TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - President Assad's government has faced militancy since March 2011, when governments opposed to him armed and financed some of his domestic political foes in an attempt to have him forcefully removed from power. Those armed factions were soon joined by an array of international terrorists pouring into the country to help oust Assad.
But the government in Damascus persevered as different factions of the society rallied around Assad in the face of an all-out militancy. Syria's allies, Iran and Russia, also offered advisory military help, and Moscow launched an aerial bombardment campaign against extremist groups in the country in September 2015 on a request from the Syrian government.
Speaking in an interview with France 24 television on Sunday, French President Macron said Assad would be staying in power because Iran and Russia had "won the war on the ground."
"Bashar al-Assad will be there. He will be there because he is protected by those who have won the war on the ground, whether it's Iran or Russia," Macron said.
Paris is opposed to the Assad government and has hoped to see him removed. And while it has on several occasions indicated that its number-one priority in Syria is not regime change — a stance Macron repeated in the Sunday interview — it had until now avoided explicitly admitting the reality on the ground in Syria.
Macron nevertheless called Assad "an enemy of the Syrian people" who "will have to respond to his crimes before his people, before the international courts."
The French president, who has sought a bigger role for France on the international scene, said his government would want to "build a political solution" to the crisis in Syria, including by bringing the government and opposition to the negotiating table.
He said he wanted 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."
"France's plan is to win peace, demine the country (Syria), to demilitarize it and build a political solution that will allow a durable peace — which means all minorities being protected, Christians, Shias, and Sunnis," Macron said.
This is while the Syrian government and opposition have already been negotiating, indirectly, in two separate processes.
A peace process for Syria has been ongoing under the auspices of the United Nations since 2012. Known as the Geneva process, the UN-led talks have failed to bring the crisis to a political end. Alternatively, Iran, Russia, and Turkey have since January 2017 been running a parallel peace process, in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, which has resulted in several ceasefires and significantly reduced fighting on the ground.
Meanwhile, a US-led coalition that includes France has been bombarding what it says are Daesh targets in Syria since September 2014. Macron said he saw victory emerge in that battle by February.
"I think that by the middle to the end of February, we will have won the war [against Daesh] in Syria."