France sees possible U.N. deal on Syria next week

By @ibtimes on

France's foreign minister said on Wednesday he hoped U.N. Security Council members could produce a compromise resolution on Syria by next week and sought to allay Russian concerns by warning military intervention could lead to civil war.

France is pushing hard for adoption of a U.N. resolution condemning the Syrian government's crackdown on 11 months of protests and backing an Arab League peace plan that would see power transfer from President Bashar al-Assad.

We're trying to bring positions closer together and we hope that during the course of next week it will be possible to have a Security Council text that could ... avoid the veto, Alain Juppe said during a talk at a Paris university.

Russia has threatened to use its veto and Moscow's envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, says there is no chance the Western-Arab draft text could be accepted unless it explicitly rejects armed intervention in Syria.

Juppe, who returned from a Security Council meeting on Tuesday, said there had been a little progress in talks.

We are trying to create movement. The exchanges (at U.N. headquarters in New York) yesterday gave us some grounds for positive thinking. The Russian representative did not say 'niet' (no), he said.

Paris has been prominent in Western efforts to try to force Assad to end a crackdown on protests and has suggested a need to set up zones to protect civilians, the first proposal by a Western power for outside intervention on the ground.

France and Britain crafted the resolution in consultation with Qatar and Morocco, as well as Germany, Portugal and the United States. It is intended to supersede a Russian draft that Western delegations say is too accommodating to Assad and no longer relevant in light of the Arab League proposals.

The Arab draft is supported by at least 10 nations marking a major step forward from October when a Western-backed resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.

Juppe this week wrote to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to try to offer some guarantees over the new resolution and said Moscow was using last year's Libya resolution that led to intervention to oust Muammar Gaddafi as a pretext to defend its interests in Syria.

Russia says the West exploited fuzzy wording in a March 2011 U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya to turn a mandate to protect civilians in the North African country's uprising into a push to remove the government, backed by NATO air strikes.

There is nothing in this resolution that could be used to enable a military intervention because we know that the Security Council would not accept it and anyway the conditions are very different from in Libya, Juppe said.

Juppe put the number of deaths since the uprising began in Syria in March at 6,000. The escalating bloodshed prompted the Arab League to suspend the work of its monitoring mission and Arab foreign ministers, who have urged Assad to make way for a government of national unity, will discuss the crisis later this month.

A military intervention would risk setting off a civil war in which the consequences would be disastrous, Juppe said. For us (and) for the coalition of countries (that acted) in Libya there is no question of intervention ... that's what we are trying to get our Russian friends to see, he said.

(Reporting By John Irish; Writing by Brian Love and John Irish; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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