After criticism, France’s Macron seeks to reassure Syria opposition
Cron sought to reassure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents Wednesday after raising concerns among rebel groups that he did not see Assad’s legitimate successor.
Former President François Hollande had backed the Syrian opposition, demanding that the six-year conflict be resolved by a political transition that would eventually replace Assad.
Macron, a centrist elected in May, said last month that he no longer saw Assad leave as a precondition for a negotiated solution to the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and drawn more than 11 million homes.
Describing Assad as an enemy of the Syrian people, Macron said that Paris’s priority was to fight against terrorist groups and to ensure that Syria does not become a failed state. He also questioned the credibility of the opposition.
Welcomed by some in France as a pragmatic position to advance negotiations, the comments also caused discomfort among the Syrian opposition, former officials and humanitarian groups.
Macron appeared to be trying to refine his comments after speaking to Riad Hiyab, head of the High Negotiations Committee in Riyadh, who represents a group of political and military opponents in the negotiations conducted by the U.N. Between the conflicting parties in Syria in Geneva.
In a statement, the Presidency said that Macro had confirmed Hijab that France supported the CST in the Syrian peace talks held under the auspices of the UN.
“The President assured Mr. Hijab of his determination to participate fully and personally in an inclusive political solution within the framework of Geneva,” said the French presidency.
Macron’s comments June 21 echoed Russia’s stance that there is no viable alternative to Assad. The French leader has sought closer cooperation with Russia and French diplomats say he wants to develop a “spirit of trust,” including Syria.
The Hijab office said it had, during its meeting on Tuesday recalled Macron Assad had “lost its legitimacy after being repeatedly responsible for the use of chemical weapons against its own people.”
“Assad’s presence in the office contributes to the spread of chaos, reinforces the role of terrorist organizations creates more sectarian militias and contributes to discrimination and sectarian hatred,” the Hiyab office said in a statement.
Macron’s electoral victory offered Paris the opportunity to review its policy in Syria after opponents of Hollande’s foreign policy believe its position is too inflexible and leaves the French government isolated.