French defence minister to visit Moscow to coordinate ISIS fight

Russia’s Defence Ministry handout photo shows Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet lands at Hmeymim air base near Latakia in Syria. (File photo: Reuters)

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will travel to Moscow for talks with Russian officials on Sunday and Monday to coordinate efforts to defeat ISIS, his office announced.

“On December 20 and 21 Mr Le Drian will go to Russia to discuss coordination in the fight against Daesh (an Arabic acronym for ISIS in the Levant), defence ministry spokesman Pierre Bayle told a press conference Thursday.

The minister’s visit is “part of international efforts to reinforce the coalition against Daesh,” he added.

After last month’s deadly attacks in Paris and the October downing of a Russian plane in Egypt, claimed by ISIS, French President Francois Hollande and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to unprecedented cooperation of their forces in Syria in the battle against the jihadists.

So far the coordination has remained symbolic, with no visible effect on operations.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes in the war-ravaged nation at the request of President Bashar al-Assad since the end of September, while a U.S.-led coalition, of which France is a member, is conducting its own campaign targeting ISIS.

Moscow insists its campaign in Syria is aimed at destroying ISIS jihadists and other extremist groups in the war-torn country.

But members of the U.S.-led coalition complain that Russia is mainly hitting groups fighting Assad, and NGOs and observers have alleged civilian casualties.

On Thursday, Putin said Russia was providing air support to some of the armed opposition groups that are fighting ISIS.

He did not say what rebel groups he was referring to.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46