Tuesday

12th Nov 2019

France recognises Syrian council, proposes military intervention

  • James L'Angelle, a pro-SNC activist based in the US, recently published a map of Syria's air defences on his blog (Photo: James L'Angelle)

In a direct echo of previous events in Libya, France has formally recoginsed the opposition Syrian National Council and proposed that international troops should protect civilians.

French foreign minister Alain Juppe signalled the change in policy at a high-profile meeting with SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun in Paris on Wednesday (23 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The Syrian National Council is the legitimate interlocutor with which we will continue to work," Juppe told press.

He noted that a Libya-type no-fly zone is "not on the agenda" because "an armed reaction could provoke a real civil war."

But he indicated international troops could be used to create safe zones for civilians and aid workers: "We will ask our European partners about the possibility of launching humanitarian operations to alleviate the suffering of the population ... Should we create humanitarian corridors, or humanitarian zones?"

Commenting on the development, Ghalioun said: "We cannot have greater, more important recognition than what the minister just said ... We have been recognised."

Previously cited obstacles to military action in Syria were the lack of a UN mandate, lack of Arab support for outside intervention and tactical problems. But the obstacles are beginning to melt away.

The UN General Assembly on Monday gave Western countries a political mandate for action by passing a resolution which called on Syrian authorities to "protect their population." The resolution went through by 122 votes against 13 with 41 abstentions, not one of them an Arab country. "It's now a new game: the Arab region has spoken," German UN ambassador Peter Wittig said.

In terms of tactics, the creation of a secure "humanitarian zone" fits with French military thinking on how to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad.

SNC member Muhammed Tayfur is already in talks with Turkey on a secure zone 8km inside Syrian territory which would effectively give the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the opposition, a safe base of operations.

A source in the French military told EUobserver: "There is no will to go for a no-fly zone or buffer zone. It's impossible to reproduce Libya in Syria, because of terrain which would make an air operation very difficult. But, the exact words I heard [from colleagues] were: 'If the Syrian rebels manage to hold a position (a bit like Benghazi in Libya) all cards are on the table'."

For his part, former French air force chief Jean Rannou earlier told this website: "I don't see any purely military problems [for intervention]. Syria has no defence against Western systems."

In a sign the EU is keen to stimulate an end-game in Syria, diplomats this week also agreed to drastically ramp up economic sanctions.

The new package - according to Reuters - is to include a ban on investment in Syrian sovereign bonds, a ban on private-sector bank loans and a ban on trading Syrian gold.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday echoed the Juppe line.

"The EU stands ready to engage with the Syrian National Council ... Protection of civilians in Syria is an increasingly urgent and important aspect of responding to the events in the country," her spokesman said after she met with a US-based SNC spokesman, Radwan Ziadeh, in Brussels.

Prominent MEP Guy Verhofstadt after a separate meeting with Ziadeh in the EU capital said the Union should: "Examine the possibility of a no-fly zone on the border with Turkey to safeguard civilians in that region."

France calls Libya victory summit, warns Syria

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called a high-level meeting on Libya's post-Gaddafi future and promised support - but no military action - for opposition forces in Syria.

EU unready for Iran oil ban, Syria intervention

Crisis-hit Greece has said 'No' to an EU oil ban on Iran, causing relief among other member states. France, the most hawkish EU country on the Middle East, has also toned down ideas for outside intervention in Syria.

News in Brief

  1. Three new commissioner-designates pass legal scrutiny
  2. ECJ: EU countries must label Israeli settlement products
  3. Belgian asylum centre set on fire
  4. Xi Jingping in Athens promises new investment
  5. Farage's Brexit Party will not stand in Tory-held seats
  6. British founder of Syrian 'White Helmets' found dead
  7. Eight member states ask for EU aviation tax
  8. EU allocates €55m humanitarian aid to Sudan

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. New commissioners clear 'conflict of interests' hurdle
  2. Israeli labelling ruling lets consumers make choice
  3. What does Macron really want on Western Balkans?
  4. Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority
  5. EU 'climate bank' won't rule out carbon capture
  6. New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK
  7. Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark
  8. MEPs slam Commission over common charger delay

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us