France’s Juppe says Russia questioning Syria stance


France’s foreign minister, who held talks in Moscow last week, said yesterday there were signs Russia was beginning to question its Syrian stance after seeing President Bashar al-Assad continue a bloody crackdown on protesters.

Forces loyal to Assad shot dead 10 people on Tuesday in Hama, activists said, in the city where Assad’s father nearly 30 years ago sent in troops to crush an armed Islamist uprising.

Russia has opposed a French-led U.N. Security Council draft resolution, which condemns Assad’s government and urges it to adopt speedy change, but stops short of imposing sanctions or allow military action.

It has accused Western countries of exploiting the Security Council resolution that authorised limited military intervention in Libya and says it fears that could happen again in Syria.

Alain Juppe attempted to sway his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow last week, but said on Tuesday Russia was still threatening to use a veto against the resolution.
“I pointed out that there was nothing in it that resembles paragraph 4 (of the Libya resolution), but I still haven’t convinced him (Lavrov),” Juppe told the French parliament’s foreign affairs commission.
“Although Russia is starting to ask itself questions because it does seem to be in a certain way responsible for the complete inertia of the U.N. Security Council,” Juppe said.

France, unlike its European partners and the United States, says Assad has lost legitimacy to rule.
“I think the point of no return has been crossed and the ability for Assad to make reforms today is zero in view of what has happened,” Juppe said. “But to facilitate the emergence of a consensus at the U.N. Security Council we accepted to once again address Assad and to ask him to sign up to reforms.”

France has also failed to convince South Africa, India and Brazil to vote in favour, leaving the resolution short of the minimum 11 of 15 votes it feels it needs to submit the resolution and call Russia’s bluff.
“If we get 11 votes, then we will put the resolution forward so everybody faces their responsibilities,” he said.