France seeks Arab backing for Syria intervention

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara, November 18, 2011

From Dina Zayed And John Irish, Reuters:  France will seek Arab support on Thursday for a humanitarian corridor in Syria, the first time a major power pushed for international intervention in the eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who first floated the proposal for humanitarian intervention on Wednesday, gave more details of the plan and said he would propose it to a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers gathering in Cairo to discuss Syria.

Iraq‘s foreign minister said Damascus had accepted a plan to send monitors to Syria, seen as a last-ditch attempt to avert Arab League sanctions. There was no immediate confirmation from Syria.

After months in which the international community has seemed determined to avoid any direct entanglement in a core Middle East country, the diplomatic consensus seems to be changing. . . .

Juppe said international monitors should be sent to protect civilians, with or without Assad’s permission. He insisted the proposal fell short of a military intervention, but acknowledged that humanitarian convoys would need armed protection.

"There are two possible ways: That the international community, Arab League and the United Nations can get the regime to allow these humanitarian corridors," he told French radio on Thursday. "But if that isn’t the case we’d have to look at other solutions … with international observers,"

Asked if humanitarian convoys would need military protection, he said: "Of course… by international observers, but there is no question of military intervention in Syria. . . ."

In a sign of Paris‘ growing frustration at events on the ground, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said France was particularly concerned with what was happening in the city of Homs, which has become a center of resistance against Assad.

"Information from several sources tell us that the situation in Homs is particularly worrying. It would appear to be under siege today, deprived of basic materials and experiencing a brutal repression," he said.

"A way must be found so that this city is supplied with humanitarian aid," he added. . . .

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said allies were watching the situation in Syria with great concern, but reiterated that the alliance had no intention to intervene in Syria as it had done in Libya.

"There’s been no request and there is no specific discussion about these proposals," she said in response to Juppe’s proposal.

She said the situation in Syria could not be compared with Libya, where NATO had a clear United Nations mandate for intervention and support from the Arab League.  (photo: Getty)

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