On a day yet more civilians were killed by airstrikes in Idlib, northwestern Syria, France’s president urged full implementation of the Sochi de-escalation agreement for the region.
“Today we are very concerned about what is happening in Idlib. Today the population of Idlib lives under constant bombardment, civilians, children die,” Emmanuel Macron told a press conference Monday ahead of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bregancon, France.
“And I think that the situation is rather urgent and it is necessary to implement the memorandum on the cease-fire, signed in Sochi, till the end,” he added.
In the deal, reached last September, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited, but the Syrian regime and its allies have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks.
Six civilians died in regime and Russian airstrikes on Monday alone.
The Idlib de-escalation zone is currently home to about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from cities and towns throughout the war-weary country.
The talks with Putin will focus on the regional crises in Ukraine and Syria as well as the situation around the Iran nuclear deal, said Macron.
On Syria, Macron stressed the necessity to continue humanitarian initiatives “worked out in Istanbul and St. Petersburg.”
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.
Macron said he would discuss with Putin the possibility of another summit on the Ukrainian crisis in several weeks with the participation of French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian leaders.
In turn, Putin told reporters his recent contacts with recently elected Ukrainian President leader Volodymyr Zelensky “inspire cautious optimism.”
Protests in Moscow
Asked about ongoing protests in Moscow, Putin said they were connected to local parliamentary elections set for September.
He said the Central Election Commission (CEC) refused to register 57 candidates due to violations committed by them.
Putin added that the banned candidates could contest the decisions in court and there were precedents of cases won by the opposition.
“Citizens have the right to make peaceful protests in accordance with current legislation and the authorities must provide this right. But nobody, neither the authorities nor any group of citizens, has the right to violate the law and bring the situation to the clashes with the police,” he said.
Nearly 2,000 protesters have been arrested in unauthorized rallies protesting the election commission decision.
Russian nuclear accident
There is no danger and no escalation of radioactivity in the Sea of Barents following a blast during a nuclear missile test, Putin said.
“The experts were sent there, including independent ones which checked the situation,” he said.
“I got the reports of our military and civil experts, there are no serious changes,” he added, saying preventative measures would be taken if necessary.
A nuclear missile test last Thursday caused an explosion at a Russian northern military base, killing six people.