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French MPs urge Paris to unite efforts with Damascus against Islamic State

September 28, 2015, 16:02 UTC+3 PARIS

The terrorist group is a common enemy for Syria and France

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© AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

PARIS, September 28. /TASS/. A group of French lawmakers has urged official Paris to pool efforts with Damascus in a united front against Islamic State.

"We have a common enemy - the Islamic State," MP Jerome Lambert, head of a delegation of the French National Assembly (lower house) parliamentarians who are on a working visit to Syria, told Europe 1 radio. "The terrorists are a threat to the Syrian people, and also to us. In this connection, it seems logical to unite efforts in the fight against this common enemy."

Lambert, who is also vice-president of the Franco-Syrian group in the Assembly, told Europe 1 by telephone from Syria that it would be "smart to stand together" with Assad’s regime. His comments come a day after French President Francois Hollande stressed that the future of Syria "cannot be with Bashar al-Assad," RFI reports.

This is a second trip of French parliamentarians to Syria with which official Paris froze diplomatic relations in 2012 because of the disagreement with the position of Syrian President Bashar Assad. "We came here to see with our own eyes and sum up the situation," Lambert said. He said that during the visit, which will end on September 30, the lawmakers have visited Damascus and Homs and also the region of Latakia.

The first of the French National Assembly members to Syria took place in March 2015 and caused a serious controversy in the society. The delegation then consisted mainly of French opposition politicians and from the Republicans Party. Now the delegation comprises representatives of the centrist bloc and the MPs who withdrew from the Socialist Party, without joining the opposition.

Lambert joins two other Socialist MPs, Gerard Bapt and Christian Hutin, on a trip that has been criticised as lending support to Assad, which they have denied, saying instead that it is a visit of solidarity with the Syrian people. The group, which arrived in Syria Saturday, are visiting hospitals and refugee camps in Damascus, Homs and Latakia, and also had planned to meet with politicians and religious leaders. They have stressed that the visit is in a personal capacity and that they are paying for it themselves, FRI reports.

The trip comes as France launched its first air strikes on Islamic State group training camps in eastern Syria on Sunday. The strikes have been welcomed by the Syrian people, Lambert told Europe 1. "I can tell you that all of the Syrians we met said they were relieved by the fact that France is committed to their side," he said. Four MPs, including Bapt, made a similar visit earlier this year which sparked criticism from right and left, with former president Nicolas Sarkozy calling them "clowns."

Representatives of the French political establishment have repeatedly called for revising France’s foreign policy doctrine in the Middle East, especially in Syria. On Sunday, French former Prime Minister Francois Fillon described the situation as "a confrontation between two camps: Bashar Assad on one side and Islamic State with adherent groups - on the other. This means that we must choose our camp or not interfere." However, Fillon himself is certain that France should fight against IS jointly with Damascus, but also with such powers as Russia and Iran.

"It’s very frustrating that the idea of creating ·a coalition for the normalisation of the situation in Syria was put forward by Russia, and not by France or the European Union - because I have for the past 1.5 years been talking of the need of such a union," Fillon said.

Certain progress has been observed in recent months in Paris’ official discourse. So, President Francois Hollande said on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly that France "is in talks with all the parties concerned." However, Hollande said that "there is no place for Bashar Assad in Syria’s future."

Paris must reconsider its approach to situation in Syria

Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French parliament Jacques Myard said the French authorities should "look reality in the face" and cooperate with the Syrian government in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

According to him, the separate actions of the French Air Force in Syria not agreed with its government "cannot bring positive results." "France justifies its air strikes by its ‘right to the legitimate preventive defense,’ but this theory invented by the United States runs counter to international law," the French lawmaker said.

"We must reckon with the Damascus regime to find a political solution," Myard said. "After all, in the event of its fall we are in for the confrontation with Islamic State. He noted that "Russians realized that from the very beginning, Germany has now made a U-turn, and the United States is beginning to share this view as well." The parliamentarian added that the situation in Syria would top the agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the Russian and U.S. presidents.

Jacques Myard warned that Paris ran the risk of being isolated, if it failed to start cooperation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A similar opinion has been expressed by another French lawmaker, former minister Bruno Le Maire who intends to run for the presidency in 2017. In his opinion, a broad international coalition "involving Bashar al-Assad’s troops" is required. "Russia must have its rightful place in such an international coalition," he said.

On Sunday, French President Francois Hollande said the French Air Force had carried out air strikes against an Islamic State camp in Syria. He also did not rule out the possibility of new bombing raids. The French aircraft attacked the targets in Syria without coordinating them with Damascus, Syria’s Permanent Representatives to the UN Bashar Jaafari told TASS. "The French military acted without coordinating [their actions] with the Syrian army," the diplomat said. "You can only fight terrorism through cooperation with the legitimate government of Syria and the Syrian army.".


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