Wednesday

20th Mar 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. North Macedonia EU-membership talks set for June
  2. EU ups benefits rights for mobile workers
  3. Chinese leader visits Italy, France as Rome joins 'Silk Road'
  4. EU agrees to sanction political parties breaching data rules
  5. EPP votes Wednesday on future of Orban's party
  6. Nordic MEP candidates in first ever joint EU election debate
  7. Merkel: I will fight to the 'last hour' for orderly Brexit
  8. EU affairs ministers demand Brexit clarity from London

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  2. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  3. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  4. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  5. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'
  6. Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides
  7. My plan for defending rule of law in EU
  8. Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us