France says Syrian war at 'turning point', mulls arming rebels

PARIS Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:58am EDT

A member of the Free Syrian Army aims his machine gun mounted on a pick-up truck in Raqqa province, eastern Syria June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Nour Fourat

A member of the Free Syrian Army aims his machine gun mounted on a pick-up truck in Raqqa province, eastern Syria June 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Nour Fourat

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PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday the conflict in Syria had reached a "turning point" after the fall of the city of Qusair to President Bashar al-Assad's forces, raising the question of whether to arm Syrian rebels.

The battlefield tilted against the rebels in Syria's civil war last week as Lebanese Hezbollah militants helped Assad's forces to retake the strategic town.

The weakening of Syria's rebels after Qusair and other losses made it more difficult to bring them to the negotiating table with representatives from Assad's government, said France's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot.

"With the fall of Qusair, we are seeing a dramatic development," he said. "It's even more worrying given that Aleppo is being announced as the next target of the regime and its allies ... We are at a turning point in the Syrian war."

France is among Western countries including the United States and Britain that say Assad has lost his legitimacy as Syria's ruler, although they have shied away from arming the rebels for fear of bringing Islamist Jihadists to power.

Lalliot said a French official would be talking at the weekend to Salim Idris, head of the Free Syrian Army, in Turkey. The official had also started talks with the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others on how to strengthen the rebels.

"There are consequences to be drawn from what happened in Qusair and what's happening in Aleppo. The first consequence is to strengthen the ties with the coalition, and the question we're asked is whether to go one step further and deliver weapons," Lalliot said.

The lifting of a European Union embargo on arms deliveries to Syria, and rapid changes on the battlefield, meant that "talks and thinking" were now needed on the issue, he added.

"We cannot leave the opposition in the situation in which it finds itself."

The United States and Russia are trying to bring Assad's government and his opponents together, but are still at odds on several issues before the talks can begin.

"The serious weakening of one of the parties does not help efforts to hold the Geneva conference," said Lalliot. "In order for both sides to negotiate, one side must not be too weak and the other too strong."

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Comments (4)
westernshame wrote:
if this were actually a “civil war” as the western powers would have us believe, why would any outside entity want to prevent an outcome?? if no side is to become weaker or stronger than the other, how does this ever end??

France and the rest of the western world need to stop pretending they have any interest in bringing freedom and democracy to the Syrian people. they have been backing the Muslim Brotherhood and Sharia Law since the onset, plan and simple.

Jun 11, 2013 4:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
oxen wrote:
Dumb leadership cannot come up with bright ideas. No surprise coming from France and also UK. Arming the rebels may only prolong the conflict, cause more casualties on both sides, but when the rebels lose battles ,which is more than likely- they will lose some weapons too. Also some weapons will be in hands of Al-Qaeda and Al Nusra and only a fool can fail to see how that can happen in a war. If a gunner dies, flees and Al-Nusra is near -will they leave the good weapon from USA/UK/France? They also like good weapons, and France, UK and USA should just acknowledge that they have allied with Al-Qaeda-it is that simple and no other way to package it will fly. Obama and his allied will go down in history as having allied with terrorists, and next elections, Obama will be hiding from potential future democratic candidates like Bush has been doing as he was a liability. A president that arms Al-Qaeda is a traitor. Mr Bush and team will from then on look like saints compared to Obama -and if he arms Al-Qaeda -some people may also add him a new name-”dumb”- president of US who armed Al-Qaeda to help US capture a Russian held port in the Mediterranean Sea and have more easy to exploit oil in Gulf region etc.

Jun 11, 2013 4:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
oxen wrote:
Fruits of France, US, UK, Qatar and Saudi Arabia democracy building with help from Al-Qaeda: Innocents killed by foreign Islamists–what a shame to West Leadership!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5v2fbkL-PY

Jun 11, 2013 9:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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