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World leaders hail liberation of Raqqa

World leaders welcomed the defeat of Daesh in Raqqa. (AP)
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has joined the international community in hailing the liberation of Raqqa from the grip of Daesh terrorists.
The Kingdom expressed happiness about the opposition forces’ victory over Daesh in Raqqa, according to a statement issued in Riyadh,
An official source at theForeign Ministry said Saudi Arabia “considered the purification of Raqqa as an important step in the fight against terrorism.”
The source expressed the Kingdom’s hope that “this step will entail many serious steps to clear Syria, Iraq and the region of terrorism and extremism.”
The Saudi statement came as French President Emmanuel Macron said the fight against Daesh has entered “a major new phase” after Friday’s announcement by Syrian regime forces backed by the US-led coalition.
He thanked allied countries involved in the battle to take back Raqqa, notably those who died “defending liberty in the face of terrorist horror.”
France’s military has been involved in the coalition’s operations in Iraq since 2014 and in Syria since 2015, when Daesh extremists killed 130 people around Paris. France remains in a state of emergency and a target of Daesh threats.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pledged €15 million by the end of the year in aid for civilians in Raqqa, including food water and sappers.
He said the liberation of Raqqa “deals a decisive blow to IS (Daesh), which made it the epicenter for orchestrating numerous attacks.”
Le Drian added that his “first thoughts go to the victims of this barbarism at the Bataclan, in the streets of Paris and Nice and elsewhere.”
A former defense minister, Le Drian warned that the challenges of post-Raqqa are considerable, “first in fighting pockets” of IS that remain and then “stabilizing liberated territories and finding a lasting political solution” for all components of Syrian society.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier congratulated the Syrian people and the US.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on the liberation of the city of Raqqa from the Daesh group.
In a statement released on Friday, Tillerson says the United States is proud to lead the 73-member global coalition in the fight against IS.
He says the coalition efforts has seen Islamic State’s “so-called caliphate crumble across Iraq and Syria” but cautions that “our work is far from over.”
Tillerson says the “liberation of Raqqa is a critical milestone in the global fight ... to defeat these terrorists.”
He says the fall of the city that was IS’ de facto capital also “marks the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian conflict” in which the United States and its partners will seek to “de-escalate violence across Syria.”
He says: “We are confident that we will prevail and defeat this brutal terrorist organization.”
The US-led coalition said Daesh’s loss of the Mosul and Raqqa are “turning points” for the extremist group, but adds a “tough fight” still lies ahead to eradicate Daesh remnants in Iraq and Syria.
In a statement released on Friday, it congratulated its Syrian partners, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), for conducting “a highly effective, professional operation in a difficult urban area.”
The statement said the liberated city of Raqqa will not return to local governance and leadership.
“Raqqawis now have a chance to control their own future,” it said.
The SDF on Friday declared victory over IS in Raqqa and formally handed over administration of the city to a US-backed council made up of of local officials and tribal leaders.
Iran’s army chief of staff and other senior officers from the Iranian military have visited a front line in the northern province of Aleppo saying that the extremists’ presence in Syria is coming to an end.
Iran has been one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s strongest supporters since the country’s crisis began more than six years ago and has sent thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen to boost his troops against opponents.
Syrian regime forces and Iran-backed groups have scored major victories against Daesh in eastern Syrian recently capturing last week the Daesh stronghold of Mayadeen. Syrian troops and allied fighters are now marching toward the town of Boukamal on the border with Iraq.

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