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Paris, London: Priority in Syria Remains UN Resolution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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French FM Jean-Marc Ayrault and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. AFP

France and Britain are still seeking a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, the foreign ministers of the two countries said on Thursday, adding that diplomatic negotiations were a priority over possible military action.

A chemical attack by regime forces in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province earlier this week killed at least 72 people.

Jean-Marc Ayrault told CNEWS television that France was pursuing a UN resolution condemning the attack and trying to convince allies to back it, in spite of pushback from Russia.

“France is still seeking to talk with its partners on the Security Council, especially the permanent members, and Russia in particular,” Ayrault said.

He was more cautious on whether or not France would contemplate a military intervention if Washington decided to take action and ruled out stepping in for now.

“The first stage is to get a resolution vote and above all to re-start peace negotiations in Geneva. It is not to go in ourselves, under the pretext that the US President may have a rush of blood to the head, and get onto a war footing,” Ayrault said, asked whether France would join any possible US military operation.

Ayrault added that the US response on Syria was still unclear, and that he was getting mixed messages from his counterpart, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“They’re not saying the same thing,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also said a UN resolution should be passed before any unilateral action was taken in Syria.

“It is very important to try first to get out a UN resolution,” Johnson told reporters in Sarajevo.

“I cannot understand how anybody on UN Security Council could fail to sign up to a motion condemning the actions of the regime that is almost certainly responsible for that crime,” Johnson told reporters.

France and Britain renewed their call this week for the head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad to leave office.

“His crimes cannot remain unpunished. The day will come when international justice will have its say on Bashar al-Assad,” Ayrault said.

“In any case, there are investigations, United Nations commissions… there will be a war crimes trial,” he added.