France remains poised for military action in Syria
President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that France remains ready to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over what it calls use of chemical weapons if diplomacy fails.
"France will remain, in permanent contact with its partners, mobilised to punish the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and to deter them from using them again," a statement from Hollande's office read after meeting with foreign and defence ministers and senior military officials.
A day after US President Barack Obama called on congress to postpone voting on military action, a vote he was sure to lose, Hollande added that he was still determined to see through negotiations aimed at turning over Syria's chemical weapons to international monitors.
"The President of the Republic underlined France's determination to explore every avenue at the UN Security Council to allow, as quickly as possible, effective and verifiable control of the chemical weapons present in Syria,” the statement read.
Earlier a foreign ministry spokesman said Paris was ready to amend its UN Security Council resolution draft holding Syria responsible for its chemical weapons or face military action after Russia called the proposal 'unacceptable' yesterday.
"It is astonishing that the Russians are rejecting a document that they haven't even seen," spokesman Philip Lalliot told the French news agency AFP. "It is naturally our intention to discuss it with them."
The initial draft proposal, reviewed by Reuters news agency, stipulated that Syria discloses the entirety of its chemical weapons program within 15 days and immediately open all related sites to UN inspectors or face possible punitive measures.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also addressed the impasse in Syria in his annual state of the union speech before the European Parliament.
"The international community, with the United Nations at its centre, carries a collective responsibility to sanction these acts and to put an end to this conflict," Barroso told the 751-member house. "The proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons beyond use is potentially a positive development.”
He also reminded that the 28-member bloc has been the world's leading aid donor since the conflict began over two years ago, delivering almost 1.5 billion euros in aid.
UN investigators also listed Wednesday a breadth of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria, but offered no conclusion on the use of chemical weapons. The report’s findings do not extend past July 15, thereby excluding widespread claims of a chemical attack on August 21.
"On the evidence currently available, it was not possible to reach a finding about the chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrators," the author’s said in the latest report.
The UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria also added that it was clear that the majority of causalities resulted from “unlawful attacks using conventional weapons.”