France expressed growing unease towards Bashar al Assad’s regime continuous tightening of siege on Aleppo and the risk it will carry out a bloodbath near Damascus, and will push this week for more pressure on Syria’s ally Russia, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Tuesday.
“We are extremely concerned by the situation in Aleppo, but Daraya as well,” Ayrault told Reuters, referring to opposition-held Damascus suburb seen as the epicenter of the uprising against Assad.
“Daraya is a symbol and we fear a real massacre.”
Daraya is besieged by forces loyal to Assad, who until last month had refused to allow aid to starving residents since 2012. International aid convoys reached the town in June, but fighting continues and about 6,000 people remain trapped there.
Outside Aleppo, Assad-loyal army and allied militia fighters backed by Russian air power this week seized the only road into the opposition-held part of the northern city, tightening a siege that has trapped some 200,000 to 300,000 people.
“France will not close its eyes to the drama of Aleppo,” Ayrault said before a meeting on Syria in London with his British, U.S., German, Italian and EU counterparts.
“What we cannot accept is to wait for election calendars,” he said referring to the November presidential election in the United States. “We need to launch a call to help those besieged.”
As well as Western-backed opposition, Assad is also allegedly counted to fight the hardline group ISIS, which controls about a third of the country, and the local al Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front.
Syrian opposition groups located in Aleppo and Daraya are supported by the same western countries that are conducting air strikes against ISIS.
Ayrault said more pressure needed to be put on Moscow so it would in turn lean on Assad, something that he wanted like-minded countries to discuss when the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS meets in Washington later this week.
After last week’s attack in Nice, Ayrault said Paris would reiterate its readiness to step efforts against ISIS, which should now focus on its sanctuary in Raqqa, Syria.
The internationally realized terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the Nice attack, in which a Tunisian man killed 84 people by running them over through a Bastille Day crowd with a lorry.
“Our priority also, and this will be the objective in Washington, is that effort against ISIS is much stronger”, Ayrault said.