Military option in Syria still valid, says France
Paris, September 11, 2013
France said on Wednesday it remained determined to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over what it calls his use of chemical weapons if diplomacy fails, and a military strike was still possible amid UN rights reports stating that Syria war crimes had deepened in battle for territory
Paris put forward a draft UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday setting out the terms for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and warning of "serious consequences" if it resisted, something that Russia has indicated it would not support.
"France remains determined to punish the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad," government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told RFI radio. "The military option is indeed under consideration if the current diplomatic procedures fail. It is not a hypothetical threat."
Meanwhile, UN human rights investigators in their report released on Wednesday said Syrian government forces have massacred civilians, bombed hospitals and committed other war crimes in widespread attacks to recapture territory in recent months.
Opposition forces, including Islamist foreign fighters, too have committed war crimes including executions, hostage-taking and shelling civilian neighbourhoods, they said in their latest report, covering the period of May 15-July 15.
"The perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law. They do not fear accountability. Referral to justice is imperative, " said the UN commission of inquiry led by Brazilian Paulo Pinheiro.
Under the threat of US missile strikes and with roughly half of Syria controlled by rebels, the Assad government had yesterday accepted the proposal from its ally Russia to place its chemical weapons under international control, a move that could avert possible US-led military strikes.
France, one of Assad's fiercest critics, proposed its resolution a day after the surprise proposal by Russia.
It has declared itself ready to help in such strikes but has been left in limbo since the US decided to seek Congress approval before responding to an August 21 chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus which it says came from Syrian government troops.
Paris fears Moscow's move could be a ruse, prompting it to put forward its resolution quickly to set tough terms with consequences if Damascus failed to abide by them.
Speaking on France Inter radio, Russia's ambassador to France called the resolution a "trap" aimed at opening the door to a military intervention.
"We think this project was put forward in haste," Alexandre Orlov told France Inter radio. "We believe that the draft resolution should foresee a control mechanism and give instructions to the United Nations Secretary general and the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons."
He added that Moscow was sure the Syrian government was sincere in accepting the Russian proposal, but would be ready to consider stronger action, including sanctions, if Damascus did not keep its end of the bargain.
"For us Assad remains the leader of a sovereign state elected by his people. He has never been protected by Russia and we have no particular friendship with him," Orlov said.-Reuters