Friday 19 January 2018

EU wary of lending support to action

British PM David Cameron
British PM David Cameron
French President Francois Hollande

Adrian Croft

THEY came, they saw and they faltered. Even France, which backs military action to punish Syria for a deadly chemical weapons attack, found itself up against a brick wall in its attempt to rally support from its EU partners.

Where there might have been resolution and purpose, there was doubt and scepticism from governments wary of turning their backs on the United Nations.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius sought agreement from EU counterparts meeting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius that President Bashar al-Assad's government was responsible for an August 21 gas attack that the US says killed more than 1,400 people, a source close to Mr Fabius said.

But he was rebuffed by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and others who said countries contemplating action must await the findings of UN chemical weapons inspectors, which could take weeks.

After British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to win parliamentary backing for military strikes, France is the only major military power lining up behind US President Barack Obama.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to join the EU ministers in Vilnius later today.

"We believe that it is necessary to wait for the report of the UN chemical weapons experts before taking any further decisions," Mr Westerwelle said.

On arrival in Vilnius, Mr Fabius played down the UN inspectors' report, saying the inspectors had only been asked to look into whether it was a chemical attack, not who was responsible for it.

But French President Francois Hollande said later in Russia that France would await the conclusions before deciding on action.

Irish Independent

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