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France pushes for Ukraine summit despite Russia tensions

1 min 3Approximate reading time

France is pushing for a summit on the Ukraine conflict with the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Germany on October 19, the government's spokesman said Wednesday.

"Contact will be made today with Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel" and Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko will be contacted on Thursday, Stephane Le Foll said after a cabinet meeting.

Officials were working towards organising a summit in Berlin on October 19, he said.

The aim was "to try to make progress on a negotiated political solution" to the conflict in which more than 9,600 people have been killed.

France is pursuing efforts to organise the summit despite tensions with Russia after President Vladimir Putin cancelled a visit to Paris scheduled for next week.

France has said Putin pulled out after French President Francois Hollande insisted they hold talks during the visit on Russia's role in the Syrian conflict.

Russia has angered the West with its campaign of air strikes on the rebel-held city of Aleppo, with Hollande describing the bombardment as a "war crime".

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday that Putin had pulled out of the visit because he was "embarrassed" about Russia's actions in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia said Wednesday it would hold talks on the Syria conflict with the United States and key regional powers this weekend, the first meeting on the conflict since Washington broke off bilateral ceasefire negotiations.

More than 9,600 people have been killed in the Ukrainian conflict, which broke out in April 2014.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of fuelling the fighting, but Moscow denies government involvement.

A peace deal brokered by Germany and France in February 2015 reduced the fighting but has failed to stop it.

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