French Socialists furious over Sarkozy Syria statement
France’s Socialist government has reacted angrily to Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for “rapid international action” in Syria. The former president’s allies have accused President François Hollande of putting his holidays before the interests of the Syrian people, in contrast to Sarkozy’s action over past crises in Libya and Georgia.
“Inopportune and inelegant” was how Socialist Party international secretary Jean-Christophe Cambadélis described Sarkozy’s publication of a joint statement with Syrian National Council leader Abdel Basset Sayda after the two had held a 40-minute telephone conversation earlier this week.
Cambadélis accused the former president of undermining French diplomatic intervention in the Syrian crisis and hinted that he was courting publicity as his party, the UMP, prepares to select a new leader.
Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius and Socialist Party boss Martine Aubry angrily refuted Sarkozy’s comparison of the Syrian conflict with the events that led to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s downfall.
“The differences are so evident that no country has demanded nor desires a military intervention,” Fabius commented.
But Sarkozy loyalist and former minister Nadine Morano rushed to support him on Twitter.
“Hollande is on holiday and so is Sarkozy but he is still getting involved in the Syrian question as he did in 2008 for Georgia,” she tweeted, referring to Sarkozy’s high-profile intervention when Russia and Georgia came to blows over South Ossetia.
A previous Morano tweet, criticising Housing Minister Cécile Duflot for wearing jeans to a cebinet meeting, led to Duflot being whistled at by UMP MPs when she wore a floral dress in parliament.
“Hollande cannot do less than Sarkozy,” commented UMP national secretary Philippe Juvin. “France must intervene militarily to stop the massacres in Syria.”
But the two declared candidates for the party leadership, Jean-François Copé and François Fillon, have refrained from comment, as has former foreign affairs minister Alain Juppé.
Not so media-friendly philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy, who advised Sarkozy on the Libya dossier, accused the government of inertia.
“French diplomacy seems to be on holiday at the moment, lost in a summer torpor,” he told France Inter radio. “I’m glad Nicolas Sarkozy took the time to listen to this man.”
Several French newspapers pointed out tha, although the Syrian conflict erupted while Sarkozy was still in office, he did not call for military intervention at the time.