MOSCOW, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- France and Russia are looking for a common approach to solve the prolonged crisis in Syria despite certain differences, leaders of the two countries said Thursday.
Visiting French President Francois Hollande met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Thursday afternoon, with Syria topping their three-hour discussion.
Despite existing divergence, Russia and France agreed in principle that Syria should remain an integrated and democratic nation, Putin told reporters during a press conference following their meeting.
Earlier Thursday, asked by a local radio station about France's attitude toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hollande admitted Paris and Moscow had been divided over the future of the Syrian leader.
According to the French President, Syrian opposition was expanding and gaining more legitimacy, and it was reluctant to conduct dialogue with the government.
Meanwhile, Hollande praised Putin for facilitating contacts between the Syrian opposition and the government, and expressed hope for a quick solution to the confrontations.
He urged the two partners to work together for a political settlement of the crisis, which by his estimation could be found " within weeks."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem proclaimed Monday in Moscow Damascus's readiness to hold talks with all opposition parties, including the armed militants.
However, Moaz al-Khatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition, said later the same day he had not had any communications with representatives of the Syrian administration over a dialogue.
The National Coalition also said it would not take part in the upcoming meetings in Russia and the United States to protest the international community's inaction in the Syrian crisis.
In their joint press conference, Putin said he had heated debate with the French leader on Syria, with Holland making several new proposals. Hollande said France called for a broad dialogue that would "speak to all parties."
"It seemed to me this issue (Syria) can't be resolved immediately without a bottle of vodka, let alone a bottle of good wine. We will have to sit and think," Putin told reporters.
In response, Hollande said it would be better to do it "over a bottle of port." The joke caused much laughter from reporters.
Besides Syria, the two leaders also discussed France's military operation in Mali as well as bilateral cooperation.
Hollande told local media earlier that Paris wanted Moscow's support of its military operation in Mali. France would withdraw from Mali as soon as the African forces could control the situation, he said.
During the press conference, Putin said Russia backs the French efforts to restore order in the West African country.
Calling France "an important strategic partner" for Russia, Putin said it was Hollande's first visit to Russia as French President. The two sides have maintained efficient political contact and enhanced their economic and humanitarian ties recently, Putin added.