PARIS (Reuters) – The coalition fighting Islamic State must now save Syria’s second city Aleppo as moderate rebels face destruction by attacks from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and jihadi militants, France’s foreign minister said.
In a column in French daily Le Figaro, the Washington Post and pan-Arab Al-Hayat, Laurent Fabius said the city, the “bastion” of the opposition, was almost encircled and abandoning it would end hopes of a political solution in Syria’s three-year civil war.
“Abandoning Aleppo would condemn 300,000 men, women and children to a terrible choice: the murderous siege of the regime’s bombs or the barbarity of the Islamic State terrorists,” Fabius wrote.
“It would condemn Syria to years of violence. It would be the death of any political perspective and would see the fragmentation of the country run by increasingly radicalized warlords. It would also export the internal chaos of Syria towards already fragile neighbours Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.”
As US warplanes bomb Islamic State in parts of Syria, Assad’s military has intensified its own campaign against some of the rebel groups in the west and north of the country that Washington considers its allies, including in and around Aleppo.
Fabius’ comments came just three days after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was in Paris to meet President Francois Hollande.
During that visit Erdogan sought to get backing from Paris for his calls to tackle Assad as well as Islamic State.
Erdogan specifically criticised the US-led coalition’s action in Syria calling for the focus to shift from the Kurdish town of Kobani near the Turkish border to other areas in Syria.
Paris, which is taking part in air strikes in Iraq, has given Iraqi Peshmerga fighters weapons and training, but has ruled out carrying out air strikes in Syria.
It says it is providing military aid and training to the ramshackle Free Syrian Army in Syria, but has not given any specific details of its help.
It has also echoed Turkey’s calls for a buffer zone to be set up in Syria, although French diplomats say it is not viable without a UN Security Council resolution.
Without giving concrete details how France proposed to help save Aleppo, Fabius said he could not accept that the city would be left to its fate.
“That’s why, with our coalition partners, we must turn our efforts to Aleppo to strengthen the moderate opposition and protect the civilian population against the twin crimes of the regime and Islamic State.
After Kobani, we must save Aleppo,” the column read.