Saturday

25th May 2019

France says Syria air strikes a possibility

  • Map of Syrian air defences leaked to US media last year (Photo: James L'Angelle)

French leader Francois Hollande has said military action in Syria is possible if the UN agrees, as EU countries expelled ambassadors.

He spoke on national TV on Tuesday (29 May) following UN confirmation that Syrian artillery and militia killed 108 people, including 49 children, in the village of Houla, in western Syria, on Friday.

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

"I heard Bernard Henry-Levy talk about a military intervention, which is not excluded provided it is carried out under the auspices of international law, namely via a [UN] Security Council resolution," Hollande said, referring to a French intellectual who also advocated air strikes on Libya last year.

Hollande's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, in an interview with the Le Monde newspaper the same day indicated that air strikes are the only option.

"No country is ready to envisage a ground operation," he said.

Fabius noted that Syria has a "strong" army. But the French military does not see any technical barriers.

Former French air force chief Jean Rannou told EUobserver in an interview last year: "I don't see any purely military problems. Syria has no defence against Western systems ... [But] it would be more risky than Libya."

Military analysts say Nato jets would use a British base in Cyprus to launch sorties against Syrian air-defences over the first 48 hours, followed by open-ended bombardment.

Syria has around 430 planes, but out of these just 60-or-so Russian-made MiG-29s are up to date. It also has Russian-made surface-to-air missiles - SA-17s - which might inflict casualties.

Hollande's statement is more hawkish than previous ones by EU countries, which went no further than saying international troops might guard humanitarian safe zones. But with China and Russia continuing to veto UN-level action, his statement is largely rhetorical.

One EU diplomat told this website on Tuesday that the UN veto is useful cover for Nato countries, including Turkey, many of which are unwilling to go to war or unsure how to handle Syria.

"It's interesting to see what would happen if China and Russia actually said: 'OK. Do what you want'," the contact noted.

Meanwhile, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK also on Tuesday expelled Syrian charges d'affaires and ambassadors in protest over Houla.

Belgium said three people - including the ambassador - have been declared persona non grata. The ambassador will stay around anyway because he is also accredited to the European External Action Service (EEAS).

An EU spokeswoman said there is no plan to cut him off, in line with EEAS policy of also keeping open its embassy in Damascus to keep information flowing.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  2. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  3. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  4. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  5. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  6. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll
  7. No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'
  8. EU sanctions regime cannot be an 'EU Magnitsky Act'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us