Monday 19 March 2012

France holding the line on Syria in New York

Obama, Cameron and ping pong politics (AP photo)
The United States and United Kingdom are working in tandem on a UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria likely to placate Russia and China but infuriate France.
George Sassine, Paris correspondent for the Beirut daily al-Joumhouria, reports today that a Syria “breakthrough” at the Security Council is more likely “after Washington and London made a very significant (conciliatory) move toward Moscow and Beijing with the approval -- and on the insistence -- of both UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria. But Paris is holding out, with Foreign Minister Alain Juppé saying France is against an ‘inglorious’ compromise resolution simply addressing the issue of humanitarian aid.”
The current chairman of the UN Security Council is Britain’s permanent UN representative, Sir Mark Lyall Grant.
Sassine suggests U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed at their recent stateside bilateral summit to do absolutely nothing on Syria, sufficing with talk of “humanitarian aid,” “keeping pressure” and “tightening sanctions.”
He says the draft resolution being hammered out in the behind the scenes consultations at UN headquarters in New York focuses on supporting Annan’s troubleshooting mission and delivering humanitarian aid but omits mention of the Arab League’s Jan. 22 Syria peace roadmap calling for the transfer of power by Assad to his second-in-command.
Alain Juppé (AFP photo in Le Monde)
Sassine substantiates his report by quoting from Juppé’s March 16 Q&A with French daily Le Monde, where he says in part:
“The Arab League peace plan does not call on Assad to step down. It calls on him to stand aside  -- or, more precisely, to empower his vice-president to negotiate and kick start the transition. That’s the bottom line.
“I acknowledge the dilemma. Should one block a humanitarian resolution bereft of any political dimension at the risk of letting the carnage continue? Or should we accept an inglorious compromise at the risk of perpetuating the regime’s lifespan? (The choice) is extremely difficult. Hence the strong pressure by Ban Ki-moon, the British and the Americans at the UN to go that route.
“I have two red lines. I cannot accept putting the oppressor and the victims on the same footing. The initiative to cease hostilities should first come from the regime. The second (red line): we cannot settle for a humanitarian and ceasefire pronouncement. We absolutely need to refer to a political settlement based on the Arab League proposal.”