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PARIS (AP) — French president Emmanuel Macron hit back on Tuesday at Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad's allegations that France supported terrorism in Syria, insisting that the US-led international coalition should be credited for the military successes against the Islamic State.
Speaking after a meeting with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Macron said that Assad's comments were "unacceptable" because France's priority is "the war against Daesh," using an Arabic term for the group.
"If anyone has fought, and can win by the end of February against Daesh, it's the international coalition," Macron said. "All others have been ambiguous. All others have had priorities, which were targeting political opposition, and not the terrorists."
Macron was reacting to comments made by Assad, who said earlier this week that France had no right to be involved in the peace process following a TV interview during which the French president said Assad can't be ignored in the aftermath of a military victory but must one day answer for his crimes,
"Since the beginning, France has been the spearhead of supporting terrorism in Syria," Assad told journalists. "France's hands are covered in Syrian blood and it has no right to evaluate any peace conference. Those who support terrorism do not have the right to talk about peace, let alone the right to interfere in the Syrian affairs. All these statements mean nothing to us and have no value."
Macron landed another blow to Assad when he stated that the Syrian leader is "the enemy" of millions of Syrians in exile "in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, across Europe, in Canada, the United States."
"These Syrians have an enemy, and he is called Bashar Assad," Macron said.
Macron however reiterated that Assad should be involved in the peace process.
"If we want to build a political peace process that will bring stability to Syria, we should get all parties to the table," Macron said.
During a news conference with King Abdullah II of Jordan later Tuesday in Paris, Macron added that he would be extremely cautious about any future negotiation with Assad's regime because of its use of "chemical weapons."
During the peace process "people representing Assad will be there... that doesn't mean we forget what happened these last years."
Albert Aji in Damascus and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.
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