French delegation arrives in Syria

Published March 26th, 2016 - 12:30 GMT
Thierry Mariani, the head of the five-member delegation, in Moscow on September 2014. (AFP/Vasily Maximov)
Thierry Mariani, the head of the five-member delegation, in Moscow on September 2014. (AFP/Vasily Maximov)

A French parliamentary delegation has paid a visit to the Syrian capital city of Damascus as the Middle Eastern country is grappling with a deadly foreign-sponsored militancy.

In a statement released on Friday, French National Assembly member Thierry Mariani, the head of the five-member delegation, said the trip conveys a message of peace to all the Syrian people.

“We are here for the Easter holidays, and we will come on another visit when peace prevails in Syria,” he said.

The French parliamentarians began their visit at the House of Saint Ananias church in Damascus.

Benjamin Blanchard, another delegation member, said the trip shows the French people’s solidarity with the Syrians, expressing hope that the Syrian army will liberate more areas from the grips of militants.

In a relevant development, the UK foreign affairs committee published a report, calling on the opposition to join Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in its fight against Daesh.

The warring sides should work to "reclaim Syrian territory jointly from ISIL (Daesh),” the report said.

"If the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Army and the Free Syria Army on ceasefire are able to agree on an early mutual purpose to reclaim Syrian territory jointly from ISIL, they can begin a positive founding narrative of a new Syria and build trust, which should ultimately allow for the resolution of the hard issues."  

The report also urged "greater engagement" with Iran and "closer dialog" with Russia, saying that such approach in "an earlier stage might have brokered an earlier cessation agreement."

This apparently runs counter to previous statements by British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that have called for the removal of President Assad.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the move was evidence of a "wider shift" toward accepting a “new reality” where Assad stays at least in the short term.  

“There have been quite a number of voices that have effectively been saying that the priority has to be a fight against IS (Daesh) rather than the urgency in seeing Assad deposed,” he told the Middle East Eye blog. 

“It’s beyond time that that kind of realism is brought to bear on British policy toward Syria at large and the IS fight in particular."

On Friday, Syrian government forces liberated the ancient city of Palmyra from Daesh in a strategic victory in their fight against foreign-backed militants.

Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material

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