Syria deal means talking to Assad: visiting French MP
Finding a solution to the conflict in Syria will require talking to President Bashar al-Assad, a French opposition lawmaker visiting the war-torn country said on Tuesday.
"The settlement of the Syrian political situation necessarily requires a dialogue with the Syrian president who is in place and is elected by the Syrian people," said Jean-Frederic Poisson, of France's right-wing Christian Democratic Party.
"It is not for foreign countries to decide who must lead Syria, it is for the Syrians to decide," he said after meeting with Syria's parliament chief Jihad al-Lahham.
Poisson is visiting Syria with two other French lawmakers, and the delegation is due to meet Assad on Wednesday.
Their trip comes despite fierce criticism in France of a similar visit by lawmakers to Syria in February.
France has been a firm backer of the uprising against Assad's government that begin in March 2011.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were later Tuesday to hold talks on the Syrian conflict.
The meeting was to take place shortly before the French foreign ministry hosts a working dinner on Syria to be attended by allies from Arab and Western countries.
Poisson also told journalists that a Russian aerial campaign launched on September 30 had helped "stabilise things for now and gradually push back the Islamic State bit by bit".
Moscow began air strikes in Syria last month in support of Assad's government and has been criticised by the opposition and its backers for targeting moderate and Islamist rebels rather than jihadists.
During his talks with the French lawmakers, Lahham confirmed that parliamentary elections would be held in Syria next year, as scheduled.
"A new government will be formed," he said.
"The presidential elections were held last year and president Assad has a mandate according to the constitution," he added.
Last week, a Russian lawmaker visiting Damascus said Assad had expressed a willingness to hold new parliamentary and presidential elections, and was ready to run again for president.
The reported comments came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke of the need for Syria to prepare for new elections.
Assad was reelected for a new seven-year term in 2014 in elections dismissed by the opposition and much of the international community.
More than 250,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011.
© 2015 AFP