Germany and France are to call on Wednesday for extending the suspension of Russian-led airstrikes against the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo at a crisis summit hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Speaking as he left Paris for Berlin, Hollande pledged to do "everything possible" to prolong a suspension of the bombardment of Aleppo to allow humanitarian aid to reach some 275,000 people trapped in the city.

Hollande is to join Merkel along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko to discuss both the Ukraine conflict and the prospects for new sanctions against Moscow in the face of the bombing campaign in Syria.

Echoing the French leader's remarks, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "If possible, we need a sustainable ceasefire in Syria."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies have suspended bombardments of Aleppo ahead of a humanitarian pause announced for later this week.

"Quite frankly, we are going through a humanitarian crisis, a humanitarian catastrophe, that the world has not lived through for many years," said Rahed al-Saleh, who heads the White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer group that assists civilian victims of the country's civil war.

The evening meeting in Berlin was originally called to try to revive efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has raged since early 2014 and resulted in 9,500 deaths.

But Merkel said on Tuesday that she and Hollande would also confront the Kremlin leader over Moscow's military campaign in Syria and its bombardment of the city of Aleppo.

Both Berlin and Moscow have played down expectations for the meeting of the four leaders, in line with what most political analysts have said.

Two ceasefires brokered under the co-called Minsk accords have largely failed to end the fighting in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk between Kiev military forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia expected the summit to result in a constructive analysis of the situation in eastern Ukraine.

"The goal is to see where we stand and to determine what prevents us from the implementation of the Minsk agreement," Peskov said. "We do not expect a breakthrough," he said.

However, Merkel told a press conference on Tuesday that, in light of the suffering of the Syrian people, all options - including fresh sanctions against Russia as a result of its airstrikes - would also be the agenda in Berlin.

EU foreign ministers failed this week to reach an agreement on new sanctions against Russia in the wake of its bombing raids on the divided Syrian city of Aleppo as part of its military campaign supporting the Syrian regime.

The last meeting between the German, French, Ukrainian and Russian leaders on Ukraine was in Paris a year ago.

The EU joined the United States in imposing sanctions on Moscow following the Kremlin's annexation of the former Ukraine territory of Crimea in March 2014.

Wednesday's meeting will be the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis that Putin has officially visited Berlin.

Related stories

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.