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SYRIA

Hollande salutes first British airstrikes in Syria

The French president has commended Britain’s first airstrikes in Syria after the UK parliament gave the green light late on Wednesday. The vote represents a major political boost for Hollande.

Hollande salutes first British airstrikes in Syria
Photo: AFP

Hollande would have been greatly relieved on Wednesday when British MPs voted largely in favour of airstrikes after a ten-hour debate in the House of Commons.

The French president has been trying to build a broad coalition to take on Isis in Syria and with Britain agreeing to join the fray, Hollande’s response to the Paris terror attacks was given more international backing.

“The President of the Republic salutes the first British air operations over Syria this morning after the yesterday’s vote obtained by a large majority in parliament,” read a statement from the Elysée.

“After the decision of the German Council of Ministers, which needs to be confirmed by the Bundestag, it [the British intervention] is a new response to the call for European solidarity that the president had launched on November 16th.

France had been desperate for UK involvement and while Cameron had pledged support in a visit to Paris, the French government was aware that a parliamentary vote may not go in their favour.

France’s defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian took the unusual step of making a direct appeal to French MPs by publishing an open plea in the Guardian newspaper.

Hollande did not want to go it alone in Syria and Britain's involvement is a huge boost – both symbolically and militarily.

SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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