France demands end to Syrian sieges, attacks on civilians President, foreign minister say Assad cannot stay in power

PARIS (AA) – France called on Russia and the Syrian regime on Monday to halt “indiscriminate” military operations against civilians and end the blockade of the northwestern town of Madaya.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France would consult the UN Security Council to press the Syrian regime to end attacks.

“We discussed the absolute necessity for Syria and Russia to stop their military operations against civilian populations and in particular that the ordeal facing Madaya and all the besieged Syrian villages come to an end,” he told journalists during his annual January message.

According to the UN, almost 42,000 people – half of them children – are at risk of starvation in Madaya, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of capital Damascus. The town has been blockaded by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Hezbollah militants for nearly 200 days.

Fabius said images of starving children coming out of Madaya showed that Assad could not remain in power.

UN-sponsored negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the regime are expected to start on Jan. 25 in Geneva in a bid to end the conflict in which more than 250,000 people have been killed since 2011.

Before then, Fabius said, two issues needed to be resolved – an end to Russia and Assad’s “inhuman bombings and attacks” and the shape of a new government.

He added: “France calls for the immediate and effective end of sieges for all these cities, for unimpeded humanitarian access and to stop indiscriminate attacks against civilians.”

The Syrian opposition’s negotiations coordinator, Riyad Farid Hijab, met Fabius and President Francois Hollande on Monday.

“We want to negotiate but to do that the conditions have to be there,” he said as he left the meeting in Paris. “We cannot negotiate with the regime when there are foreign forces bombing the Syrian people.”

In a statement, Hollande said the Assad regime’s commitment to talks would be judged on the “termination of its indiscriminate bombing and its policy of starving whole cities, in clear violation of international law.”

Hollande said there was no future for Assad in Syria and called for immediate humanitarian aid to be allowed into besieged regions.

Last week the UN announced the regime had agreed to allow limited humanitarian aid into Madaya.

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