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Merkel says Putin confronted with blunt language on Syria role

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Russian President Vladimir Putin floated a possible extension of an Aleppo cease-fire as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande confronted him with "blunt language" over what they described as an "inhumane" onslaught in Syria.

[PARIS] Russian President Vladimir Putin floated a possible extension of an Aleppo cease-fire as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande confronted him with "blunt language" over what they described as an "inhumane" onslaught in Syria.

Speaking after a meeting in Berlin, Mr Putin said Russia would halt its bombing as long as "terrorist forces" aren't active.

At a separate news conference alongside Mr Merkel, Mr Hollande said Mr Putin didn't specify how long such a cease-fire might last.

"We hope it's as long as possible" to allow for humanitarian aid to reach the besieged Syrian city, he said.

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European foreign ministers will work on getting aid to the area, which would "at least be a first step that we haven't seen in a long time," Mr Merkel said.

"It was right to use this blunt language" in the talks with Mr Putin because "Russia bears a clear responsibility in Syria, including exerting influence over" President Bashar al-Assad, the German leader said.

The Syria talks followed an earlier discussion on Ukraine that was also attended by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Mr Merkel and Mr Poroshenko said the four leaders agreed to work on a "road map" of measures to advance last year's Minsk accords for ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

While signaling some advancement, "this will surely be an arduous process," Mr Merkel said.

Mr Putin, for his part, played down the discussion on Ukraine, saying humanitarian progress had been "the most minimal" during the almost seven hours of talks that finished after midnight.

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