News / Europe

European Nations Divided on Call for Action in Syria

France's President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during the annual Conference of Ambassadors in Paris, Aug. 27, 2013.
France's President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during the annual Conference of Ambassadors in Paris, Aug. 27, 2013.
Selah Hennessy
— France is ready to “punish” those who carried out an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria last week, the French president said Tuesday. But European nations are divided in their response to an escalating crisis in Syria.

Speaking at a conference with French ambassadors on Tuesday, Francois Hollande said France is ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents last week.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Aug. 27, 2013.Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Aug. 27, 2013.
x
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Aug. 27, 2013.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Aug. 27, 2013.
His comments came as Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron recalled parliament to debate Britain’s response. MPs will meet Thursday and are set to take a vote.

Cameron told reporters Tuesday that while no decision had yet been made about Britain's possible involvement in military action against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, any such military action should be specific and not lead to a wider Middle Eastern war.

"It's about chemical weapons," Cameron said. "Their use is wrong and the world should not stand idly by."

Since the beginning of the year, France and Britain have both been at the forefront of bids to lift a European arms embargo on Syrian rebels.
 
Former European Union diplomat Marc Pierini says, the two nations, as in recent overseas campaigns, would spearhead any European military action in Syria.

“If you take a very different case, which is the Mali operation in January, you can see that only a very few countries can bring significant contributions," he said. "So we are basically talking in Europe about Britain and France.”

But many British politicians have voiced skepticism over Britain taking military action. And elsewhere in Europe, politicians are more hesitant to wage a military campaign in Syria.

On Tuesday, Italy’s foreign minister Emma Bonino said italy would only support a military strike against Syria if it was authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

Germany, which has Europe’s largest economy, has said there should be “consequences” if the alleged chemical attack is proven. But Pierini says it is unlikely to get involved in any military campaign, especially in the run-up to a general election next month.

“Germany rarely intervenes outside its borders. ISAF in Afghanistan was the exception, but if you look at Libya or Mali, they did not intervene,” he said.

Last week, an alleged chemical weapons attack took place in a suburb of Damascus. According to the aid group Doctors Without Borders. more than 350 people were killed.
 
The Syrian authorities have denied responsibility for the attack, but the U.S., Britain, and France say they have little doubt that Syrian government forces carried it out.

But the three countries are unlikely to get support for military intervention at the U.N. Security Council, where Syria’s allies have repeatedly blocked moves to sanction the Syrian government.  

Paul Schulte is a weapons expert at King’s College London. He says there are historic precedents for international action without Security Council backing, including NATO’s 1999 intervention in Kosovo, which was made on humanitarian grounds.

He says having the support of NATO gave that intervention legitimacy.

“You have the moral legitimacy of an entire alliance, which was an accepted leading regional security organization for Europe, saying we are going to do this. That would be politically desirable - if we could reach a similar dissemination in the case of NATO. I’m not sure we can,” he said.

He says NATO’s response in Syria is unlikely to be as united. Some European countries, he says, feels the Syrian conflict is not their responsibility and will not want to take action without unanimous Security Council’s support. 

“It’s going to be messy, and the term which is coming up is the 'coalition of the few', which would presumably be the U.S., the UK, France, maybe Turkey and maybe other allies who are not in NATO but are sympathetic, like Jordan, Saudi, and the Gulf States,” said Schulte.

Syria’s main ally, Russia, said Monday that military intervention in Syria without the approval of the United Nations would be a “grave violation of international law.”

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid