France to press for urgent meeting of Security Council

Tue, Jul 31, 2012, 01:00

FRANCE WILL call for an urgent UN Security Council meeting on Syria to try to end the diplomatic deadlock and prevent further loss of life.

With Paris due to assume the rotating presidency of the council tomorrow, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said urgent action was needed to bring the crisis under control and prepare for a political transition in Syria. In a sharpening of French rhetoric, he branded Syrian president Bashar al-Assad an “executioner”.

“We’re going to ask for a meeting of the security council, probably at ministerial level, before the end of this week,” Mr Fabius told RTL radio.

Russia and China have blocked western efforts to agree a tough security council resolution on Syria, and French president François Hollande has said he will try to use France’s chairmanship to convince them to put more pressure on Dr Assad.

“One cannot say that it’s a domestic matter,” Mr Fabius said, alluding to the non-interference argument made by China and Russia. The minister insisted France was not arming rebel forces in Syria, however. “Arms have been supplied to [the rebels], according to our information, by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, probably others . . . but not us,” he said.

Following a failed western attempt to get the council to threaten sanctions against Dr Assad, Saudi Arabia last week proposed a UN General Assembly resolution highlighting a Syrian government threat to use chemical weapons.

The general assembly cannot force legally binding sanctions, like the security council, but no country can veto any of its resolutions, which just need a majority.

A general assembly resolution passed in February brought the Syrian conflict back to the forefront of UN debate after Russia and China blocked two earlier security council resolutions.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry said Paris stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Arab states in efforts to secure a resolution.

“We are making every effort to get the international community to unite and mobilise its efforts with respect to the Syrian tragedy, in order to exert growing pressure on the Syrian authorities and make them agree to begin a political transition in Syria,” the spokesman said.

The Hollande government yesterday defended its handling of the Syrian crisis after former president Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly claimed Paris should be tougher on the regime in Damascus.

Rejecting the criticism, Mr Fabius said his only memory of Mr Sarkozy’s action on Syria was his having invited Dr Assad to Paris for Bastille Day in 2008.