PARIS, France — France’s president rejected Thursday any cooperation with Bashar Assad, whom he accused of being a “de facto ally” of jihadists wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, and urged a “humanitarian and military” response to the threat.
Speaking at an annual Paris gathering of ambassadors from around the world, Francois Hollande touched on crises in both countries as well as those rocking Ukraine and Libya — all of which he said affected France directly.
“Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism, he is the de facto ally of jihadists,” he said.
Hollande reiterated his proposal to hold an international conference in Paris “to organize the coordination of international action against the Islamic State on humanitarian, security and military fronts.”
His comments came after Assad’s regime said Monday it was willing to work with the international community, including Washington, to tackle IS militants in the war-ravaged country.
The United States has already carried out reconnaissance flights on Islamic State positions in Syria in surveillance seen as a precursor to possible strikes against the radical group, whose campaign of extreme violence has terrorized civilians and rivals alike.
Hollande also touched on the crisis in Ukraine, where Western intelligence believes Russian army units are taking part in the four-month conflict, which has seen more than 2,200 people lose their lives.
“If it turns out that there are Russian soldiers present on Ukrainian soil, it would be intolerable and unacceptable,” he said.
And on Libya, which he said was his current “major concern,” Hollande called on the United Nations to provide special support for authorities in the north African nation, which is sliding ever deeper into chaos as militias fuel an escalating war.
Over the past weeks different factions in the country have backed rival prime ministers and national assemblies, while Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have carried out air strikes against Islamists.
At the weekend, Islamist fighters seized Tripoli airport, compounding a crisis that has been boiling since the fall of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
“France asks the United Nations… to organize exceptional support for Libyan authorities to restore their state,” he said, without detailing what form this support should take.
“There is total confusion” in Libya, he warned.
“Jihadist groups have taken control of important sites and not only oil sites. There are two parliaments, two governments — even if for us there is only one legitimate one — and there are militias,” he said.
“If we do nothing… terrorism will spread to all this region.”