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‘No quick victory over IS group’ French army chief warns

© AFP / Stephane De Sakutin | Chief of the Defence Staff General Pierre de Villiers (R) and French Defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrive at the Elysée Palace in Paris for a security meeting on November 14, 2015

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-11-22

There will be no short-term military victory in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, France’s army chief of staff warned on Sunday, as Paris intensifies its strikes on targets in Syria following the deadly attacks in the French capital.

President François Hollande has called for a grand coalition, including the United States and Russia, to eradicate the IS group in Syria and is due to meet with Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin next week.

The IS group, also known as Daesh, claimed responsibility for the worst violence in France since World War II, in which 130 people were killed in bombings and shootings across Paris last Friday. The group said the assaults were in retaliation for France’s involvement in the US-backed air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

“There will be no military victory against Daesh in the short term,” Pierre de Villiers, chief of staff of armed forces, told French weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview published on Sunday.

“In the military, we are used to the long term but people ... want fast results. In Syria and Iraq, we are in the heart of that paradox. Everybody knows that in the end this conflict will be resolved through diplomatic and political channels.”

Hollande will travel to Washington to speak with Obama on Tuesday and then head to Moscow to meet with Putin to discuss how their countries’ militaries might work together.

‘No coordination with Russia’

Russia and Western countries are divided over Syria. Moscow is supporting President Bashar al-Assad while the West says he should leave power to end Syria’s civil war.

But in the wake of the Paris attacks as well as the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt claimed by an affiliate of the IS group, Moscow has also signalled it wants closer cooperation with Western nations in Syria.

Putin ordered his Mediterranean warships last week to make “direct contact” with the French aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle, which is en route to the waters off Syria to assist in French airstrikes.

During a meeting devoted to military operations in Syria, President Putin told the head of the Russian Army that it was “imperative” to work with the French navy “as allies”.

However, De Villiers said he had spoken to his Russian counterpart by phone to discuss their countries’ ships with regard to Syria and that France had not “at this stage any coordination of strikes or identification of targets in consultation with the Russians, even if we have the same enemy in Daesh”.

Since the November 13 Paris bombings and shootings, French war planes have launched their biggest raids in Syria to date, including hitting the IS group's stronghold in Raqqa.

In the space of three days, some 60 bombs were dropped as training camps or command centres were targeted last week, de Villiers said.

“I honestly think that we seriously hurt them,” he said.

De Villiers added that France currently has some 34,000 soldiers deployed in France and abroad. On Monday, Hollande said he would avoid cuts to defence spending before 2019.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2015-11-22

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