Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat- As the UN Security Council met Tuesday to discuss the UN report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, with Washington D.C. and London adopting a hard line stance against Damascus and considering international sanctions, France has made public its objectives “in search for the truth and so that justice takes its course.”
Paris stopped short of matching the aspirations of Washington and London with French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy indicating at a press conference on Monday that his country sought from the Security Council to extend the German investigator Detlev Mehlis’ mandate until December 15, 2005 and “first and foremost, provide him with all that is necessary to proceed in the investigation” and assist the Lebanese justice system if Beirut required so.
Secondly, Paris demanded “the Security Council demand the Syrian authorities full cooperate with the investigation and to adhere to work closely with the Mehlis team”. The French government hoped to arrive quickly at a draft resolution and “that it be accepted by consensus”. The unity of the Security Council was crucial in French eyes “to send a message to Damascus that it cannot play on internal divisions and therefore has no other choice by to cooperate.”
Official French sources told Asharq al Awsat, “The Security Council should send an unequivocal message to Syria so that Damascus understands that it has only one choice and that is to work closely with Mehlis.” This is why the expected resolution will not call for sanctions against Damascus but will include one or more paragraphs that state, “If Damascus does not cooperate fully and if it does not assists Mehlis to complete his mission, the Security Council will agree on the consequences of Syrian obstruction.” Sanctions might be included in the draft but their nature and length would be discussed in later Council meetings.
The upcoming Council deliberations are likely to take into consideration two important matters: a resolute approach in dealing with Syria and the need to ensure consensus between Council members, the sources added.
Commenting on the hard-line threatening US language, the sources said, “Paris does not only work with Washington but other sides as well”, implying that France felt it necessary to listen to Russia and China and other countries. Resolution 1559 passed after days of heated discussions with only nine votes and Russia and China abstaining.
Douste-Blazy warned, “If Syria does not cooperate, Judge Mehlis will inform the Security Council which will follow up the matter.”
He announced that a ministerial meeting would take place at the Security Council to discuss Syria and Lebanon and “of course” France will be present but “It is important that discussions with different delegations take place beforehand as is usually the case”, indicating his country wanted to prepare for the meeting and was not in a rush.
Refuting Damascus’ accusations that the report was political, the French Foreign minister praised “the independence, professionalism, and neutrality” of the investigation and described the report as “the fruit of diligent and hard work”, adding that it was crucial to “arrive to justice and justice alone, as [we] do not have political aims but are resolute in punishing those guilty” of Hariri’s murder.
Concentrating on the criminal investigation and keeping the political at bay were crucial, according to the French view, if consensus is to be preserved “including Arab countries if we stick to justice and applying the law”. Douste Blazy reaffirmed that all those suspected in the report “must appear in court whether they are Lebanese or Syrian”.
With the French touting December as an important date, the French Minister said, “The Security Council will listen to Mehlis after he completes his investigation and inform us whether Syria cooperated.” The German jurist “would not require very long” to judge Damascus ’ actions.