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France and Russia clash over plan for Syrian vote in April

Russia has emphasised the need to respect a ceasefire in Syria but stated the need to continue the fight against perceived terrorist groups
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting (AFP)
President Vladimir Putin told the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy during a conference call on Friday that the Syrian government's decision to hold legislative polls in April does not contradict the peace process.
 
By contrast, French President Francois Hollande criticised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for scheduling the polls for next month, calling the move "provocative" and "unrealistic".
 
"The Russian side noted that a decision by the Syrian authorities to hold parliamentary elections in April 2016 is being conducted in accordance with the existing Syrian constitution and does not interfere with steps to build the peace process," the Kremlin said following the conference call.
 
Moscow added: "It was noted with satisfaction that the ceasefire regime is being observed on the whole, is bringing the first positive results - and most important - is creating conditions for the launch of a political process in Syria through the inter-Syrian dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations."
 
The leaders also "expressed their readiness" to ramp up cooperation to solve the pressing humanitarian problems, said the statement from the Kremlin, which has been supporting the Assad government with air strikes since late September.
 
The Kremlin added that the leaders had stressed the need to "meticulously" observe the conditions of the ceasefire by all parties to the Syrian conflict as well as the need to keep fighting other militant groups.
 
An agreement was also reached to actively assist UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in his efforts to mediate and put an end to the conflict, the statement said. 
 
The Syrian ceasefire, brokered by Moscow and Washington, took effect at 2200 GMT last Friday.
 
The truce has been holding for the most part but France and Britain have called on Russia to halt attacks on moderate rebel groups in Syria.