Paris: Russian President Vladimir Putin stood firm against growing pressure over Moscow's position on Syria, opposing military intervention and raising doubts about the effectiveness of sanctions.
But as he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, Putin also warned on Friday the situation in Syria was "extremely dangerous" and said he saw emerging signs of a civil war.
Putin struck his traditional fiery tone in a joint press conference with Hollande, saying "sanctions hardly ever work in an efficient manner" and indicating that Bashar al-Assad's departure would not in itself resolve the crisis.
"Why are we thinking that if we push the current leadership from power, then tomorrow general well-being will begin there," Putin said. "What is happening in Libya? What is happening in Iraq? Has it become safer there?" he said. "We propose to act in an accurate, balanced manner at least in Syria."
Hollande kept up the pressure however, insisting that Assad's departure was "a prerequisite for a political transition" and that "there must be sanctions" against his regime. "Bashar al-Assad's regime has conducted itself in an unacceptable and intolerable manner. It has committed acts that disqualify itself" from governing, Hollande said.
The two seemed to establish a good working rapport, however, as Putin, on his first foreign tour since returning to the Kremlin, met the newly elected French leader for the first time. In Berlin, Putin had warned of the escalating danger from the Syrian conflict.
"Today we are seeing emerging elements of civil war," he said after arriving from Belarus. "It is extremely dangerous." But he also continued to defy calls for tougher UN action to stop the violence, warning at a joint press conference with Merkel: "You cannot do anything by force and expect an immediate effect."
And he hit back at suggestions Moscow was supplying weapons for use in the internal conflict, after the United States condemned Russian arms deliveries to Syria as "reprehensible".
"As far as arms supplies are concerned, Russia does not supply the weapons that could be used in a civil conflict," Putin told reporters. Putin's brief trips to Berlin and Paris came amid mounting outrage in the West against Assad's regime after a massacre of 108 people, including women and children, in the town of Houla last week.


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