Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused France of deliberately luring Moscow into vetoing a U.N. resolution on Syria and suggested Paris was doing the bidding of the United States.
Russia last week imposed its veto on a French-backed resolution condemning the violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo, saying the document failed to take into account Russian proposals.
Western governments said the veto showed Moscow had no interest in halting the violence.
But Putin, who earlier this week called off a planned trip to Paris after his French counterpart Francois Hollande criticized Russia’s actions in Syria, launched a stinging attack on France’s handling of the resolution.
“It’s not our partners who should be offended by our veto, it’s us who should be offended,” Putin said, when asked about France during a question and answer session at a business forum in Moscow.
He said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had raised the issue of the resolution when he visited Moscow last week. Ayrault was told the document put too much of the blame for the Aleppo violence on Syrian government forces, but that Moscow would not use its veto if France made some amendments.
“We expected joint, constructive work with France and with other permanent members of the Security Council. But what happened?,” Putin said.
“The French foreign minister flew from Moscow to Washington, the next day he came out with (U.S. Secretary of State John) Kerry, accused Russia of all the deadly sins, no one spoke to us or discussed anything with us, and tossed the resolution into the Security Council obviously expecting our veto.
“What for? Knowing our position, and not discussing it with us, they didn’t chuck in the resolution so it would pass. But to get the veto. What for? To exacerbate the situation and to whip up anti-Russian hysteria in media under their control, and to deceive their own citizens,” Putin said.
“I don’t know if that corresponds to the interests of European countries or not. But to just service like this the foreign policy interests, or maybe even the domestic political interests, of their allies, in this case the United States?
“I don’t know. Is that really the role of such serious countries which aspire to conduct independent policies and be called major powers. I don’t know,” Putin told the forum.
Speaking to reporters in Rome, Ayrault rejected Putin’s accusations, saying he had negotiated in good faith with Moscow and had accepted some Russian proposals, but that he had failed to convince them of the need to halt bombing of Aleppo.
“We couldn’t accept a resolution that did not address such an essential issue,” he said, adding that there would be an inquiry into allegations of war crimes in the Syrian city.
“The massacre in Aleppo is continuing. I am appealing for an end to this massacre and to save the people of Aleppo. It is never too late to make peace,” he said.
Western governments have accused Russia of being responsible for an attack on an aid convoy in Aleppo region on Sept. 19.
In his speech on Wednesday, Putin said “terrorists” had struck the convoy, without giving details on who they were.
He said the United States knew who was to blame for the attack but that Washington preferred instead to make what he called baseless accusations about Russian involvement.