France: Syria, Russia Must End Operations Against Syrian Civilians

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called on Russia and Syria to end the military operation against civilians and to end the "ordeal" in besieged town of Madaya. His remarks come two weeks prior to a scheduled peace talk. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

PARIS, Jan 11 – France’s foreign minister said on Monday Syria and Russia must stop what he called military operations against civilians and in particular put an end to suffering in the besieged city of Madaya just two weeks before peace talks are scheduled.

Laurent Fabius said images coming out of Madaya, where aid agencies have warned of widespread starvation, showed President Bashar al-Assad could not remain in power. He said Paris would consult the U.N. Security Council to press Syria to end what he described as indiscriminate attacks.

“We discussed the absolute necessity that Syria and Russia end their military operations against civilians and in particular the ordeal in Madaya and other cities besieged by the regime,” Fabius told reporters after meeting Syrian opposition coordinator Riad Hijab.

“It shows how much the Bashar al-Assad regime … for moral and efficiency purposes cannot be the future of Syria and also at the same time that the Russians do not undertake such inadmissible actions.”

Russia denies any targeting of civilians.

Aid convoys were to due simultaneously enter rebel-held Madaya, which has been blockaded for months by pro-government forces, and al Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, which are encircled by insurgents.

Fabius had earlier met Hijab, a former prime minister under Assad, who defected in 2012. He was elected in December as coordinator of the opposition negotiating body to lead future Syria talks.

The talks are scheduled to be held between the government and opposition on Jan. 25 under the auspices of the United Nations. However, opposition officials have cast doubt on whether the talks will go ahead on schedule, citing a need to see goodwill measures from the government side.”

“There must be two elements (to these talks). On the one hand the immediate end of bombardments and on the other hand that the agenda of these negotiations are sufficiently precise and there is no doubt in particular over who will govern.”

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