Syrian President Bashar Assad will stay in power after the Syrian conflict is over and the West will have to speak to him, French President Emmanuel Macron said.
"Bashar al-Assad will be there," Macron said in an interview with France 2 television on Sunday. "He will be there because he is protected by those who have won the war on the ground, whether it's Iran or Russia."
He underscored that France’s priority is to destroy Daesh in Syria, rather than oust Assad and to seek a political solution to the conflict.
Macron suggested that the United States-led international coalition, which involves France, will have won the war against Daesh in Syria "by the middle to the end of February."
After the military conflict is over, "we have to speak to Assad and his representatives," he stressed.
Macron, who has sought a greater role for France in the Syrian settlement, said Paris would push for a "political solution" in Syria, including via talks between Damascus and opposition groups.
"France's plan is to win peace, de-mine the country, to de-militarize it and build a political solution that will allow a durable peace – which means all minorities being protected, Christians, Shiites and Sunnis," Macron said.
In addition to Geneva, there is also a parallel negotiation process on Syria, known as the Astana talks. In September, Macron, however, called the Astana process "not adequate" and indicated that Paris could propose a new initiative to resolve the Syrian crisis. Macron also said that it was "impossible to fix the Syrian situation without Russia."
Since the Syrian crisis broke out in 2011, the French government has insisted on the resignation of President Bashar Assad. Macron, who was elected president in May, earlier this year said that France had changed its doctrine with regard to Syria, including prioritizing the eradication of terrorist groups and searching for a sustainable political solution to the conflict.