PARIS — French President Francois Hollande hasn’t ruled out the “military option” against Syria, as US Secretary of State John Kerry flies to Paris for talks Monday on how to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile.
In a televised address Sunday night, Hollande said: “The military option must remain; otherwise there will be no pressure.”
France, which has been at the forefront of international diplomacy on Syria, firmly backs the rebels and has strategic and historic interests in the region. It urged military action after a chemical attack on August 21 that Paris and Washington blame on Bashar Assad’s government.
The diplomatic breakthrough, which has been seen to avert the threat of US military action against Syria, came Saturday after American and Russian diplomats in Geneva agreed on a plan for Syria’s chemical weapons. France wasn’t present.
Hollande, Kerry, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will meet in Paris Monday to agree on a draft UN resolution that would set out how Syria can secure and destroy its stockpile.
But Hollande said there needs to be sanctions to coerce the Syrian regime into sticking to turning over its chemical weapons.
“It is necessary to include the threat of sanctions if the agreement and the aims of the Security Council resolution aren’t carried out,” he said.
“The next step, it has to be finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” he added.
Speaking from Beijing on Sunday, Fabius said questions over the deal remained, including what measures should be taken if the Syrian government fails to adhere to it.
After being first drafted in Paris, the UN resolution will then travel to Moscow to be validated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia and China have consistently blocked resolutions at the UN Security Council aimed at sanctioning Assad’s regime.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the 2½-year-long Syrian conflict.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.