PARIS (Sputnik) – Fillon has called for closer cooperation with Russia on resolving the nearly five-year Syrian crisis, including in the last months as prime minister in early 2012.
"Can we fight side by side with the Russians while we impose on them EU sanctions at the same time? The answer is no," Fillon said in an address to the lower house of French parliament. "France must take responsibility and at the next European Council seek an end to these sanctions."
The former prime minister welcomed changes in French President Francois Hollande’s strategy in the wake of the deadly November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. As proof, he listed Hollande's upcoming visit to Russia, backing a broader international coalition, stepping up anti-Islamic State airstrikes in Syria and toning down calls for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"What was impossible or unacceptable last year has become necessary today. We support this change, but inside us there is anger at the lost time," Fillon said.
The European Union has imposed a series of restrictive measures against Russia starting in April 2014, accusing Moscow of interference in Ukraine's internal affairs. Russia continues to deny its involvement in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-independence militia and calls the Western sanctions regime counterproductive.