PARIS – France will not demand Syrian President Bashar Assad’s departure as a precondition for peace talks, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Figaro newspaper in an interview.
“If we require, even before negotiations start, that Assad step down, we won’t get far,” Fabius was quoted as saying in a preview of the French daily’s Tuesday edition.
The comments represent a softening of France’s position toward Assad, whose four-year war against rebel groups and Islamic State fighters has claimed more than 200,000 lives.
The United States and Britain have already made similar shifts to their stances on Syria, as Russia bolsters its support for Assad with a military buildup in the country. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that the timing of Assad’s exit following a peace deal is negotiable.
France believes a diplomatic resolution will require the establishment of a government of national unity including elements of Assad’s administration “to avoid the kind of collapse seen in Iraq,” Fabius also said in the interview.