Macron: ISIS will be crushed by February

French President predicts ISIS will be crushed in Syria by February, says there may be no choice but talk to Assad.

Ben Ariel ,

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron predicted on Sunday that the Islamic State (ISIS) group would be crushed in Syria by February, AFP reported.

He also called on the Syrian government and opposition to come together for fresh peace talks early next year.

"We have just won the war in Iraq with the coalition," Macron was quoted as having said in an interview with France 2 television.

"And I think that by the middle to the end of February, we will have won the war in Syria," he added.

Macron described Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as "an enemy of the Syrian people", but insisted, "We have to speak to Assad and his representatives."

France has several times changed its position on Assad since Macron took office. In July, the French president said that the removal of the Syrian president was not a "prerequisite" for peace in the war-torn country, and that he did not see a "legitimate successor" to Assad.

Later, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there should be a political transition in Syria that would not include Assad.

Despite this week's failure of the latest UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva, Macron said Sunday he wants to see "a process emerge at the start of next year with Assad's representatives, but I hope also representatives of all of the opposition."

He underlined that France's top priority as part of the U.S.-led coalition pounding ISIS is "the extermination" of the jihadist group rather than ousting Assad, which has been the country's official stance since June.

And the Syrian president will not be leaving any time soon after the defeat of ISIS, Macron said.

"Bashar Al-Assad will be there," he said. "He will be there because he is protected by those who have won the war on the ground, whether it's Iran or Russia."

However, at some point, Macron said, Assad "will have to respond to his crimes before his people, before the international courts."