France, Germany take aim at Syria


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

France, Germany take aim at Syria
by Amer Ouali
Fri Aug 25, 12:11 PM ET

France, supported by Germany, has severely 
criticised Syria for its role in the Middle East 
and Lebanon, saying it will have nothing to do 
with a government whose leadership "does not 
inspire confidence."

"Syria is an old country, an old civilization, a 
country that counts and which exists, which must 
be respected," French President Jacques Chirac 
told a news conference with German Chancellor 
Angela Merkel in Paris Friday.

But he added: "It is true that, currently, the 
behaviour of its leaders does not automatically 
inspire confidence."

The president said he agreed with Merkel's 
assessment that Damascus lacked "a constructive 
attitude" toward the UN resolution on Lebanon.

"Germany is not ready to have contacts at any 
level and under any conditions," Merkel said.

Damascus is accused of supplying Shiite militant 
group Hezbollah with arms across their common 
border. It has threatened to close the border if 
an international peacekeeping force is deployed 
along the frontier.

And last week Syrian President Bashar al-Assad 
described Israel as "an enemy", prompting German 
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to 
cancel a trip to Damascus.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy 
also hit out at Syria, saying Damascus should not 
be allowed to use the current crisis in the 
region as a way of sidestepping its credibility 

"Syria should not be allowed to re-enter the 
international community via the Israeli-Lebanon 
conflict and shy away from the enquiry" into the 
February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese 
prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

France, together with the United States, was the 
author of UN resolution 1559 which preceded the 
April 2005 withdrawal of the Syrian army from 
Lebanon and which called for the dismantling of 
militia groups operating within Lebanon.

"This is a country whose leaders have been 
singled out by the international commission of 
enquiry, which is the subject of a resolution 
agreed unanimously by the Security Council, 
number 1595, which aims to determine who exactly 
killed a certain number of political figures, 
well-known public figures, members of parliament 
and former prime minister Rafiq Hariri," 
Douste-Blazy said.

He added that Syria "plays an important role with 
regard to Hezbollah." Damascus is widely accused 
of funneling Iranian arms to the Shiite militia.

Syria denies any involvement or responsibility in 
Hariri's death but has come under intense 
international pressure to cooperate with the 

But not everyone agreed with the wisdom of shutting Syria out.

"It makes no sense to involve Syria" in attempts 
to end the crisis in the region, former 
ambassador and regional specialist Eric Rouleau 

Other European governments such as Spain have 
called for a dialogue with Damascus.

UN chief Kofi Annan was due to embark later this 
week on a major Middle East trip that will 
include stops in Lebanon and Israel --- and 
likely Syria and Iran.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.
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