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French Delegation’s Visit to Syria Draws Criticism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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French deputies Thierry Mariani and Nicolas Dhuicq, in Aleppo January 06 2017. ©AFP

Paris – A visit by three French lawmakers to Syria and Lebanon taking place from January 5-10 has raised several questions in Paris. the lawmakers planned meet with head of Syrian regime Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Moualem in Syria, in addition to Lebanon’s recently elected President Michel Aoun in Beirut.

Thierry Mariani, who is a member of The Republicans party, his fellow LR member Nicolas Dhuicq and a former member of the Democratic Movement party and presidential candidate, Jean Lassalle, arrived in Damascus on Thursday to visit Syrian Christians in Aleppo.

Their humanitarian visit was organized without coordination between foreign ministries.

The visit was extremely condemned for two reasons. First of all, the statements delivered by the delegation, especially Mariani, were contradictory with that French diplomacy had been taking for over six years. The second reason was that many considered it granted the Syrian regime a political platform to, not only to justify what it has been doing in Syria, but also allowed it to intervene in the French domestic political affairs and the presidential campaign elections.

Assad expressed his support for conservative French presidential candidate François Fillon and welcomed his policies on terrorism, saying his “priority to defy the terrorists and not meddling in the affairs of other countries are welcome.”

Over the last 48 hours, French media outlets were raving with Assad’s statements, and not just because of his announcement that he’d prefer Fillon as a president. Assad said his government was ready to negotiate on “everything” during the upcoming Astana talks on January 23.

When asked if the government was ready to discuss his position as president, Assad replied: “Yes but my position is linked to the constitution”.

“If they want to discuss this point they must discuss the constitution,” he added.

Assad was also asked about the heavy bombing raids that ravaged the city and claimed large numbers of civilian lives, to which he replied: “Every war is bad.”

“But you have to liberate, and this is the price sometimes,” he added, “In the end, the people are liberated from the terrorists.”

In reality, Thierry Mariani’s visit harmed the French diplomacy. Previously, Mariani had also put the French government in a hot spot when he visited the Peninsula of Crimea with nine other MPs. He declared: “The referendum on Crimea’s accession to Russia reflected the will of the people.”

He also said that the liberation of Aleppo was made possible thanks to the steadfastness of Syrians and the sacrifices made by the Syria Arab Army, and that it forms a step towards the big victory and the defeat of terrorism all over Syrian territory.

Syrian News Agency Network (SANA) reported Nicolas Dhuicq stating that Syria is an example for the whole world in protecting women’s rights and coexistence among all components.

While Jean Lassalle, who is a presidential candidate, said that visiting Syria comes within the framework of the foreign policy if he becomes president.

Among all statements which condemned the visit, Benoit Hamon said that it is surprising when a man who deliberately kills and uses chemical weapon on his people and targeted hospitals, backed by Russia, doesn’t hesitate to give lessons.

Hamon couldn’t believe that some people in France can find excuses for this man.

Socialist presidential candidate Arnaud Montebourg condemned Assad’s interference in the French domestic affairs saying that French people should choose their own president.

Criticism against what the delegation’s visit to Syria didn’t only come from the leftists. Francois Fillon’s spokesperson said that the delegation’s visit was a mistake and they do not represent the candidate or Republican Party.