Situation in Syria (Q&A - Excerpt from the daily press briefing - November 6, 2012)

Do you have any comment regarding the meeting of the Syrian opposition in Doha?

What is your reaction to the statement made by the head of the SNC today indicating that the whole world – and I quote – has agreed to do nothing in Syria? What is the international community expecting? Is the goal to break up Syria? What is your response to the plans to establish what’s being called the Syrian National Initiative put forward by Riad Seif?

Your question relates to the meetings that have been taking place in Doha since November 4. We support this process to organize and unify the Syrian opposition. The meeting taking place in Doha at the moment is a step in the right direction. We’ve been in frequent contact with all the various components of the Syrian opposition for several months. We’re also in contact with the civil governance structures within Syria to whom we’re providing material support.

The objective reaffirmed by President Hollande – which he reiterated in Saudi Arabia on Sunday – is the formation of an inclusive interim government that represents all components of Syrian society and which respects the rights of all communities. The president said that he would recognize such a government when it is formed.

As a whole we support the efforts made in Doha by the various components of the Syrian opposition to organize themselves and unite and, in this way, respond to the aspirations of the Syrian people.

Do you have any response to the comments made by the head of the SNC? “The international community is doing nothing and is leaving the Syrians to fend for themselves in the face of the regime’s violence.”

France is fully mobilized. Moreover, we often take the lead with respect to most actions notably at the Security Council but you can see that there’s continuous deadlock within this forum. We’re trying to take action at the UN General Assembly and several resolutions have been adopted with our Arab League and international partners.

We’re taking action with the EU. More than 18 sets of measures to increase pressure on the Syrian regime.

Fourthly, we’re taking action at the Human Rights Council.

And fifth, I told you about our support for the opposition, our support for the local governance councils that have established themselves in Syria. So there’s a whole range of measures that we’re taking to support the Syrian people’s demands.

There was a meeting yesterday in Cairo between Mr. Brahimi, the Secretary-General of the Arab League and Mr. Lavrov regarding the support in Geneva. What’s your position in this respect since the Russians want to see swift action while the Arabs and Brahimi are demanding that the Geneva plan be put to a vote at the Security Council?

Firstly, let’s not forget what Geneva is all about. It relates to a meeting organized on June 30 by Mr. Kofi Annan who was the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League. The participants in this meeting included not just the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council but also Iraq, which chaired the Arab League summit, Turkey, Qatar, which was Chair of the Arab League’s Follow-up Committee on Syria, Kuwait, which was Chair of the Arab League’s Council of Foreign Ministers, Catherine Ashton, the UN Secretary-General and the Arab League Secretary-General. It was therefore a meeting that involved very important actors.

With respect to the arrangements for the political transition, an agreement was reached in Geneva on the establishment of – and I quote – “a transitional governing body which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place.” The agreement also indicates that this government will be formed “on the basis of mutual consent,” i.e. that all parties must agree with this government that could be formed.

As you can see, Bashar al-Assad’s participation would be impossible since we clearly can’t reach a consensus on his participation.

The agreement never says that Assad had to participate. […]

The final declaration says that the government will be formed on the basis of mutual consent.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions.