French President François Hollande will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow Thursday to discuss “efforts to combat terrorism,” the Kremlin press service said, in a statement Wednesday. The meeting is part of Hollande’s push to increase international cooperation to combat the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks in Paris earlier this month.
Additionally, the two leaders will “discuss a number of other current international issues too and will exchange views on the full range of bilateral relations,” the Kremlin press service said.
The meeting comes just days after Hollande met his American counterpart Barack Obama at the White House. Following the meeting, Hollande and Obama vowed to intensify the military offensive against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“This barbaric terrorist group -- ISIL, or Daesh -- and its murderous ideology pose a serious threat to all of us. It cannot be tolerated. It must be destroyed. And we must do it together,” Obama said Tuesday, at a joint press conference with Hollande.
However, Hollande’s initial calls to create an anti-ISIS coalition that would include Russia face a significant hurdle -- disagreement over Syrian President Bashar Assad’s political future. The issue is likely to be discussed during Hollande’s meeting with Putin, who has, so far, not backed down from his stated support for the Assad regime.
“We cannot imagine the Syrians getting together, gathering around the leader who is responsible for some -- the most of 300,000 dead in a few years. So a government of unity is required, but that must lead to Assad’s departure,” Hollande said, at the press conference. “Bashar al-Assad cannot be the future of Syria.”
The downing of a Russian jet by Turkey -- a NATO ally -- on Tuesday, which was followed by Moscow’s renewed bombardment of U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, has also complicated efforts to build a grand coalition against ISIS.
However, Alexander Orlov, the Russian ambassador to France, said Wednesday that if Turkey wants to join the international coalition against ISIS, “they are welcome.”
“We are prepared to plan strikes on the Islamic State organization’s positions together and create a joint staff with France, the U.S., with all the countries who want to be in this coalition,” Orlov told French radio Europe 1.