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Le Pen Adopts Russia’s Strategy on Syria, Sees No Alternative to Assad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen. (AFP)

Paris – Rapprochement with Russia is one of the most important aspects of far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s foreign strategy.

Even though she was not the only candidate to follow this approach, she is the most committed to it and she had paid a visit to Moscow at the end of March, holding an hour-and-a-half long meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Le Pen is seeking “strategic rapprochement” with Moscow and she believes that it is “more than necessary” in the fight against ISIS and terrorism. To that end, she is willing to pay the price of expressing views that support the Russian policy.

She supports the Kremlin’s stance on Ukraine and even considers that the “annexation of Crimea was not an illegal move, but a product of a popular referendum.” She also heavily criticized the US and European sanctions against Moscow that were imposed in wake of the annexation in 2014, saying that they were “unjustified.”

The far-right candidate, who has advanced to the final round of the presidential elections, has declared that she is striving for France to regain its sovereignty and freedom. She is therefore seeking a foreign policy that “takes inspiration from the strategies that General Charles De Gaulle defended.”

Based on this, one can understand Le Pen’s stance on Syria and terrorism and her severe criticism of the French strategy that has “committed error after error.” She has instead backed the Russia on these two files.

Observers have said that her victory in the elections, whose runoff vote will take place on May 7, will be a victory for the Kremlin as well due to her stances and France’s influence on the European Union.

Le Pen has always sought to improve her image and demonstrate her openness to the world. Prior to her visit to Moscow, she visited New York in mid-January, but she was unable to meet with US President Donald Trump. She also paid a visit to Beirut on February 20 where she met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri with talks focusing on security, immigration and Syria.

She declared after meeting Hariri that “options in Syria are limited to (regime leader) Bashar Assad and ISIS,” adding that she would choose the former because he is the lesser of two evils.

She justified her stance by saying that she has never met Assad, asking: “Is there a sustainable and credible solution in Syria that can replace Assad and avoid the collapse of the Syrian state?”

Her position does not differ than Moscow’s that has long said that it “is not bound to Assad, but there is no alternative to him.”

Le Pen also advocated the Russian stance on Washington’s recent strike against Syria’s Shayrat air base in wake of the chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. She had demanded that an independent investigation be carried out in the attack before resorting to military action.

She went so far as to deem the US strike as “a blatant attack and meddling in the affairs of another country.” At the same time, she noted that a chemical attack is “scary” and the perpetrators should be found.”

Furthermore, she had voiced her support for Russia’s veto of the draft resolution that was presented by France, Britain and the US that condemned the strike, “because its laid blame on Assad before an investigation was done.”

In addition, she noted that France’s errors in Syria were among the reasons that led to terror attacks in her country in the past two and a half years.