilians, Reuters reports.
"We are talking here about criminal activities, about crimes against the civilians," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after what she described as a difficult discussion with Putin about the crisis in Syria.
French President Francois Hollande used the phrase "war crimes," and both leaders criticised Russia for attacking the civilian population under the pretence of fighting terrorism.
"We agree that terrorism must be combatted, but not at the price that 300,000 people there must lose their lives and suffer without all necessary supplies," Merkel said, reflecting growing concern in Europe and the United States about Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Merkel and Hollande will discuss the talks at an EU summit meeting on Thursday evening, with the bloc due to consider whether to impose new sanctions on Russians over the bombing in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
While there is no immediate consensus for more sanctions, Britain and France, with support from eastern and Nordic countries, said they could push for them in the coming weeks if Russia continues to bomb the rebel-held east of the city.
Merkel said she could not rule out sanctions, but said Thursday's EU meeting would be focused on helping civilians.
Putin told a separate news conference that Moscow had proposed to speed up adoption of a new constitution in Syria to facilitate future elections, and said Russia was ready to extend an eight-hour pause in air strikes in Syria.
He underscored the importance of "eradicating terrorism" and called on the United States to separate Al Nusra Front militants from what he called "the healthy opposition" in Syria.
The Situation in Syria was discussed on the sidelines of the so-called Normandy Format meeting on Ukraine. It was the Russian leader's first trip to Germany since 2013.