French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday that the coalition fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could be strengthened by the help of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but only if it was done while replacing Assad.
Fabius made the comments during an interview with RTL radio, where he indicated that while ground troops fighting against ISIS cannot be from France, they can be from other places such as Sunni Arab states and Assad’s regime.
“Troops on the ground cannot be ours, but [there can be] Syrian soldiers from the Free Syrian Army, Sunni Arab states, and why not regime troops,” Fabius said.
Fabius also noted that in order to use Assad’s troops, he believes Assad can no longer be the leader of Syria.
“If we want to go towards a free, united … Syria, it cannot be he [Assad] who is at the origin of 300,000 deaths and millions of refugees that can lead,” Fabius said. “Assad cannot be the future of his people.”
An official in the French Foreign minister’s team told France 24 that Fabius was “reiterating France’s long-standing position that there could be no cooperation with Syrian government forces to battle the IS group until a unity government was in place.”
“It could only happen in the framework of a political transition,” the official said. “Fabius stresses that this transition is urgent and indispensable.”
During Friday’s interview, Fabius claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin asked France to provide Russia with maps of the locations of the non-terrorist groups fighting ISIS in Syria. “He asked us to draw up a map of forces that are not terrorists,” Fabius said. “He committed to not bombing them once we’ve provided that.”
In a recent Reality Check segment, Ben Swann looked at a leaked Pentagon report from 2012 which stated that opposition forces to the Assad regime, including the United States, the Saudis, Jordan and Qatar, wanted a “fundamental Islamic group to take over eastern Syria in order to isolate and overthrow the Syrian President Assad’s regime.”