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  Politics
Syrian forces'' advance must be stopped before Aleppo -- Fabius
12/06/2013   |   11:56 AM | World News
تصغير الخطالشكل الأساسيتكبير الخط
PARIS, June 12 (KUNA) -- France's Chief Diplomat Laurent Fabius warned here on Wednesday that "a rebalancing" of military strength is needed on the ground in Syria in order to prevent forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad from capturing the northern city of Aleppo.
After overrunning the strategic town of Qusayr, Fabius said Aleppo is "the next target." He said on "France 2" Television that Lebanese militia Hezbollah and the Iranians had played a strong role in taking back large swaths of rebel-held territory these past weeks.
"We have to be able to stop this advance before Aleppo. This is the next target, that of Hezbollah and the Iranians. We have to stop it because if we don't have a rebalancing on the ground there will be no peace conference in Geneva," the Foreign Minister said, warning "the opposition will not accept to come." Fabius stressed that "we must stop Bashar's troops and move towards a political conference (Geneva II) in July.
He again urged that arms be given to opposition forces which have been under severe pressure around Qusayr and indeed lost that important town last week after Hezbollah units from Lebanon joined Syrian regime forces to battle insurgents.
Diplomatic sources close to the Syrian file here also said that Iranian "advisors" and possibly fighters were among the Al-Assad forces.
"In order that the soldiers in the resistance are able to defend themselves, they must have weapons ... Bashar has more than 500 planes, he has powerful canons, he has used chemical weapons in a scandalous way," Fabius explained.
The EU at the end of May decided to lift an embargo on weapons deliveries to the opposition forces in Syria, but there is an agreed yet shaky moratorium on actually delivering weapons until after August 1. There is some pressure to break this moratorium and some argue it is not legally binding, but doing so might prove politically complicated in the 27-nation EU which requires unanimity in such areas.
"We are respecting the EU rule that says only after August 1 can powerful weapons be given. For the moment, we haven't yet decided," Fabius said.
He revealed that he had spoken Tuesday with US Secretary-of-State John Kerry and was informed the Americans "are in the process of examining their own position" and there are divergences in the US over how much to get involved in Syria or even whether to get involved at all.
Fabius argued against any US "isolationist stance," warning that the conflict in Syria was spreading and did not just affect that country.
"The conflict is no longer just local. It is a regional, even an international conflict. Jordan is affected, Lebanon is affected, Turkey is affected, Iraq is affected. In Syria it is a disaster and this can have repercussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so nobody can say it is not my business," an allusion to some US views on staying away from the issue.
Even more complicated, Fabius affirmed, is the evolution of the Syrian conflict into "a sectarian or religious conflict" which could spread and threaten the whole region.
Furthermore, he warned that it was vital to stop Iranian ambitions in the area. Iran is one of the main supporters of the Al-Assad regime and Hezbollah militants and fighters depend heavily on support from Tehran.
"Behind the Syrian affair, obviously is the Iranian question. Is Iran next year going to be able to have a nuclear weapon or not? If we are not capable of preventing Iran from getting a grip on Syria, what sort of credibility will be have in stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Everything is linked," the Foreign Minister explained.
While Syria's ally, Russia, wants Iran to take part in the Geneva II conference, France is staunchly opposed to Iran getting a seat at the negotiating table. (end) jk.rk KUNA 121156 Jun 13NNNN
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