Macron rebuffs Assad accusations that France sponsors terrorism

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference with NATO Secretary-General at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Dec.19, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2017

Macron rebuffs Assad accusations that France sponsors terrorism

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that Bashar Assad was the enemy of millions of his own people and in no position to lecture France, after the Syrian leader accused Paris of supporting terrorism.
After a string of strong comments by French officials blaming Assad’s government for atrocities and failed talks, Assad said on Monday France was supporting bloodshed in Syria, making it unfit to talk about peace settlements.
“France spearheaded support for terrorism and their hands are soaked in Syrian blood from the first days and we do not see they have changed their stance fundamentally,” Assad was quoted in state media as saying.
“Those who support terrorism have no right to talk about peace,” Assad added.
Despite being a leading backer of the Syrian opposition, France has sought a more pragmatic approach to the conflict since the arrival of Macron, saying that Assad’s departure was not a pre-condition for talks to end the six-year war.
Speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron hit back at Assad.
“I don’t think Syria boils down to Bashar Assad,” Macron said. “The Syrian people have an enemy. There are millions of Syrians outside of Syria and they have an enemy who is Bashar Assad. That’s the reality.”
“On the military front we have a priority which is war against Daesh and that’s why his (Assad’s) statements are unacceptable because if there is someone that has fought and can defeat Daesh ... it is the international coalition.”
France and other members of a US-led coalition have launched air strikes against Daesh targets.
Macron said on Monday he would push for peace talks involving all parties, including Assad, promising “initiatives” early next year, although it remains unclear how any French proposal would relate to existing United Nations’ efforts.
He criticized separate Russian talks in Astana with Iran and Turkey meant to reduce violence and possibly pave the way to Syrian talks in Sochi next year. Those initiatives would fail, Macron said, because they did not include Assad’s opponents and were an attempt to impose a solution on Syrians.
“I don’t believe in a resolution of a conflict by external forces that want to impose a peace ... and I don’t believe in indulging someone that thinks their country boils down to them.”


36 people missing after boat sinks in Congo river: DRC police

Updated 15 September 2019

36 people missing after boat sinks in Congo river: DRC police

  • Seventy-six people survived after the vessel went down overnight on the outskirts of the capital

KINSHASA, Congo: Thirty-six people are missing after a boat sank in the Congo river on the outskirts of Kinshasa, DR Congo police said on Sunday.

The vessel, which was travelling to the capital, went down overnight in Maluku commune, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the centre of the city. Seventy-six people survived, police wrote on Twitter.

"The cause of the accident is not yet known," police spokesperson Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu told AFP. Lake and river transport is widely used in Democratic Republic of Congo as the highway system is poor, but accidents are common, often caused by overloading and the unsafe state of vessels.

The boat involved was called a "baleiniere" or "whaler" - a commonly-used flat-bottomed vessel between 15 to 30 metres (50 to 100 feet) long by two to six metres wide.

In the vast majority of accidents, passengers are not equipped with life jackets and many cannot swim.