Damascus 'welcomes' France's intent to fight IS alongside regime
Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, on Friday welcomed the proposal by his French counterpart Laurent Fabius to include the Syrian army in efforts to battle the Islamic State (IS) group.
Fabius said on Friday he could envisage Syrian regime troops taking part in the fight against the Islamic State group, despite the fact that IS and Assad's forces are already battlefield opponents.
|If Fabius is serious about working with the Syrian army and dealing with the forces on the ground that are fighting Daesh, then we welcome that
- Syrian Foreign Minister
"Better late than never," Muallem told a press conference, following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
"If Fabius is serious about working with the Syrian army and dealing with the forces on the ground that are fighting Daesh, then we welcome that," the Syrian minister added, using the Arabic name for IS.
Muallem's statement comes after the French minister said in an interview with RTL radio: "There must be two measures: bombings... and ground troops, who cannot be ours, but who should be of the Free Syrian Army, Sunni Arab forces, and why not regime forces too."
He then later clarified his comments, saying he meant that Syrian government troops could join the international coalition against IS - after a change of regime, adding that the principal target of military efforts remains Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the stronghold of IS.
Russian and French jets have targeted the town in recent days.
"For us it is one of the main military targets, even the main one, because it is the nerve centre of Daesh, and the attacks against France were planned from there," Fabius said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
French President Francois Hollande said after talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is strongly backed by Russia, "has no place in the future of Syria".
However, France and some other Western nations have recently softened their approach to Assad, suggesting he could be part of a transitional process to end a war that has left at least 250,000 people dead.