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France’s Hollande: Turkey needs to ramp up Islamic State fight

French President Francois Hollande welcomes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Elysee Palace in Paris

By John Irish and Marine Pennetier

French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday Turkey must do more to tackle Islamic State in Syria and urged it to restore dialogue with Kurdish groups after launching strikes against them more than a month ago.

Hollande delivered his annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors a day after the Turkish foreign minister told Reuters that Turkey and the United States would launch air operations to push Islamic State from a border area in northern Syria, something that could help prevent the militants bringing in fighters and arms in.

“All the players need to be part of the solution. I’m thinking of Gulf Arab states and Iran. I’m thinking of Turkey that needs to be involved in the fight against Islamic State and needs to relaunch dialogue with the Kurds.” Hollande said.

Turkey’s critics say it has used its role in the US-led coalition against Islamic State as a cover to attack Kurdish PKK fighters and stem Kurdish political and territorial ambitions. Ankara says it is conducting a “synchronised war on terror”.

Hollande reiterated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could not be part of his country’s future, but said there were signs that a political transition could be found.

France, which has taken part in air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq but not Syria, said there were no plans to change that policy.

“We will continue to help the Syrian opposition and participate in the coalition in Iraq ensuring it is more effective,” he said.

Hollande also said the deal reached with Iran over its nuclear programme opened a window of opportunity to include it in resolving regional crises such as Syria, where it is Assad’s primary backer.

“We must ask Iran to associate itself with the resolution of crises that are devastating the region,” Hollande said. “Iran must be a constructive player.”

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