French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that the “neutralisation” of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was a pre-condition to resolving the crisis in the war-torn country.
“We must reduce the terrorist influence without maintaining Assad. The two are bound up together,” Hollande told a gathering of French diplomats in Paris.
“We must create a political transition in Syria, it’s a necessity.”
He laid out three conditions for resolving the crisis — the first of which was the “neutralisation” of Assad.
The second was to offer “solid guarantees to all the moderate opposition forces, notably the Sunnis and Kurds, and to preserve state structures and the unity of Syria.”
The final condition, which he said would be “decisive”, was to bring together regional actors with a stake in the conflict.
“I’m thinking of the Gulf countries, I’m thinking also of Iran. I’m thinking of Turkey which must get involved in the fight against Daesh (an alternative name for the Islamic State group) and resume the dialogue with the Kurds,” Hollande said.
Syria’s foreign ministry reacted angrily to Hollande’s speech, saying it “constituted a flagrant intrusion in internal affairs and shows that France contributes to the spilling of Syrian blood”.
“The French government should know that as long as it maintains these positions, we will not accept any role for France in a political solution,” the ministry’s statement added.
Hollande said France would continue to support “moderate” members of the Syrian opposition and coalition airstrikes against IS in neighbouring Iraq.
“Terrorism threatens all the actors in the region… and all world powers,” he said. “Resolving the Syrian crisis demands the participation of all, and France is ready to play its part.”