France suggests working with Assad troops against ISIS

France suggests working with Assad troops against ISIS
France suggests working with Assad troops against ISIS

Troops loyal to President Syrian President Bashar-Assad could be used to fight ISIS, France’s foreign minister said on Friday, but he reiterated Paris’ long-standing position that the Syrian leader needed to step aside.

“Troops on the ground cannot be ours, but (there can be) Syrian soldiers from the Free Syrian Army, Sunni Arab states, and why not regime troops,” Laurent Fabius told RTL radio without specifying exactly whether he meant immediately or in the long-term.

Diplomats were not immediately able to clarify Fabius’ comments. However, they said he has indicated in the past that Syrian government troops could be used to fight ISIS once a national unity government was in place.

“If we want to go towards a free, united … Syria, it cannot be he (Assad) who is at the origin of 300,000 deaths and millions of refugees that can lead that… Assad cannot be the future of his people,” Fabius also said.

Meanwhile, Fabius said destroying ISIS’s Raqqa headquarters is the main objective of the international military campaign.

Fabius said “neutralizing and eradicating Daesh” is an objective that all countries agree upon, referring to ISIS by its Arabic acronym. He spoke after a week of intense diplomacy capped by the French president’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt, as well as the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Fabius said Putin agreed on the need to focus international efforts against the extremist group and France is drawing up a map of other, moderate groups, to protect them from warplanes.

He also said the international coalition is focusing on oil convoys from the group’s territory, which provide a crucial source of income. He said some of the trucks head toward Turkey, and France believes Syrian leader Bashar Assad is also a buyer.

At least eight killed

Syrian opposition groups also said a new wave of airstrikes on ISIS’s stronghold city of Raqqa has killed at least eight people, including five children.

It wasn’t immediately clear who carried out the airstrikes Friday.

SOURCE: Reuters and AP

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