Hollande: Failure in Syria risks ‘total war’ for region

‘What happens in Syria concerns Europe, what happens there will determine the balance of the whole region’

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Failure to act in Syria risks stoking a “total war” in the Middle East, French President Francois Hollande said in a landmark speech to the European Parliament alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“What happens in Syria concerns Europe, what happens there will determine the balance of the whole region for a long time,” Hollande told European lawmakers in Strasbourg.

“If we leave these religious clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, they will grow. Don’t think we will be sheltered, this will be a total war.”

Hollande, whose country has launched air strikes against ISIS in Syria, appeared to criticize Russia for its air attacks in support of President Bashar al-Assa’'s regime.

“We have to construct in Syria, with all those who can contribute, a political future which gives the Syrian people an alternative to Bashar or Daesh,” Hollande said, using another name for ISIS.

Hollande and Merkel were giving the first joint speech to the European Parliament by the leaders of France and Germany since Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl in 1989.

FSA, Assad army alliance ‘not French idea’

In a related story, Hollande did not suggest forming an alliance between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the moderate opposition Free Syrian Army, an aide said Wednesday, contradicting comments by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“The president spoke of the necessary presence of the Syrian opposition around a future negotiating table. The rest is not a French idea,” a member of Hollande’s entourage told reporters in Strasbourg.

The aide dismissing the news came after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a joint television appearance on Wednesday that Hollande had voiced the idea of uniting forces loyal to Assad and the so-called Free Syrian Army to fight ISIS.

France has repeatedly said that once a political transition has occurred and Assad has gone, government troops and moderate rebels would need to join forces to defeat ISIS.

(With AFP and Reuters)