Beirut, Paris – The Syrian opposition, with its political and military wings, has expressed its disappointment with the statements of French President Emmanuel Macron on regime chief Bashar Assad, saying that they go against the country’s policy on the Syrian crisis.
His remarks are “unbalanced and reflect great contradictions,” it said.
Macron had declared that the ouster of Assad is “not a precondition if there is no legitimate alternative for him.”
Opposition figures stated however that there is not sufficient evidence to indicate the Paris was changing its Syria strategy, but the statements have “upset and angered the Syrians, especially when they find friendly countries reneging on their political and moral commitments.”
Member of the Syrian coalition’s political body Ahmed Ramadan doubted to Asharq Al-Awsat that Macron was attempting to change France’s policy, instead interpreting his statements as a “French-European attempt to deliver a message to the United States that the US-Russian bilateralism on Syria is no longer acceptable.”
Europe is meanwhile seeking to revive the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian crisis.
Zakaria Malahafji, of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) political bureau, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If Macron’s priority is combating terrorism, then the Syrian people were the first to declare war against it and the FSA was the first of terrorism’s victims.”
The Assad regime is creating and practicing terrorism, he stressed.
A French official source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Macron’s stance stems from Washington’s “foggy” position on Syria.
It is this fogginess that has prevented common ground from being reached with Russia, which is waiting for an offer from the US on Syria that will later be translated into a more comprehensive “deal,” explained the source.
The new US administration’s position on Syria has so far been limited to combating terrorism, noted senior diplomatic sources in Paris.
It lacks a vision on the political future of the country, they stated.
The truth of the matter is that for over a year, Paris has ceased demanding the ouster of Assad as a precondition and Macron’s stance is the first time that it has been officially announced.
The French sources added: “No one in France or abroad is still committed to this condition.”
Macron’s remarks are therefore not a shift in France’s policy, they said.
What was missing from the French leader’s announcement was the statement that “Assad cannot be a part of Syria’s future.” His remarks on the lack of “legitimate” substitute are also vague.
“Does this mean that Assad is the only figure with legitimacy and he will therefore remain Syria’s legitimate president?”
It is clear that combating terrorist groups has become France’s main priority, not Assad’s departure.
Macron therefore said that there was a need to cooperate “with all sides, especially Russia,” to that end. It was not clear if that also includes the Syrian regime.