By Agence France-Presse
French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday discussed priorities for the “greatly deteriorated” situation in Syria, Macron’s office said.
Macron told Putin that France was focused on continuing the fight against remnants of the Islamic State group, protecting civilians and providing “complete, safe, and unobstructed access to humanitarian aid to civilian populations,” a statement said.
Syria posed “serious risks for regional and international security,” it added.
Another priority for Paris is the search for a negotiated political solution in Syria with UN oversight, which should include “constitutional reforms along with free and fair elections.”
The Kremlin later said the two leaders “underscored the need to follow an inter-Syrian political dialogue.”
Putin also told Macron he had received information “that fighters were preparing weapons using toxic chemical substances in Idlib,” in northwestern Syria, which is still in rebel hands, a Kremlin statement said.
An Arab-Kurdish alliance has spearheaded the drive against the Islamic State group in eastern Syria with support from and US-led international force, and was poised Saturday to control the last bit of land held by jihadists.
They had declared a “caliphate” in large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, but have since lost all of it but the tiny patch in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.
Eight years into a war that has killed more than 360,000 people, President Bashar al-Assad’s government now controls nearly two-thirds of the country.