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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid