French President François Hollande said Thursday that the West should not consider Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as a partner in the fight against terrorism but as an ally of the Islamic extremists wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.
"Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism, he is the de facto ally of jihadists," he told a Paris gathering of ambassadors from around the world.
“There is no choice to be made between two barbarisms,” he said.
His comments came after Assad's regime said on Monday it was willing to work with the international community, including Washington, to tackle extremist fighters in the war-ravaged country.
In a text provided ahead of Hollande’s speech, the French leader also added: “To fight Islamic State, the international community must also arm opposition forces who are fighting it.”
Hollande said France would increase its support to Iraqi groups and reiterated calls for an international conference "to organise the co-ordination of international action against the Islamic State on humanitarian, security and military fronts".
Since June, the Islamic State militant group (IS), also known as ISIS or ISIL, has captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria and now controls a territory roughly the size of the United Kingdom, stretching from Syria’s second city, Aleppo, to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
The United States has already carried out reconnaissance flights on IS positions in Syria in surveillance seen as a precursor to possible strikes against the radical group, whose campaign of extreme violence has terrorised civilians and rivals alike.
Libya a key concern
Hollande also warned that Libya could become the next crucial front for terrorism, saying a militant group was forming amid the country’s fall into chaos.
Hollande called on the United Nations to provide special support for authorities in the north African country.
Over the past weeks different factions in the country have backed rival prime ministers and national assemblies, while Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have carried out air strikes against Islamists.
At the weekend, Islamist fighters seized Tripoli airport, compounding a crisis that has been boiling since the fall of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
"Jihadist groups have taken control of important sites and not only oil sites. There are two parliaments, two governments - even if for us there is only one legitimate one - and there are militias," Hollande said.
"If we do nothing... terrorism will spread to the whole region," Hollande added.
“Hollande is worried that what is becoming a failed state could become a safe haven for all kinds of terrorist, jiihadist groups in the region and it may be a launch pad for them to begin actions in other countries,” FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier said.
“Libya is at the centre of what could become a jihadist arc going from west Africa to east Africa, all across the Sahel,” Vanier added.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-08-28