France urges world should stop turn­ing a blind eye to Syria

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

FRANCE has ac­cused Syria and its al­lies of us­ing political un­cer­tainty in the United States to launch “to­tal war” against op­po­si­tion-held ar­eas in the coun­try and called for new sanc­tions on Bashar al-As­sad’s gov­ern­ment for the use of chem­i­cal weapons.

Mak­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions af­ter a weekly cab­i­net ses­sion on Wed­nes­day, Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s for­eign min­is­ter, said that coun­tries op­posed to the Syr­ian pres­i­dent would meet soon.

Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion as the new US pres­i­dent will not hap­pen un­til Jan­uary 20 next year and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion is not ex­pected to take an ac­tive role in Syria so close to leav­ing of­fice.

Euro­pean diplo­mats have ex­pressed con­cern that As­sad may feel em­bold­ened by Trump’s pledge to build closer ties with Rus­sia, Syria’s ally.

“To­day one mil­lion peo­ple are be­sieged, not just in Aleppo, but in Homs, Ghouta and Idlib, and that’s the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion in Syria,” Ayrault said in Paris.

He did not say what the planned meet­ing might achieve, but said pro­tect­ing Syr­ian civil­ians was an ur­gent pri­or­ity.

“France is tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to con­front this strat­egy of to­tal war by the regime and its al­lies, who are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the cur­rent un­cer­tainty in the United States.”

The pro­posed meet­ing of coun­tries op­posed to As­sad, in­clud­ing the US, Saudi Ara­bia and Turkey, will take place in the near future in Paris, Ayrault said.

France, a staunch backer of the anti-As­sad op­po­si­tion, is now ac­tively push­ing for a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion to sanc­tion Syria for the use of chem­i­cal weapons, he said.

An in­quiry by the United Na­tions and the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons has al­ready found that gov­ern­ment forces were re­spon­si­ble for three chlo­rine gas at­tacks and that the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIL) group had used mus­tard gas.

“It’s been proved that the regime and ISIL have used chem­i­cal weapons, so we now need sanc­tions and that’s the res­o­lu­tion we want at the UN. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must stop turn­ing a blind eye,” Ayrault said. “We aren’t go­ing to sit and do noth­ing.”

Rus­sia has said that the in­quiry’s find­ings can­not be used to take ac­tion at the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and that the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment, which de­nies us­ing chem­i­cal weapons, should in­ves­ti­gate the ac­cu­sa­tions.

Mean­while, on the ground, doc­tors and ac­tivists in Syria are call­ing on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to air­drop sup­plies in op­po­si­tion-held east­ern Aleppo.

They are also call­ing for a safe pas­sage for civil­ians, and want the UN to mon­i­tor it.

At least 13 peo­ple were killed in fight­ing in Aleppo on Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to res­cue work­ers.

They said they have been try­ing to re­cover the in­jured, but there are no hos­pi­tals left to take them to fol­low­ing Syr­ian gov­ern­ment’s lat­est as­sault on med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in op­po­si­tion-held ar­eas.

The UK-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said that dozens of civil­ians tried to flee the be­sieged parts of Aleppo on Wed­nes­day but were stopped from es­cap­ing be­cause of fight­ing.

On Tues­day, the Syr­ian army is­sued a state­ment ac­cus­ing op­po­si­tion fight­ers of hold­ing civil­ians as “hostages”.

“Per­mit those cit­i­zens who want to do so to leave, stop us­ing them as hostages and hu­man shields, clear the mines from the cross­ings iden­ti­fied by the state,” it said.

Anti-gov­ern­ment groups deny they are pre­vent­ing civil­ians from leav­ing and ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of spread­ing “rumours”.

The Syr­ian army — backed by al­lied forces from Iran, Rus­sia and the Le­banese group Hezbol­lah — launched a re­newed as­sault on east Aleppo on Novem­ber 15.

The of­fen­sive has killed at least 143 civil­ians in the city’s east, among them 19 chil­dren, and more than 375 in all of Aleppo prov­ince.

Op­po­si­tion fire has killed 16 civil­ians in the gov­ern­ment-held west, in­clud­ing 10 chil­dren.

The Syr­ian con­flict has killed an es­ti­mated 400 000 peo­ple since it be­gan in March 2011. — Al Jazeera.

Jean-Marc Ayrault

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