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Syria’s Assad accuses France of ‘hysteria’ for calling to put him on trial

PARIS — France on Thursday reiterated his stance against reinstating ties with Syria after Damascus characterized a call from Paris to try President Bashar al-Assad for his role in the civil war as “hysteria.”

Interviewed Tuesday on French television channel France 2, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna answered “yes” when asked whether Assad should be tried, adding that “the battle against crime, against impunity is part of of French diplomacy”.

Three Syrian citizens, all former or current advisers to Assad, They were charged on March 29 in France with complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes. The French prosecutor’s office argues that the three Syrians were involved in the disappearance and death of a French high school counselor in Damascus, Mazen Dabbagh, and his son Patrick in 2013.

Colonna’s assertion provoked irritation from Damascus. A statement issued by the Syrian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said: “Recently we have followed the hysteria and isolated and distant positions of French diplomacy, which has lost its meaning after the historic decisions of the Arab summit in the kingdom of Arabia. Saudi Arabia when it comes to Syria. French backward diplomacy must review its positions.” The statement then accused France of seeking to “restore the legacy of the colonial era.”

The Paris-Damascus exchange continued on Thursday. Asked if Paris might change its position on rehabilitating ties with Damascus following Syria’s readmission into the Arab League fold, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said that ” nothing justifies normalization.” Legendre noted that there has been no progress in establishing a political reconciliation process in Syria leading to a lasting peace in the country, as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 of 2015, and there has been no real progress in the fight against drug trafficking in Syria. problem or in handling refugees. “Assad remains the enemy of his own people,” Legendre added.

Legendre reiterated the importance of France opposing impunity. Still, he declined to comment on whether the decision to bring Syria back into the Arab League would influence France’s relations with other Arab partners, primarily Saudi Arabia.

She simply stated that “these were sovereign choices made by these states. The minister also noted that this decision (recover Syria in the Arab League) was not unanimous even within the Arab League, and this is obviously an issue that we are raising with them.”

France severed all diplomatic ties with Syria in 2011. The French Foreign Ministry has made it clear on multiple occasions that it has no intention of changing its stance on the Assad regime. Similarly, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said in early May, after the publication of the decision on Assad and the Arab League, that nothing has changed in the European Union’s position towards Syria.

“The current sanctions are still in force and the basic condition to normalize relations with the Syrian regime is a political change in the country,” Borrell said.

That being said, France and the EU find themselves in awkward positions. Assad is now part of the Arab League, a body with which Europeans are eager for strong relations. Following its rapprochement with Iran, in view of US efforts to normalize ties with Israel, and in the context of its involvement in Lebanese politics, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a key regional player. If Riyadh is now closing in on Damascus, Paris and Brussels must decide how they intend to deal with it.

This is even more true now that the EU is preparing its 7th Brussels Conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region. European ministers discussed the upcoming conference earlier this week when they met in Brussels. The June 15 conference is scheduled to bring together humanitarian donors, NGOs, UN agencies and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. representatives of the al-asad regime they have not been invited.

A statement issued by the EU ahead of the conference noted that “after 12 years of violence and war, the Syrian crisis remains one of the largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies of our time.”

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