The new French leader said that fighting groups like Daesh had to be the international community's priority, and that a "political and diplomatic roadmap" was needed to resolve the conflict.

French President Macron said his two priorities in Syria were fighting terrorist groups and preventing a failed state in Syria.
French President Macron said his two priorities in Syria were fighting terrorist groups and preventing a failed state in Syria.

France no longer sees the departure of Bashar al Assad as a priority in the Syrian conflict, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, making the policy official for the first time.

The new French leader said instead that fighting groups such as Daesh had to be the international community's number one goal in a conflict that grew out of protests against the Syrian president in 2011 but has since become increasingly complex and multifaceted.

"The real change I've made on this question, is that I haven't said the deposing of Bashar al Assad is a prerequisite for everything," Macron said in an interview with several European newspapers.

"Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor," said the French president, who took office last month.

Syrian opposition reacts

His comments were met with dismay by the Syrian opposition.

"Shame on France, whose leader Emmanuel Macron does not see Bashar as its enemy or an enemy to humanity," tweeted Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition, the main umbrella organisation of opposition groups.

"A tragic fall for morality and humanity," Ramadan added.

Khaled Khoja, another opposition figure, posted on Twitter: "Macron's statements are surprising, considering that France was among four countries in the core Friends of Syria group -- in addition to Britain, Turkey, and Qatar -- that had supported the departure of 'Chemical' Bashar."

Macron said he now saw two key priorities in Syria.

"My line is clear: one, a total fight against terrorist groups. They are our enemies... We need the cooperation of everyone to eradicate them, particularly Russia. Two: stability in Syria, because I don't want a failed state."

"Collective error"

Macron said the international community had made a "collective error" in thinking the conflict could be solved "only with military force", adding: "My deep conviction is that we need a political and diplomatic roadmap."

But he repeated his warning that the use of chemical weapons and the violation of humanitarian corridors set up to deliver aid to desperate Syrian civilians were "red lines" and that France would be willing to act alone in response.

France was among Western nations pushing most vocally for Assad to go at the start of the conflict.

Both international organisations and the UN have accused all parties to the conflict in Syria of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, noting the regime's and pro-regime forces' use of "siege-like tactics" in Aleppo, direct attacks on civilians, use of chemical agents, use of systematic torture, unlawful killings, and enforced disappearances, among other crimes.

The opposition has been accused of indiscriminate shelling and besieging predominantly civilian areas.

The war has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and forced millions from their homes.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies