British defence chief: Syria's Raqqa must be liberated by an 'Arab force'

Sir Michael Fallon, British Secretary of State for Defence, gave an interview to FRANCE 24 after attending the Paris meeting of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

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The operation to encircle the Iraqi city of Mosul is progressing "reasonably well", Fallon told FRANCE 24. "There is a real confidence now amongst the Iraqi military that this is a doable operation."

Fallon also expressed hope that tensions between Iraq and Turkey would not create any new difficulties in the region.

Concerning the upcoming offensive on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the British defence chief stressed that the liberation of the city would have to be done by an "essentially Arab" force in order to avoid sectarian tensions. "Otherwise", he warned, "the liberation is not going to be welcomed by the people of Raqqa.”

Fallon also expressed frustration over the wider situation in Syria, where an end to the five-year civil war remains elusive, particularly in Aleppo, where he is “beginning to despair" that Russia wants any kind of political solution.

“It’s increasingly clear now that Russia is not prepared to use its huge influence over Assad to bring that settlement about. It’s within Russia’s power to do that but they’re not doing it, instead they’re helping to bomb the regime’s opponent and that’s appalling”, he told FRANCE 24.

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