Western officials prioritize fight against ISIS over removing Assad

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R), Islamic State's (ISIS) militants (L). File photo.

ARA News

Top Western officials have emphasized that fighting and eliminating the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group is a priority in Syria, instead of seeking President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. Western leaders also stressed that the fight against ISIS in Raqqa should be accelerated.

In a joint press conference, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in London said that for the West removing the ISIS threat is more important.

“And I would say on the Assad issue, we’re working this one — one day at a time as we throw Daesh [ISIS] on the back foot,” US Defence Secretary Mattis said. “You’re all aware that Daesh has every intention of striking externally from the region, and that’s immediate threat goes into Europe and we’re going to have to keep them on their back foot and that’s where we’re concentrating at this point,” he said.

UK Defence Secretary Fallon agreed, saying the fight against ISIS is more important.

“The priority, of course, as Jim Mattis has said, is to eliminate the threat from Daesh to us here in western Europe, which is why it’s so important the campaign to isolate and then liberate Raqqa continues its momentum,” he said.

Regarding Assad, Minister Fallon said: “We don’t see a long-term future in Syria for somebody who’s been bombing his own civilians. On the contrary, what we seek in Syria is a wider political settlement that could embrace all factions in Syria and lead Syria to a better and hopefully more democratic future.”

Recently, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led coalition against ISIS, liberated over 150 square kilometers near Tabqa town in Raqqa Governorate, including the strategic Tabqa Airport.

“In Tabqa, over the last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces have made significant gains of liberating more than 150 square kilometers since the start of the operation,” the US-led coalition’s Col. Joe Scrocca, CJTF-OIR Director of Public Affairs, said in a public statement.

“After their daring air assault last week, the SDF secured their landing zones, established a water lock to reinforce themselves with fighters and equipment across the lake, seized the Tabqa airfield and the main supply route for the south of Euphrates, and are currently poised to liberate the town of Tabqa,” he said.

“On the north end of the dam, SDF forces continue to engage ISIS positions on the causeway and destroy defensive obstacles. On Tuesday, a temporary ceasefire allowed volunteers to inspect the dam. Their determination was that the dam is in no imminent danger,” he said.

“Additionally, yesterday, the SDF was able to open a floodgate to relieve pressure on the dam until qualified engineers are able to manage it again. The coalition will continue to safeguard this vital resource for the people of Syria while assisting our partners eliminate the real threat to the people of Syria: ISIS,” the coalition’s Colonel Scrocca concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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