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French MPs debate Syria military action

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-04

France’s parliament is holding an emergency debate Wednesday on taking military action against Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21.

The French parliament will hold an emergency debate on Wednesday over whether or not the country should take military action against Syria.

Arguments are likely to centre around the moral and legal grounds for military strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons to massacre thousands of Syrian civilians.

French President François Hollande has been one of the principal Western backers of an armed intervention in Syria.

However, the surprise decision by Barack Obama to seek approval from Congress before authorising military strikes against Assad has cast doubt on France’s own course of action.

On Tuesday, Hollande ruled out any chance of France taking unilateral military action against Syria.

If the US Congress votes against strikes, France will instead “take up its responsibilities” by providing support to the Syrian opposition in other ways, the French president said, without specifying exactly what this would entail.

French parliamentary vote 'still possible’

Report: Syria's parliament urges French MPs not to back strike

Hollande has also resisted calls from opposition politicians and the public to follow the US example and put the issue of military action in Syria before a parliamentary vote following Wednesday’s debate.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed the government’s position on Wednesday, claiming there would be little point in holding a vote in parliament while it is still unknown whether the US will be involved in strikes against Assad.

“A vote today would not make sense, as all the elements have not yet come together,” he told France Info radio a few hours ahead of the debate.

There is no requirement under France’s constitution for parliament to approve military action lasting less than four months.

However, Fabius refused to rule out a vote taking place at some point in the future.

“It's still open,” he said. “[A vote] is not required by the constitution (...) But yes, it's a possibility.

“Once the President has all the aspects of the decision in his hands … he will make his decision,” said Fabius.

According to a CSA poll for BFM television released on Tuesday, nearly three quarters of French people want any potential military intervention in Syria to be put before a parliamentary vote.

Nearly half of those polled (42 percent) said they were "firmly for" a vote, while 32 percent would "prefer" a vote.

Military action could ‘re-balance’ Syria conflict

Meanwhile, the French government has been seeking to build its case for military strikes ahead of Wednesday’s debate, with government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem saying Wednesday that the international community has an obligation to intervene after the alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus, which the US and France say was carried out by the Assad regime.

Vallaud-Belkacem told BFM-TV that military action could “re-balance'' the situation on the ground in Syria.

France has in the past been reluctant to carry out military action without first getting approval from the UN, and this is something that could prove a major sticking point during Wednesday’s debate.

So far, attempts to secure UN Security Council backing for military strikes against Syria have been blocked by China and Russia, the latter a particularly vocal supporter of the Assad regime.

In an interview with state-run Channel One television on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West that military action against the Syrian regime without UN support would be considered an "aggression".

Nevertheless, he added he did “not exclude” the possibility of Russia backing strikes if it could be conclusively proved that the Syrian regime had carried out chemical attacks.

In his interview with France Info Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Fabius admitted that Russian cooperation would be preferable for France and that the issue would be discussed at the G20 summit, which begins in Saint Petersburg on Thursday.

“We will discuss [the matter] with the Russians, because they are an important player in the region. Up until now they've been blocking things. If there's been an evolution, that would be very desirable,'' Fabius said.

Date created : 2013-09-04


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