France, allies still mulling Syria no-fly zone

AFP – September 22, 2012

France is still discussing with allies whether to try to set up a no-fly zone in Syria to help rebels under assault from regime forces, a top French official said Friday.

“We are working, but not only us, a lot of countries are working on the issue of a no-fly zone, but for the moment it is clear that it’s very difficult to set up for several reasons,” he said during a visit to Washington.

“We are talking with all our partners, with the Turks, with the Americans, with the Brits, with others,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

But for the moment no decision had been taken, he said, stressing any such move would also need approval from the UN Security Council, where it would likely encounter stiff resistance from veto-bearing nations Russia and China.

“It is a very complex decision for legal reasons and for practical reasons,” the French official stressed.

“The military assessment is that this is extremely complicated. This has to be looked at very carefully by the Pentagon, by our military people, the British military, the Turks.”

Any such partial no-fly zone over Syria would be implemented for humanitarian reasons to help Syrians displaced inside the country as they seek to escape the bloody conflict which has claimed an estimated 29,000 lives, according to Syrian rights monitors.

During a visit to Beirut last week, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian ruled out sending weapons to the Syrian opposition or trying to set up a no-fly zone.

“A no-fly zone over all of Syria, or even over a part of it, would mean mobilizing such large means that we would be in a war situation,” he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked during a trip to Turkey last month whether operational planning being conducted by Washington and its allies included a possible no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians.

“The issues you posed in your question are exactly the ones the minister and I agreed need greater in-depth analysis,” she said in Istanbul.

“It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning,” she added.

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