Tuesday

26th Jul 2016

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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.

MEPs fear further 'Putinisation' of Turkey

MEPs criticised the harsh crackdown in Turkey after last week's failed coup, and warned that Ankara must not go down the road towards an authoritarian regime, in an extraordinary meeting of the EP's foreign affairs committee.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  2. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  3. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  4. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  8. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  9. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  10. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  11. Access NowEuropol Supports Encryption. We Can Relax Now… Right?
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels