War in Syria: Understanding France’s position


What are France’s priorities in Syria?…

What are France’s priorities in Syria?

“France’s priorities in Syria have been constant: finishing the fight against Daesh, enabling humanitarian assistance to civilian populations, and triggering collective momentum to bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict so that peace can return to Syria and to ensure the region’s stability”
Emmanuel Macron, 14 April 2018

France intends to continue its work in Syria according to four inextricably linked and complementary strategies to sustainably resolve the conflict:

1. Continue to fight terrorism alongside our partners from the International Coalition against Daesh.
2. Provide support, particularly humanitarian support, for civilian populations in need.
3. Promote a political resolution to the conflict, particularly by supporting the United Nations’ efforts, as it is the only solution that will sustainably put an end to the crisis and enable Syria to finally return to peace.
4. Fight impunity with regard to the crimes committed in Syria.

How is France continuing to fight terrorism in Syria?

The terrorist group Daesh has suffered major defeats from a military perspective, both in Syria and Iraq. However, the the terrorist organization remains a threat, as shown by the numerous sporadic actions carried out in recent months, particularly in the Dier Ez-Zor region.

This is why France is continuing to work resolutely to fight terrorism in Syria alongside its partners from the Global Coalition Against Daesh. This work includes first and foremost a military component, developed under Operation Chammal which is contributing to the international effort to retake territories held by Daesh.
France is also working to ensure that it guarantees long-term stability for the zones freed from Daesh by the coalition in order to avoid any resurgence from terrorist groups. It is therefore supporting several NGOs by financing projects working to improve local conditions as well as multilateral bodies that are active on the ground.

France is also providing its full support for the mechanisms to fight against impunity for Daesh put in place by the United Nations. It is a question of both justice and solidarity.

What support is France providing for civilian populations in difficulty?

The humanitarian situation in Syria has continued to get worse since the beginning of the conflict:

• Over 11 million Syrians, including 5 million children, need humanitarian assistance;
• 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Over half of the Syrian population has been forced to leave their homes and lives in extremely precarious conditions: 6.7 million are internally displaces - including nearly 3 million in the Idlib Governorate - and 5.6 million are refugees in neighbouring countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt). In Idlib, the regime offensive between December 2019 and March 2020 displaced nearly 1 million people. The unprecedented collapse of the Syrian currency in recent months has also led to a dramatic fall in purchasing power. Some 9.3 million Syrians are suffering from food insecurity.

As the conflict enters its tenth year, France announced new financial contributions at the Brussels III conference (March 2019) in order to:
• Respond to the humanitarian emergency in Syria,
• Support Syrian refugees,
• Help countries hosting Syrian refugees.

France’s financial effort for 2019-2021 will total over €1 billion for the Syrian populations in situations of humanitarian distress, refugees and host countries, particularly Lebanon and Jordan. It is composed of nearly €200 million in donations and €937 million of loans.

France is fully mobilized to respond to the emergency that the populations in Syria itself are facing, through bilateral assistance and within the framework of the European Union.

• At national level, the President of the French Republic decided in 2020 to renew an envelope of €50 million for the third consecutive year dedicated to helping the most vulnerable populations, essentially in the North West and North East of Syria.
• France is committed alongside its European partners. The European Union has set aside €170 million in humanitarian assistance for Syria in 2020. Part of this assistance will be used to respond to the health emergency, while contributing more widely to the resilience of the populations and bolstering medical infrastructure.
• Since the beginning of the crisis, France has encouraged its United Nations partners within international forums to achieve decisive resolutions to ensure humanitarian access in Syria which is vital for millions of individuals. However, the transportation of humanitarian assistance continues to be subject to unacceptable hindrances, particularly from the regime. This is why France sets store by preserving the cross-border aid transport mechanism which enables the Syrian populations, and particularly the 4 million inhabitants of Idlib, to benefit from international humanitarian assistance. Protecting humanitarian and medical workers is also a key component of France’s work in this context.

What strategy is France following to bring an end to the conflict?

For France, there can be no return to stability without a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians and enables them to live in peace in their country.

The international community agreed on a political framework to end the Syrian crisis with the adoption of the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and United Nations Security Council resolution 2254 of December 2015. It is within this framework that France supports the resumption of inter-Syrian negotiations in Geneva, under the auspices of the United Nations Special Envoy.

France’s goal is to create the conditions for a credible and inclusive political process. Through its efforts together will all of its partners working in Syria, France is encouraging the resumption of negotiations to facilitate an exit to the crisis. In this respect, and since the 2011 uprising, France has always provided support for the opposition which represents Syria in the negotiations. France also held discussions with regime sponsors to encourage them to become involved in the discussions in good faith. Lastly, France provides constant support for the efforts of the United Nations Special Envoy as regards the resumption of inter-Syrian discussions and the definition of a sustainable political solution.

How does France intend to respond to the war crimes committed by the Syrian regime and its use of chemical weapons?

Since 2011, Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has been guilty of repeated violations of the most fundamental rights, some of which may be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity. In response, France is committed to ensuring the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable in court.

The first step in our joint commitment to justice in Syria is to document the crimes committed and identify those responsible.

The creation of the International Independent Enquiry Mechanism on Syria by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 was an important step forward in identifying those responsible for these crimes by facilitating enquiries, particularly by preserving evidence and sharing expert data. France also supports work by certain Syrian NGOs to collect evidence on the ground.

The use of chemical weapons by the regime has been documented and is the subject of a specific instruction within the OPCW for which France has declared its full support. On 8 April 2020, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (ITT) published the conclusions of its report regarding the use of chemical weapons in Ltamenah on 24, 25 and 30 March 2017. This report establishes with certainty that the perpetrators of these attacks were part of units within the Syrian regime’s air force.

It is now up to members of the international community to take action, within the relevant multilateral forums, and to draw the necessary conclusions from this report. It is with this in mind that France initiated, in January 2018, the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. Some 40 States and the European Union are now members of the Partnership, which is an essential platform for coordination.

Last update: June 2020