December 17, 2017 / 9:50 PM / a year ago

Macron sees February end to fight against Islamic State in Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a media conference following a meeting to discuss how to speed up the implementation of the G5 West African counter-terrorism force, in La Celle Saint-Cloud, near Paris, France, December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - The military campaign against Islamic State in Syria should be completed in February following the end of fighting against the militant group in Iraq, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

“On December 9, Iraqi Prime Minister (Haider al-) Abadi announced the end of the war and the victory over Daesh, and I think that by mid- to late February we will have won the war in Syria,” Macron said in a broadcast interview, using the Arab acronym for Islamic State.

France would now push for peace talks involving all parties in the six-year-old Syrian conflict, including President Bashar al-Assad, Macron told France 2 televisions, promising “initiatives” early next year.

He did not say how any French proposals would relate to existing negotiations being brokered by the United Nations.

Despite being a leading backer of the Syrian opposition, France has sought a more pragmatic approach to the Syrian conflict since the arrival of President Emmanuel Macron, saying that the departure of al-Assad was not a pre-condition for talks.

Assad’s government has been backed by Russia and Iran. President Vladimir Putin last week announced a significant scaling back of Russian forces in Syria, saying their mission was largely complete.

Reporting by Marine Pennetier, Gus Trompiz and John Irish

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