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Syria - Weapons (Q&A - Excerpt from the daily press briefing - March 29, 2013)

Q - Yesterday, President Hollande abruptly put the brakes on the possibility of providing weapons to Syrian rebels, arguing that it was hard to tell where they would end up. This statement seems to move away from the positions issued by the Foreign Ministry in recent weeks. Is France back-pedaling?

Should the need for knowing with “certainty” which Syrian opposition members would finally receive any French weapons be understood in light of the ongoing reticence of many of our European partners?

A - We have always underscored the importance of receiving guarantees on weapons shipments and assurances that they would not end up in the hands of either the regime or extremist groups.

As the Foreign Minister said the day before yesterday at the Sorbonne, “Obviously, if we were to provide weapons, we would need absolute guarantees that they would not be used against their suppliers. But this question has not yet been decided. We have until the end of May to discuss it with our European colleagues.”

Obtaining these guarantees is very complicated, given developments in the situation on the ground and the Syrian opposition’s recent problems with unity.

The discussions we had at the Gymnich meeting in Dublin, and that we are continuing to have with our European partners in Brussels, show there are still different approaches. We have until the end of May to find a position all 27 nations can agree with, because unanimity is required on this subject. The issue will be discussed at the next Foreign Affairs Council on April 22.

Meanwhile, in respect for the embargo, which allows for the delivery of non-lethal materiel and technical assistance, we will continue to help the Syrian opposition.

France’s objectives remain unchanged: There can only be a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and it is still out of reach. Such a solution can be envisioned only if things change on the ground. Lifting the arms embargo, if and only if the final recipients of such weapons can be fully guaranteed, may help unblock the situation.



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