French President Emmanuel Macron has responded to the recent accusation of his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, who had called Paris "a standard-bearer of support for terrorism in Syria since the early days of the conflict," explaining that Paris has been supporting rebel groups in the Arab republic, fighting against the government.
During a joint press conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Macron has called such statements "unacceptable," stressing that France has been "consistent since the beginning," focusing on Daesh's defeat in Syria, not the ouster of the Assad.
This position comes in line with the stance Macron earlier voiced during a press conference with US President Donald Trump, saying that France had changed its doctrine with regard to Syria, concentrating on the eradication of terrorist groups in the country.
However, the French president has demonstrated a fence-straddling strategy: on the one hand calling Assad "an enemy of the Syrian people," who should face a court for war crimes, but on the other urging to engage him in diplomacy, calling for new joint peace talks between government and opposition forces next year after the Geneva negotiations failed last week.
Macron has blamed Assad for their failure, criticizing the Syrian government over an "irresponsible strategy of obstruction."
The US, as well as many of its EU and Middle Eastern allies, has repeatedly called for the removal of Assad from power, while Moscow has been stressing that the Syrian people should decide the fate of their leadership.
A similar position has been recently voiced by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said that the future of Assad and his government can only be resolved through negotiation.