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.
In pictures: Syria conflict
In pictures: Syria conflict
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Syrians carry children amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl on a street covered with dust following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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Syrians react as they stand amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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An injured Syrian man walks out from the rubble of a destroyed building following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian woman makes her way through debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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People stand on the rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Al-Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo
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Syrian residents stand amid the rubble of destroyed buildings
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A Syrian resident grasps a mattress amid rubble in the al-Firdous neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo
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A bullet-riddled parking sign stands amid debris in a deserted street leading into the old city of Homs
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A general view shows abandoned buildings on a deserted square in the old city of Homs after Syrian government forces regained control of rebel-controlled areas
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A mosque is pictured through shattered glass in the old city of Homs, as rebel fighters withdrew from the city centre in line with a negotiated withdrawal deal with the government after having held out under tight siege for nearly two years
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Buses carrying Free Syrian Army fighters leaving Homs. Exhausted and worn out from a year-long siege, hundreds of Syrian rebels left their last remaining bastions in the heart of the central city of Homs under a cease-fire deal with government forces. The exit of some 1,200 fighters and civilians will mark a de facto end of the rebellion in the battered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar Assad's rule, earning it the nickname of "capital of the revolution"
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Syrian government forces hold up a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad (L) while others raise the national flag on top of a pole in the old city of Homs
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad run through Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr crossing after their release by rebels. They were freed as part of a larger deal which saw the last remaining Syrian rebels in central Homs city evacuate their positions and free captives in several locations in northern Syria
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A Syrian woman and two children walk past heavily damaged buildings in the northern city of Aleppo
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A man carries a wounded girl following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Mowasalat neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A wounded man sits as he is treated at a makeshift hospital following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Sakhour district of the northern city of Aleppo
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Debris rises in what Free Syrian Army fighters and Islamic rebels said was an operation to strike Al-Sahaba checkpoint, which is considered a gateway to Al-Dayf valley, and remove forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Maarat Al-Nouman, Idlib province
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Men try to put out fire at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Civil Defence members try to put out fire
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Survivors react at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Residents queue as they wait to receive food aid distributed by the UNRWA at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus
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Belongings of Syrian rebels inside a chapel at Crac des Chevaliers, the world's best preserved medieval Crusader castle in Syria. The village was destroyed in fighting between the government and rebel forces while the castle, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, also has been damaged over the past two years
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Hosen Sabah, a 16-year-old student is comforted by his mother at a hospital in Damascus. Nosen was wounded by a mortar outside his school, while 14 other students were killed and over 80 wounded
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A Free Syrian Army fighter works on a locally made launcher before firing it towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Mork town
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Syrian policemen and citizens inspecting the site of a car bomb at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus. According to Syria's Arab News Agency (SANA), a car bomb explosion has gone off in the countryside of Damascus and initial information say there are casualties, where a car rigged with explosions was remotely detonated at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus during engineering units it was trying to dismantled it
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Opposition fighters carrying a rocket launcher during clashes against government forces in the Sheikh Lutfi area, west of the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man helps a woman to make her way through debris following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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A Syrian man reacts as he carries the body of injured boy following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 33 civilians were killed in the attack
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Syrian rescue workers carry the body of a woman following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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Syrians gather at the site of reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
On Monday, the depth of the UK's involvement in the conflict was exposed after Prime Minster David Cameron revealed that two British citizens fighting for Isis in Syria were killed by RAF airstrikes last month.
The attack took place despite the fact that Mr Cameron did not have backing from Parliament.
Mr Kurz’s made the comments after French President Francois Hollande said on Monday reiterated his view that "Assad is responsible for the situation in Syria" and must leave power "at some point or another".
Highlighting the complexity of the situation, Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, mirrored Mr Kurz’s comments, and said on Monday that Mr Assad’s involvement in negotiations were necessary to end the war.
But Rami Abdulrahman from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Mr Assad's government, not Isis, was the biggest problem in Syria.
“How many Syrian children, how many people have died in strikes by the regime's barrel bombs? You want to include a criminal in this? The majority of people in Syria have been killed by the Assad regime,” he said.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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