French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the foreign affairs committee of EUropean Parliament in Strasberg that: “The most radical elements are not in the majority now” in the Syrian resistance but warned that they could gain control “if the conflict carries on.”
“It is very difficult not to be pessimistic” about the “appalling” situation in Syria, said Mr Fabius, warning of the “absolute risk” that the regime could use chemical weapons. He supported lifting the EU embargo on arms supplies to the opposition, stressing that the decision, which should be taken by May, must guarantee that weapons are not “diverted”.
MEPs insisted in the debate that EU humanitarian aid must reach those for whom it was really intended. They also appealed to Mr Fabius to cooperate more closely with the moderate Gulf states to ensure that radical Sunni forces did not gain ground in Syria and they pointed to the need to start preparing now for the post-Assad period.
On Mali, the French foreign minister said the decision to convert the Africa-led International Support Mission for Mali (MISMA) into a UN peace-keeping mission “should be adopted in the third week of April.” A thousand French troops would remain in the country “to support the stabilisation mission if necessary, particularly against terrorist operations.” Mr Fabius also stressed the importance of holding presidential elections in July and parliamentary elections “ideally, immediately afterwards.”
MEPs were concerned that the dates for the withdrawal of French troops, the electoral process and the deployment of the UN mission coincided. They also insisted that all the aid pledged must be delivered and called for a comprehensive solution for the Sahel, to tackling the trafficking of drugs, people and weapons in the region.