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French top diplomat urges Russia and Iran to sway Assad's attitude to opposition

French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has called on Moscow and Tehran to use their influence with the Syrian government and pressure it to make sure that it does not see all opposition members as terrorists.

"The godfathers of the Syrian regime, Iran, and Russia in particular, are to play an important role," he said at a meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Bonn. "We are confident that Russia can play such an important and constructive role, first and foremost, agreeing to the process of assembling groups of opposition representatives at the Geneva talks."

The top diplomat emphasized that "the Syrian National Coalition should be well-represented at the negotiations," adding that "representatives of the armed opposition should be included" in these groups.

"We call on Russia and Iran to help make sure that the Syrian authorities do not brand the entire armed opposition as terrorists, otherwise the Geneva talks will be impossible. The Cairo and Moscow groups should be represented there," Ayrault stated. He added that "Russia and Iran must corroborate, through genuine actions, that they are interested in the Syrian settlement."

By political means only

Referring to the latest negotiations on Syria, Ayrault said, "We have similar views that the Syrian crisis can be resolved by political means only and that the Syrian government that exists only thanks to the external assistance, chiefly from the Russian and Iranian military, will not be able to liberate and stabilize the whole country, as it asserts. The longer the hostilities continue, the more intense hatred this triggers among the population, which leads to increased support for terrorists."

"We will continue the fight against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra [terrorist groups, both outlawed in Russia - TASS]," the French foreign minister said.

He noted that the talks on settling the Syrian crisis "should be held within the framework of the United Nations and according to the provisions of Resolution 2254, which makes it possible to work along the lines of a political solution." "The key point is to achieve a political settlement, but this requires a lot of effort to make it possible for refugees to return to a peaceful Syria. This is necessary for ensuring the peaceful coexistence of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria," Ayrault elaborated.

The French diplomat added that "Syria's reconstruction could be financed, above all, by Europe."

[Source: Itar Tass, Bonn, 17Feb17]

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