France: Russia, Syria Must End Military Operations Against Syrian Civilians

Laurent Fabius says images coming out of Madaya, where aid agencies warn of starvation, shows Assad could not remain in power.

Syrians wait for the arrival of an aid convoy in the besieged town of Madaya as part of a landmark six-month deal reached in September for an end to hostilities in those areas in exchange for humanitarian assistance, Madaya, Syria, January 11, 2016.

REUTERS - France's foreign minister said on Monday Syria and Russia must stop what he called military operations against civilians and in particular put an end to suffering in the besieged city of Madaya just two weeks before peace talks are scheduled.

Laurent Fabius said images coming out of Madaya, where aid agencies have warned of widespread starvation, showed President Bashar Assad could not remain in power. He said Paris would consult the UN Security Council to press Syria to end what he described as indiscriminate attacks.

"We discussed the absolute necessity that Syria and Russia end their military operations against civilians and in particular the ordeal in Madaya and other cities besieged by the regime," Fabius told reporters after meeting Syrian opposition coordinator Riad Hijab.

"It shows how much the Bashar Assad regime ... for moral and efficiency purposes cannot be the future of Syria and also at the same time that the Russians do not undertake such inadmissible actions."

Russia denies any targeting of civilians.

Aid convoys were due to simultaneously enter rebel-held Madaya, which has been blockaded for months by pro-government forces, and al Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, which are encircled by insurgents.

Fabius had earlier met Hijab, a former prime minister under Assad, who defected in 2012. He was elected in December as coordinator of the opposition negotiating body to lead future Syria talks.

The talks are scheduled to be held between the government and opposition on January 25 under the auspices of the United Nations. However, opposition officials have cast doubt on whether the talks will go ahead on schedule, citing a need to see goodwill measures from the government side."

"There must be two elements (to these talks). On the one hand the immediate end of bombardments and on the other hand that the agenda of these negotiations are sufficiently precise and there is no doubt in particular over who will govern."