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19th Oct 2020

France 'ready' to strike Syria despite British No vote

  • Hollande: 'There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

French President Francois Hollande has said he is ready to join the US in strikes on Syria after British MPs voted No.

Asked in an interview in the French daily Le Monde on Friday (30 August), the day after the UK decision, if he would take part in an attack without British help, he said: “Yes."

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He added: "Each country is sovereign in deciding whether or not to participate in an operation. That’s true for the UK as it is for France. I’ll be having a serious talk today with [US leader] Barack Obama.”

He noted: "There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction by the appropriate means. France is one of them. We are ready. We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies."

He also said: "All the options are on the table. France wants action that is proportional and firm against the Damascus regime."

He said earlier he believes that the Syrian government is guilty of killing hundreds of people on the outskirts of Damascus using chemical weapons last week.

Under French law, the President of the republic does not need parliament's backing to go to war.

Hollande's statement comes after British PM David Cameron on Thursday suffered a painful defeat in parliament.

Two hundred and eighty five MPs voted No to his resolution authorising force to protect Syrian civilians against 272 who voted Yes.

The decision does not rule our future UK military intervention.

But it has scuppered UK-US plans to quickly launch joint strikes.

Cameron said on British TV on Friday: "I think the American public, the American people and President Obama will understand."

He added: "I haven't spoken to him [Obama] since the debate and the vote but I would expect to speak to him over the next day or so. I don't think it's a question of having to apologise."

For its part, Germany on Friday confirmed it will not commit any forces to a Syria attack.

Its foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily that the US has not requested German participation and that "we do not envisage" taking part.

Germany has given political support for Western intervention despite not wanting to get involved.

Polish leader Donald Tusk also told press on Friday: "Poland is not planning participation in any type of intervention in Syria."

He noted: "Our experience from that region shows that despite having a good and justified reason to intervene there, it rarely brings peace."

With Italy earlier this week saying no one has the right to attack Syria without a UN mandate, the Syria chemical incident has created a glaring lack of unity among EU states.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted on Friday that he is "consulting further with my Nordic and Baltic FM [foreign minister] colleagues on Syria situation."

The next opportunity for all EU member states to discuss latest developments will be at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Vilnius next Friday.

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