'Acceptable opposition authority in Syria before delivering weapons' |
Kuwait News Agency - 29 August, 2012
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday said France would not deliver weapons to the Syrian insurgents without knowing who is getting those arms and without an acceptable, recognized, opposition, provisional government that "guarantees respect for communities" in Syria.
Speaking on "France Inter" radio here, Fabius also explained the complications linked with setting up "buffer zones" to protect refugees that have fled to areas held by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) but are coming under attack.
"We are delivering non-lethal equipment, but who are we delivering to?" the Foreign Minister queried in the interview.
He said France would not deliver weapons as "we must respect the European embargo" on arms deliveries to Syria.
Noting other countries were sending arms to the insurgency, he expressed caution because he said that experience showed these weapons could fall into the wrong hands, particularly radical groups, as had happened in Libya.
"We have to know who we are delivering to," he stressed, remarking that arms delivered to Libya were now ending up with radical groups like Al-Qaeda for in the Islamic Maghreb, operating in Mali.
Fabius also urged the Syrian opposition groups, notably the Syrian National Council (SNC), to "expand its environment and bring together the diverse (factions)" in the broader Syrian opposition.
France this week called on the opposition to form an "inclusive, representative, provisional government" that would be quickly recognised by Paris and, presumably, by the international community.
"We can't have a situation like Iraq ... with a non-regime" after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Fabius warned.
The provisional Syrian government must be able to "guarantee respect for the communities" in Syria, he added.
Fabius said the current situation was "horrifying" and that it was "the Assad Clan" and not the regime that was responsible for "the daily massacres".
"We are trying, with our partners, to do the maximum," he said, but warned that "no one has a magic wand." By his estimates, there are now 25,000 dead since March 2011 in Syria, with 250,000 wounded, two million displaced, and close to 300,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.
"We have to act on the humanitarian (situation)," he urged, noting this would be the focus of a UN Security Council meeting he will direct in New York on Thursday. France currently has the UN Security Council Presidency until September 1.
The refugees are causing "enormous problems" for Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, in particular, and more international efforts are going to be needed, he intimated.
"We want to move forward and bring down Bashar (Al-Assad) as quickly as possible and at the same time find humanitarian solutions," Fabius indicated.
He also pointed out that setting up "buffer zones" in Syria was "very complicated" and needed approval my many actors, including Turkey.
There are also logistical problems to be resolved even when the diplomatic hurdles have been passed.
The issue is to be raised at the UNSC meeting as part of humanitarian efforts to help protect refugees.
But he noted that there can be no "buffer zones" without protection and this would require a "no-fly zone" as was set up during the Libyan conflict.
"To ensure protection, there must be anti-aircraft and air resources," he said, which would imply also ground troops.
In an interview to be screened on Syrian State Television Wednesday, Bashar Al-Assad ruled out any notion of "buffer zones" as "unrealistic."