France outlines Syria humanitarian corridor proposal

PARIS Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:15am EST

PARIS Nov 24 (Reuters) - France outlined a proposal on Thursday for a humanitarian corridor to be put in place in Syria, and said the zone could be protected by armed "observers" but ruled out direct military intervention in Syria's unrest.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the zone could be carved out either with the approval of President Bashar al-Assad's government or organised by international observers.

Juppe met the head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) in Paris on Wednesday and said he would propose ways to help civilians in Syria to the European Union next week.

"There are two possible ways: That the international community, Arab League and the United Nations can get the regime to allow these humanitarian corridors, but if that isn't the case we'd have to look at other solutions ... with international observers," Juppe told France Inter radio.

Juppe ruled out military intervention, but when asked whether humanitarian convoys would need military protection he said:

"Of course ... by international observers, but there is no question of a military intervention in Syria," he said.

"For us, there is no possible humanitarian aid without an international mandate," Juppe said.

He added that he had spoken to his international partners at the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and would speak to the Arab League later on Thursday.

France, which was the first Western country to recognise the opposition in Libya early in 2011, has been championing the cause of pro-democracy protesters in Syria and leading calls for a U.N. Security Council resolution to condemn the government's crackdown on them.

The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed in the uprising, triggered by Arab revolts which have toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Paris was also behind the U.N. Security Council resolution to create a no-fly zone over Libya that permitted foreign military forces, including NATO, to use "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians. (Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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