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Florence Parly; Sergei Lavrov

First French casualty in Syrian war theatre

A French special reconnaissance soldier was killed in a “combat-related” incident on Saturday in the Syrian war theatre. The French government confirmed his death despite the unit officially not being deployed to either Iraq or Syria.

Published: September 24, 2017, 10:22 am

    Paris

    The Syrian government has repeatedly accused forces of the international coalition of operating on its territory illegally, as none of its members including France have received the required approval by Syrian authorities.

    In a statement issued by Élysée Palace on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that that an “adjutant of the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment” was killed while “accomplishing his mission to defend our country, protect our fellow citizens and win the struggle against barbarism”.

    The soldier’s identity was not made public, nor the exact location where the paratrooper was killed.

    French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that he died “in a battle he led for us all, in the name of freedom and our values,” as cited by Franceinfo.

    The serviceman reportedly became the first casualty suffered by the French forces within Opération Chammal, launched in September 2014 in support of the Iraqi Army and Kurdish militias, French military sources told AFP.

    The US-led Operation Inherent Resolve, of which Chammal is a part, also confirmed the casualty, stating that “a French Coalition service member was killed in a combat-related incident in the Middle East [on] Sept[ember] 23.” The statement noted that the French government may reveal more details about the incident, but the French authorities were reluctant to reveal anything about the death.

    France’s policy towards the war in Syria has been more aggressive than any other western country. It was early in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. The western-backed anti-Assad opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, has France as its most supportive ally. Its leader, Khaled Khoja, is Turkish.

    The announcement of the paratrooper’s death is the first public acknowledgement by the French government that the French regiment, based in the southwestern commune of Martignas-sur-Jalle, was on active duty in Syria and Iraq, France-24 reported.

    Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said that coalition special forces operators will have to be withdrawn from Syria soon.

    The top Russian diplomat warned that they should leave Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Russian and Iranian forces, alone.

    “There is legitimate presence based on an invitation from official authorities, but there is illegitimate one, namely presence of the US-led coalition and special forces’ troops from a wide range of foreign countries who nobody has invited,” Lavrov told reporters Friday. “After terrorism is defeated, the first step should be the pullout of those who stay illegitimately in Syria.”

    The French air campaign was initiated by Rafale fighter jets, eight of which are stationed in the French airbase in Jordan, close to the Syrian border, and six in the United Arab Emirates (OAE), French daily Le Monde reported.

    Speaking of the circumstances of the serviceman’s death, Colonel Patrick Steiger, spokesman for the French Armed Forces General Staff, said that the lieutenant was an adviser to a “local force”. He was “fatally wounded” and died on the scene.

    Defending the decision to not give any details, Steiger told AFP, that it was made “so as not to reveal it to the enemy”.

    Moscow believes partition of Syria – a coalition goal – must be avoided at all costs as partition will advance chaos in the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference on Friday.

    “First of all, fight against terrorism must be ended, but it is also necessary to start thinking how to restore Syria’s unity,” the minister said. “No division must be allowed, a chain reaction will sweep the Middle Eat. This is what some would seek to achieve, those for whom it is advantageous to maintain constant chaos, a mess there,” he said at the news conference after a week of high-level meetings at the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly.

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