Assad ‘can’t help fight against IS’

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Published: Friday 27th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Syrian dictator Bashar Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against the extremism of Islamic State (IS), Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius have said in a joint article.

In the article for French newspaper Le Monde, Mr Hammond and Mr Fabius called for a political settlement to create a unity government in Syria which can work with the international community to defeat IS – also known as Isis or Isil.

They said that this settlement is likely to involved “parts of the existing regime structures” alongside the Syrian National Coalition and other moderate forces, but insisted that there can be no place for Assad, who has faced four years of protests and insurgency to end his rule.

Mr Hammond and Mr Fabius said it was clear that Assad was “fighting to improve his public image” by presenting himself as a bulwark against chaos in the region and by offering a six-week halt to shelling of a civilian area of the city of Aleppo.

“Some appear to be swayed by this argument, saying that in the face of extremism, Assad’s injustice and dictatorship is preferable to disorder,” they said.

“In reality, Assad is himself stoking injustice, disorder and extremism, and France and UK are standing firm together against all three.”

They added: ” Assad has conducted the civil war in barbaric fashion. There is a list of war crimes and crimes against humanity, supposedly in the name of the fight against terrorism, but committed as part of a systematic regime policy.

“We should not forget the use of chemical weapons, the indiscriminate use of violence against Syrian civilians, and the horrific images of torture and murder in Assad’s jails revealed to the world by the regime defector known as Caesar.”

Mr Hammond and Mr Fabius said that Assad was “c onsiderably weaker than a year ago, and growing weaker still” and no longer controls his country.

“Proposing Assad as a solution to the extremists is to misunderstand the causes of the extremism,” they said.

“After 220,000 deaths and millions of displaced persons, we would be foolish to assume that a majority of Syrians would willingly agree to live under the control of their tormentor. And for us to dash their hopes of a better future for Syria without Assad would only serve to make many Syrians even more radicalised, pushing moderate people towards extremism rather than the reverse, and consolidating a jihadi stronghold in Syria.

“For our own national security we have to defeat Isil in Syria. We need a partner in Syria to work with against the extremists, and this means a political settlement agreed between the Syrian parties leading to a unity government in Syria.

“This will likely include parts of the existing regime structures, the National Coalition, and others with a moderate and inclusive vision for Syria, respecting Syria’s different communities. It is clear to us that Assad could not credibly be part of any such administration.”

Published: Friday 27th February 2015 by The News Editor

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