23rd Mar 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

EU summit takes hard look at Russia

EU leaders will discuss Russian security threats in the wake of the UK attack, but will not adopt new sanctions at Thursday's summit.


Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

News in Brief

  1. EU will be exempted from tariffs, says US minister
  2. Malmstroem: EU 'hopes' for US tariffs exemption
  3. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says
  4. Italy's centre-right set to share top posts with 5-star movement
  5. Brussels condemns tear gas in Kosovo parliament
  6. Finland pays billionaire €400,000 in EU farm subsidies
  7. 44 leaders sign up for Africa free trade area deal
  8. British 'blue' passports to be made in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  2. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  3. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  4. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  5. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  6. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  7. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  8. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions