The presidents of France and Russia agreed Thursday to tighten cooperation in the fight against ISIS, although they remained at odds over their approach toward Syrian President Bashar Assad. ISIS has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks against both of the countries' citizens in recent weeks, and Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin agreed on increasing intelligence sharing, intensifying their airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, and cooperating on selecting targets. "We agreed on a very important issue: To strike the terrorists only, Daesh and the jihadi groups only, and not to strike the forces and the groups that are fighting against the terrorists," said Hollande, whose visit to Moscow was part of a diplomatic drive to increase cooperation in tackling ISIS.
But the two countries disagree about Assad, with Hollande saying he has no place in Syria's future, and Putin stressing that his fate "should be entirely in the hands of the Syrian people." He described Assad's army as a "natural ally" in the fight against ISIS, and added that Russia was ready to cooperate with other groups ready to fight ISIS. "We view the US-led coalition with respect and stand ready to cooperate with it," Putin said. "We believe that we would better create a single, united coalition as it would be easier, simpler and more efficient to coordinate our work that way." At the same time, he lashed out at the US over the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey, saying the US should have prevented its coalition ally Turkey from making such a move. He said that Russia will hold "serious consultations" with the US over the incident.