|President François Hollande addressing French ambassadors yesterday|
Will the Syrian opposition have the wisdom to close ranks and take up the baton from French President François Hollande?
I exhort them to do so at all costs and without delay or hem and haw. They would instantly trump the Syrian regime and be recognized by a world power and permanent member of the UN Security Council as sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Here is what Hollande said yesterday in reference to the Syria crisis during an annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors, his first as president:
…The second challenge is the Syria crisis.
The principle is simple: Bashar al-Assad must go. There is no political solution with him. He is a threat. He continues, with unprecedented violence, to massacre people, destroy cities and cause the death of women and children. We had further proof of that in the last few days. This is unbearable to the human conscience and unacceptable as regards security and stability in the region. The International Criminal Court should be seized of the matter so that those responsible for these atrocities could be judged one day.
I want to be clear: France assumes all her responsibilities and spares no effort to ensure the Syrian people attain their freedom and security.
To achieve this, we have to overcome hurdles at the Security Council; our foreign affairs minister is working on that. We will have another go because the Syria crisis is a threat to everyone, chiefly to Syria’s neighbors. We will keep up as much as necessary the pressure and persuasion at the Security Council to arrive at an international community consensus. But for now, we must act.
First, we have to intensify efforts to ensure the political transition takes place as soon as possible. In this context, France asks the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government — inclusive and representative — that can become the legitimate representative of the new Syria. We urge our Arab partners to quicken this step and France will recognize the provisional government of the new Syria once it is formed.
Furthermore, and without holding back, we provide strong support to those striving on the ground for a free and democratic Syria that upholds the security of all its communities. We mainly help those setting up liberated areas on Syrian territory. We’re working on the buffer zones proposed by Turkey. We are doing so in tandem with our closest partners. Lastly, and I say so in all seriousness, we remain – together with our allies – very much on our guard to prevent the use of chemical weapons by the regime, which would provide legitimate cause for direct intervention by the international community.
I am aware of the difficulty of the task and I assess the risks but the stakes are greater than Syria – they concern the overall security of the Middle East, and particularly Lebanon’s independence and stability.
Want to know Washington’s reaction to President Hollande’s speech?
Some dilly-dallying at yesterday’s State Department press briefing, where spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked:
QUESTION: Well, I was going to ask about – the French President has called on the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government, and he said that France would recognize that provisional government. I wonder if the U.S. has a position on that? Would you support that move, and do you think it’s a viable endeavor at the moment?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have been working with the Syrian opposition for some time as it’s worked through its own code of conduct and its own planning for a transitional government. We have been encouraging the opposition to begin thinking – both the opposition outside Syria, the opposition inside Syria – about the plan that it put forward on July 3rd, and if that were to be implemented, who it might want to have in its transitional government.
But as you know, they are continuing to confer among themselves. What’s most important is that, moving forward, the Syrian opposition outside Syria and the Syrian opposition inside Syria coordinate and collaborate both in terms of the kind of Syria that they want to see -– this code of conduct -– but also in terms of the transitional structures that they would support and the emerging leaders that they see. But those conversations continue with Syrians inside and outside.
French President François Hollande’s speech came as Syrian activists continued the body count in Darayya, a township on the outskirts of Damascus, where government troops killed hundreds over the last week.
The activists have now put the Darayya death toll at 384. They posted a log on the internet showing the full names and ages of the civilians killed from three days of heavy shelling culminating in a ground attack last Saturday, when Syrian government troops and allied militiamen went from door to door summarily executing men, women and children.
Going through the log, I counted among the dead 41 females, ten infants and 12 boys and girls aged between three and 18 years.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky yesterday said, “The secretary-general is certainly shocked by those reports and he strongly condemns this appalling and brutal crime… This needs to be investigated immediately, in an independent and impartial fashion.”