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France's Fabius backtracks after suggesting working with Syrian army

Reuters , Friday 27 Nov 2015
Fabius
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius (Photo:Reuters)
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France's foreign minister was forced to backtrack on Friday after suggesting earlier in the day that troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be used to fight ISIS before a political transition took place in the country.

"The cooperation of all Syrian forces, including the Syrian army, against Daesh (ISIS) is obviously welcomed, but, as I have constantly said, it will only be possible in the framework of a political transition," Laurent Fabius said in a statement.

Fabius, one of Assad's fiercest critics, had told RTL radio earlier on Friday that while troops on the ground to fight ISIS could not be French there could be "Syrian soldiers from the Free Syrian Army, Sunni Arab states, and why not regime troops".

Officials close to Fabius at the time clarified his position saying that cooperation could only happen once a unity government without Assad was in place.

However, his original comments, which would have marked a departure in the Western position that the Syrian leader must step down, spread quickly.

They also came a day after President Francois Hollande met Assad ally Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in an effort to forge a grand coalition against ISIS.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had also cautiously welcomed Fabius' earlier comments saying they were "better late than never" during a new conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

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