French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday he could foresee Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad taking part in the fight to crush the Islamic State group, a statement welcomed by the regime in Damascus.
In order to fight IS, "there must be two measures: bombings... and ground troops who cannot be ours, but who should be of the (opposition) Free Syrian Army, Sunni Arab forces, and why not regime forces too," Fabius said in an interview with RTL radio.
Fabius later clarified his comments, telling AFP he meant that Syrian government troops could take part in the fight against IS "within the context of a political transition -- and only in this context".
Despite the attempt to modify his comments, they were seized upon by the Syrian government.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem seized on Fabius' proposal, saying it was "better late than never".
"If Fabius is serious about working with the Syrian army and dealing with the forces on the ground that are fighting Daesh, then we welcome that," Muallem said following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, using the Arabic name for IS.
Fabius has previously accused the Syrian leader of "butchering" his own people and has repeatedly said that "Assad and the terrorists are the different side of the same coin."
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But his words were also seen as further proof that France's position on Syria is shifting.
That process began when hundreds of thousands of migrants began flooding into Europe this summer, and the November 13 attacks on Paris by Islamic State gunmen that killed 130 people have accelerated the process.
As he made a whirlwind diplomatic tour this week seeking support to build a military coalition to crush IS, French President Francois Hollande has made clear that "France's real enemy in Syria is Daesh".
On Thursday, Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed after talks in Moscow to exchange information on IS and other rebel groups in a bid to improve their targeting of IS in Syria.
Putin said such a move would "unite our efforts against the common evil".
But deep divisions remain.
Hollande insisted again Thursday that Assad "has no place in the future of Syria", but Russia continues to give the Syrian president strong backing.
However, France and some other Western nations have lately softened their approach to Assad, suggesting he could at least be part of a transitional process to end a war that has left 250,000 people dead.