Friday

14th May 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us