The West should work with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the fight to defeat Isis, Austria’s foreign minister has suggested.
Sebastian Kurz said that leaders must be “pragmatic", in a departure from the West's official approach to the conflict which is partly based on accusations that Mr Assad's regime has committed war crimes against its civilians.
The official operation against Isis has seen a US-led coalition target the extremist group in Syria without the involvement of Mr Assad's regime.
However, European diplomats have privately suggested that Mr Assad should be involved in the operation against Isis, which has claimed swathes of Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2014 to form its so-called Islamic State.
Highlighting the Syrian government’s alleged war crimes, which were outlined in an Amnesty International report published in May, Mr Kurz: "We need a pragmatic common approach in this respect including the involvement of Assad in the fight against Islamic State terror."
“One should not forget the crimes that Assad has committed, but also not forget the pragmatic view of the fact that in this fight we are on the same side” he told reports during a state visit to Iran, Syria’s ally.
However, Mr Kurz later distanced himself from his comments, and sought to clarify that he does not regard Mr Assad as part of a long-term solution to the civil war, but rather that he should be invited to take part in any immediate peace talks.
Since pro-democracy demonstrations descended into civil war 2011, around a quarter of a million people have died, and 11 million people have fled the nation.
As desperate refugees arrive on Europe’s shores and borders seeking shelter, leaders are under increasing pressure to resolve the conflict.
Nations including the US, UK and France have prioritised defeating Isis and leaving Assad’s leadership undisturbed, while maintaining the view that his treatment of his civilians has fuelled extremism.