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Situation in Syria (August 28, 2013)

Syria (Q&A - Excerpt from the daily press briefing - 28.08.13)

Q : President Hollande announced yesterday that France would increase its military support for the Syrian National Coalition. What does he mean by that? If it involves arming the rebellion, what about concerns that the weapons could fall into the hands of extremists?

Our military support for the Syrian National Coalition will be strengthened “in accordance with our European commitments,” as outlined by President Hollande yesterday to the ambassadors.

The EU lifted the embargo on the supply of military equipment to the Syrian National Coalition on May 27, 2013.

Together with the other member states, we pledged to ensure that equipment would only be supplied to the Syrian National Coalition, in an effort to protect the civilian population, and to demand guarantees regarding the end users and the destination of the equipment in order to ensure that the process is closely monitored.

Syria – Chemical weapons (21.08.13)

France condemns the deadly attacks attributed to the Syrian regime on Wednesday, August 21, in the Damascus area, with a provisional toll that may exceed one hundred.

The perpetrators of these intolerable acts must be held accountable.

France also demands that full light be shed on the alleged use of chemical weapons in these attacks.

Syria – Egypt – Statement by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius following the European Union Foreign Affairs Council (21.08.13)

We examined two points today. First what happened in Damascus: France condemns the massacre in Damascus in the strongest possible terms and demands an immediate investigation. Allegations of the massive use of chemical weapons are exceptionally grave. There is a UN team in Damascus at the moment; the Syrian authorities must absolutely allow that team to do its job. That is France’s position. This very evening, I will meet with the president of the Syrian National Coalition who will, I’m sure, provide me with details on this chemical aspect, which is extremely serious.

That is, of course, an extremely important item. The other item we talked about was the situation in Egypt. The Europeans have taken a unanimous position—this is a very good thing—both to condemn the violence and to demand a political dialogue, because progress must be made as swiftly as possible toward new, inclusive elections. On the economic level, we have decided to continue our assistance to the Egyptian people, as the population is suffering enormously and it would be disastrous to withdraw aid, even if we reexamine our relations. On the military level, it was decided—and this is France’s position—to suspend all weapons deliveries that could be used internally and to reexamine our cooperation.

But the key points are the adoption of a unanimous European position, the affirmation of our principles, and at the same time, the resolve to maintain dialogue with the Egyptian people and their representatives, because we must get things moving while respecting Egyptian sovereignty. And we—in particular, we French—are longstanding friends of Egypt, are suffering from what is happening there, and want to do as much as we can to get things moving in a positive direction, although there remains a lot left to be done.

Q : If it is confirmed that chemical weapons were used, what will France and Europe’s reaction be?

A : It won’t simply be France’s reaction, I hope, but that of Europe as a whole and the international community. You know that these chemical weapons are condemned; a few countries in the world haven’t signed that condemnation, among them Bashar al-Assad[‘s Syria] and North Korea, which gives you an idea … but their use would be extremely serious. We know that the regime has chemical weapons, and so first, their use must be established. Thus the need for a swift UN investigation, since they’re on the ground. If their use is confirmed, there will not only be a very strong international condemnation, and certainly individual responses. These are things we’ve been following, not just alone but also with the British, the Americans, the Russians and others, for a long time. We cannot accept massacres, particularly involving the use of these extremely dangerous weapons—we’re talking about mustard gas, sarin, things that remind us of the horrors of the war. The last time gas of this type was used on a massive scale was during the Iraq war, by Saddam Hussein.


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