Russia, France to coordinate against Daesh in Syria

Published November 27th, 2015 - 06:00 GMT

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting with Francois Hollande Thursday praised efforts by his French counterpart to set up a coalition to fight Daesh.

"You're putting a great deal of attention and effort into the creation of a broad anti-terrorist coalition," the Itar-Tess news agency quoted Putin as saying at the start of the meeting with Hollande in the Kremlin.

"What's more, we think this coalition is absolutely necessary and that's where our positions coincide," Putin said, pointing to the November 13 attacks in Paris and the October 31 downing of the Russian A321 passenger jet in Egypt, both attacks claimed by the Islmaic State.

"All of this prompts us to pool efforts in the struggle with this common evil," he said. "We're mourning together with you over the losses - the heavy losses - France has suffered."

Hollande, for his part, thanked all Russians for their reaction to the Paris attacks, saying: "We know that terrorism is our common enemy."

"I have come here so that we could find a solution and move together on this path, effectively fighting the common enemy and searching for political solutions to settle the situation in Syria," Hollande said.

Hollande travelled to Moscow for a meeting and working dinner with Putin as part of a week-long campaign by Hollande to push for a more aggressive approach to fighting the Islamic State.

Prior to Hollande's arrival, Putin made calls Thursday for a "unified, powerful force" to combat militants in Syria, indicating a willingness to work jointly with France.

Since the attacks, France has scaled up military operations in Iraq and Syria, where the group operates. The Navy moved an aircraft carrier into the Mediterranean Sea to ramp up airstrikes by the French military targeting training centres and areas controlled by the Islamic State.

France has conducted 300 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since it started bombing in September 2014 - still only a fraction of the 8,289 total strikes that have been flown by the current US-led coalition, according to the US Defense Department.

Those strikes were joined in September by Russia, which was quickly criticized by coalition members for not targeting the Islamic State. The Kremlin has long supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The question of how to handle the Syrian leader has overshadowed talks on a political transition in the country. France has staunchly opposed al-Assad's remaining in office. The issue could crop up between Moscow and Paris, whose relations have chilled due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

But Russia, which saw a warplane shot down by Turkish fighter jets on Tuesday as it returned from a mission in support of Syrian government forces, has indicated that it is willing to join forces.

Hollande met earlier this week with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was set to appear before the House of Commons in London to advocate for Britain to extend its airstrikes from Iraq to Syria.

The French leader also met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama.


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