France pledges help for Syrian 'Revolutionary Councils'
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The French government repeated its commitment to provide humanitarian aid and cash for the provision of basic services in rebel-held areas of Syria, as representatives of elected “Revolutionary Councils” attended a Paris conference.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday reiterated France’s support for Syria’s opposition movement at a meeting with elected Syrian Revolutionary Councils to which Paris has been providing direct aid for several months.
At the Paris meeting -- attended by representatives of some 20 countries from the EU, the Arab League and the USA -- Fabius repeated the government’s commitment to recognise a provisional Syrian government as soon as one was formed.
“While we are waiting for this to happen, our aid for Syria’s civilians is being channelled through the Revolutionary Councils,” he added, referring to elected bodies that have been springing up in rebel-held towns “liberated” from regime control.
Two of these councils, from Atareb near Aleppo, and Maaret al-Numan, which has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent days, were represented at Wednesday’s meeting.
Fabius said that future financial and humanitarian aid to these councils, which has been ongoing for months, would help shape Syria’s future.
“France took the initiative to give concrete help to civilian populations in Syria,” he said. “We are providing resources so that industrial bakeries, for example, can get back into operation and that people have enough bread.”
The aid is also going towards basic public services, such as rubbish collection, keeping roads open and functioning, and setting up a police force.
‘After al-Assad has been removed’
“All this is being done through these elected Revolutionary Committees,” he added. “It is significant that our approach has generated a large amount of interest with the international community.”
“It is important work. Not only are we helping ordinary Syrians, but we are also helping them prepare the ground for how Syria will function after [Syrian President] Bashar-al Assad has been removed from power.”
According to Fabius, rebels now control “about half of Syria” in “patches like leopard spots”.
Fabius used the occasion to accuse the Syrian regime of using cluster bombs, banned under a convention signed by Damascus in 2008, against rebel targets.
On Sunday, a number of NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, reported the use of cluster-munitions at Maaret al-Numan, a town strategically placed between Damascus and Aleppo that the regime is desperate to win back.
The following day, the Syrian army denied it had any such weapons, blaming a “disinformation campaign” against the regime.
So far, France has refused repeated rebel requests for military aid to defend towns and villages in rebel hands from regime counterattacks, focusing firmly on humanitarian aid and financial support of civilian projects instead.