News / Middle East

France Raises Issue of Arming Syrian Rebels

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gives a news conference at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, October 23, 2012.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gives a news conference at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, October 23, 2012.
VOA News
France says it will bring up excluding defensive weapons from the current arms embargo on Syria in order to help rebels fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Coordinated plan

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview Thursday his country would work toward a coordinated plan for Syria with its European allies.

"For the moment, there is an embargo, so there are no arms being from the European side," he said. "The issue can be raised, it will no doubt be raised for defensive arms. And this is something that we can only do in coordination with the Europeans.''

Profiles of three leaders of newly-founded Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and Syrian Opposition:

Ahmad Maath Khatib

Khatib is the president of the coalition. He is a 52-year-old political activist and a former cleric at the Great Mosque of Damascus, Islam's fourth holiest site. Khatib is regarded as a religious moderate and a political independent, even after spending four years working for the government-owned oil company. Khatib has been jailed four times for taking part in demonstrations against President Bashar al-Asad. He fled for Cairo with his family in April.

Riad Seif

Syrian opposition members elected Seif as Khatib's deputy. He is 65-years-old and ran an Adidas sportswear store in Syria before Syrian authorities imprisoned him and forced him into bankruptcy for his pro-opposition activities. When Mr. Assad became president in 2000, Seif founded the Damascus Declaration, a movement calling for more liberalized political institutions. He also founded a political party to challenge the ruling Ba'ath Party. Seif fled to Amman last year.

Suhair Atassi

A human rights activist, Atassi is one of the few women among the opposition leadership. She runs the Jamal Atassi Forum, a Facebook group calling for political reforms and the restoration of the civil and constitutional rights suspended since 1963. Atassi has been frequently harassed and threatened by Syrian security forces who demand she shut down her forum.
France on Tuesday became the first Western power to recognize the newly formed coalition of Syrian opposition groups. French President Francois Hollande will meet leaders of the Syrian opposition coalition in Paris on Saturday.

The United States has declined to fully recognize the opposition coalition, saying the group must first prove its worth after its predecessor was dogged by feuding and accusations of Islamist domination.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the formation of the coalition, which supersedes the widely-discredited Syrian National Council, was an important step, but did not offer it full recognition or arms.

Assad reaction

Syria denounced the organization, which it said had closed the door to a negotiated solution with President Bashar al-Assad.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has also recognized the rebel group.

The fifth meeting of the Friends of the Syria will be held on November 30 in Tokyo. Japan will chair the meeting.

Gunfire from Syria struck near an Israeli military outpost in the Golan Heights early Thursday. The Israeli military said no one was injured by the incident.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

Timeline of Syria Unrest

 


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by: Anonymous
November 15, 2012 7:22 PM
It looks like its ALL IN by France. The incalculable mistake France is making should be avoided by the USA at ALL COSTS. We tried this in Afghanistan and FAILED in the long run, leaving the country in ruins and chaos.
In Response

by: Anonymous
November 29, 2012 2:25 PM
Libya is a disaster in progress, as it was in Afghanistan, similar in that, there were various armed groups vying for control fighting each other. Eventually becoming a haven for terrorists and their Islamic radical agendas to flourish.
In Response

by: Anonymous
November 15, 2012 10:28 PM
But it worked in Libya, no US servicemen killed, a direct hit on Ghadaffi, the same way Assad will eventually end his career. Hit em hard and fast.

by: john from: Accra
November 15, 2012 11:16 AM
This is no news. France, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already arming these terrorists.

by: Norman from: US
November 15, 2012 10:27 AM
France need to understand it lost colonizing Syria in the 20th century after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and it should stop recolonizing it under a different mask now. The efforts to replace a secular government with extremest has not paid off in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Why create more misery in the world? Have you forgotten the French Revolution? It was carried out against precisely the same type of government that will replace the current Syrian regime.

by: Lazerbenabba from: London, England
November 15, 2012 10:18 AM
I wonder how many recall that it was France that gave sanctuary to Khameni and then inflicted this murdering fanatic on an unsuspecting world. What do you think the consequences will be with a few thousand armed to the teeth fanatics. Yes, there is an element of genuine freedom fighters hoping to topple Assad and his self serving regime but as has occurred in the other so called Arab spring nations they have been usurped by the Islamic jhihadists. Whenever the Western democracies for all the right reasons help the Arabs the thanks has been a kick in the proverbials. I suggest we let them continue their own self determination as bloody and tragic that it always is.

by: Victor from: Geneva
November 15, 2012 9:49 AM
France is trying to arm Israel's foe; not a good move for the peace in the region.

by: Nikos Retsos from: Chicago, USA
November 15, 2012 8:18 AM
This issue -of arming the Syrian rebels- is certainly similar to the "Camel Putting her Head Under the Tent" in the Aesop fable. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, a former French prime minister, is a skilled politician who is testing the waters carefully before France starts the flow of arms to the Syrian rebels. France, the former colonial power of Lebanon, still has interests in the region, and it wants to maintain a high profile without antagonizing other competing powers. Hence the feeler given out by Mr. Fabius in hope of a consensus agreement which would take into account the concerns of other global powers - as well as of regional influential states like Turkey and Egypt.

This is obviously an attempt by France to put a different spin in the Syrian civil war that up to now has been a proxy war between Assad and Iran on one side, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar as full supporters of the Syrian rebels on the other side. There is no doubt that the heavy involvement of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar has turned the Syrian Arab Spring into a war between Sunnin Muslims and Shiites. France, therefore, has to tread carefully because democracy is not the only objective in Syria; there is a religious war among two Muslim sects there too, supported by Muslim states abhorent themselves to the idea of democracy. Nikos Retsos, retired professor

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