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‘Priority is defeating IS group’, say French MPs in Syria

FRANCE 24 screengrab of French MP Christian Hutin in the ruins of Homs, Syria.

French officials say Bashar al-Assad has no role in Syria’s future, but that did not stop a group of French MPs from meeting his representatives in Syria last week. Our reporters followed them to Damascus and the battle-scarred city of Homs.

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More than four years into Syria’s gruesome conflict, the country is back in the spotlight with a flurry of recent diplomatic talk focussing on its embattled president, Bashar al-Assad. Western powers, among them France, have long insisted that Assad is to blame for the deadly conflict and must relinquish power. But with the international community now grappling with the threat of the Islamic State (IS) group, Assad’s Russians and Iranian supporters say the Syrian regime is a necessary ally in the fight against the jihadist group.

It is a view shared by French MPs Gérard Bapt, Christian Hutin and Jérôme Lambert, who belong to France’s ruling Socialist Party and its left-wing allies. The trio travelled to Syria between September 26 and 30, the second such visit by French lawmakers this year. FRANCE 24’s reporters caught up with them in the ruins of Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, which was virtually flattened by loyalist troops as they chased out rebel forces in the early stages of the war. “We know very well that this [Syrian] regime is far from perfect,” said Hutin, likening the ruins of Homs to those of his native Dunkirk after World War II. “But for the moment the main battle is against the Islamic State organisation. We have to defeat it. After that, we'll see."

Click on the player above to watch the report.
 

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