PARIS (EJP) --- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius issued a rousing challenge to the Syrian leadership Monday, that should it use chemical or biological weapons against the international community “our response...would be massive and blistering”.
The French minister’s comments came on the 15th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention, an occasion heralded by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, “since it bans completely and without exception an entire category of weapons of mass destruction and requires the destruction of all chemical weapons under international verification”.
Speaking to French RMC radio, the Socialist minister pledged France’s unity with the US and the UK on the Syrian threat, insisting close allies of authoritarian Syrian leader Bashar al Assad Russia and China were also “of the same position” as their fellow major powers. However, notably neither country made statements in support of the western allies’ statement.
The US has previously echoed Israel’s remarks that Syrian use of its suspected chemical and biological weapons reserves would be a “red line” necessitating military action and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov recently declared that, despite Moscow having been criticised in the past for arming the Syrian regime, it would “work towards the goal of preventing such things from happening”.
China and Russia have repeatedly served as a thorn in the sides of the international community’s efforts to institute harsh sanctions on Syria, having vetoed US and Arab-back bills at the UN Security Council on numerous occasions.
France has taken a leading role in attempting to force the hand of Assad, insisting last month, at a joint press conference with his British counterpart William Hague, that the controversial leader and his “clan” should be held accountable for their crimes in their Eighteen-month long war against civilians “before the International Criminal Court and within Syrian jurisdiction”.
France held the presidency of the UN Security Council during August and as such, Fabius called a special meeting of members, insisting he “felt the humanitarian situation in Syria was serious enough to warrant the attention”.
Fabius added “the two countries were also determined to make clear that any use of chemical weapons was unacceptable and would call on the Secretary-General to make sure the United Nations investigation mechanism for allegations of the use of such weapons could be readily deployed”.
Israel has spoken frequently in recent months of its belief the Syrian regime is working closely with militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is accuses of acting as Iran’s proxy in perpetuating terror attacks against Israeli targets. In a meeting with Fabius in Brussels in July, ahead of the annual EU-Israel Association meeting, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that any attempt by the Syrian regime to arm Hezbollah “would be crossing a red line”, adding that in such a case “Israel would not restrain itself from acting forcefully”.
At a press conference following the council meeting, he added: “Israel is ready to intervene militarily if there is any indication that the Hezbollah organization is accessing chemical weapon in Syria.”
"In the moment we see that the Syrians transfer chemical and biological weapons to Hezbollah, this is a red line for us and from our point of view it‘s a clear casus belli. It will be a completely different ballgame and we hope for the understanding of the international community."
Lieberman was adamant that the possession of chemical weaponry by the Syrian regime was not just an Israeli concern, stressing “we have enough information about their desires and attempts to achieve chemical weapons and from our point of view, it’s a red line, it’s a clear threat”.
Meanwhile, Hezbllah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave a rare live interview to Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television station Monday, in which he insisted that whilst its military wing has no chemical weapons, it could still inflict great harm on Israel in case of a war. He added the group is in possession of missiles capable of targeting the Jewish State.
Whilst he claimed Hezbollah has no need of chemical or biological weapons, “there re targets in Israel that (if hit) can achieve the same results”. It is widely believed that Hezbollah’s close links to Iran, which is thought to fund and arm the organisation, could make a Hezbollah retalliation in the event of Israel striking Iran, a distinct possibility.
"What I heard from Iranian officials ... is that the retaliation will be huge, and Iran will not forgive a strike against its nuclear facilities," Nasrallah added. "The Zionist entity (Israel) will not be the only target. American bases in the region will be targets, too."