Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

French Push for Syrian Provisional Government: Premature?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

French Push for Syrian Provisional Government: Premature?

Article excerpt

In a somewhat unexpected move, France took the rhetorical lead yesterday in the Syrian conflict by urging Syria's fractious opposition to form a government, which France would then recognize. But while President Franois Hollande's call underscores the West's intent to help the Syrian rebels, morning-after analysts here wonder if the French presidents statement isnt a bit premature.

Mr. Hollande yesterday told an annual late-August meeting of French diplomats at the Elysees Palace that, "France asks the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government inclusive and representative that can become the legitimate representative of the new Syria.

"We are including our Arab partners to accelerate this step," he told the gathering. "France will recognize the provisional government of Syria once it is formed."

The request could conceivably push the unruly parties in and out of Syria, who have struggled to unify, to put their house in order.

It also gives Hollande, who is under attack in France by pro- Syrian interventionists for not doing more in the raging conflict, some political cover. Earlier this summer former President Nicolas Sarkozy blasted Hollande for being wishy washy on Syria, and the current French president is also being urged to act by military interventionists on the left like the French intellectual Bernard- Henri Levy. And according to a collection of polling data published yesterday by, 51 percent of the French population would support a UN-sanctioned military intervention in Syria.

But while Hollande's statement might soothe domestic critics, it has received a somewhat cooler response abroad.

Samir Aita, a French-Syrian and member of the opposition National Democracy Forum, reached in Cairo, complained that the French had not been working with the main Syrian opposition groups.

We agree there will be no transitional government until there is consensus [among the opposition]. We are following the Cairo proposal," he said, referring to an agreement reached at last month's meeting of Arab national leaders and Syrian opposition leaders on a roadmap for a post-Assad transition. Hollande's call "is a break with the Americans, and with the will of the Syrian people as expressed in Cairo.

[Hollandes] interventionist critics in France should not forget that ultimately the main decisions lie with the US. And Hollande also should have coordinated his stand with the US, which is not exactly on the same line regarding the recognition of a provisional government, argues Karim Emile Bitar, senior research fellow at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris.

As the US State Department spokeswoman rightly and politely suggested, the Syrian oppositions first order of business should be put its own house in order, to unite and to alleviate minority fears. …

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