France wants UN to enforce Syria ceasefire
France calls for a faltering Syrian ceasefire plan to be made mandatory.
PARIS - France called Wednesday for a faltering Syrian ceasefire plan to be made mandatory, with the threat of action by the UN Security Council, saying the conflict there now constituted civil war.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said he would consult with Western allies to prepare a new raft of tough sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, notably targeting top brass.
With battles between troops and rebels raging across Syria and reports of human rights violations escalating, Fabius said that UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's largely ignored ceasefire plan must be made mandatory.
He called on fellow Security Council members to "take recourse to Chapter Seven (of the UN charter) to make the measures in the Annan plan obligatory."
"We are working on that and we hope that measure will be put in place quickly," he told journalists in Paris.
The UN Charter's Chapter Seven allows measures to be imposed on a country under penalty of sanctions or the use of force.
Close Syrian ally Russia as well as China have so far opposed UN Security Council action against Damascus, but France feels that the escalating bloodshed there means unified action is now possible.
Russia came under fierce criticism from Western and Arab countries for vetoing two UN Security Council resolutions that would have sanctioned Assad for his use of force.
Fabius noted that even those countries concerned about the precedent of the international community intervening in an internal situation were increasingly worried about the situation in Syria.
"We even heard today China expressing its deep concern," Fabius said.
"So the Security Council must now step up a gear, and place under Chapter Seven, that is to say make obligatory, the terms of the Annan plan or face very tough sanctions," he said.
"I remind you that the Annan plan calls notably for an end to violence, the withdrawal of the army from cities, bringing in humanitarian aid, that is everything that will allow the beginning of the political transition in Syria and the departure of Bashar al-Assad," Fabius said.
Fabius said he agreed with the assessment by UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous on Tuesday that Syria was now in civil war, with regime forces having lost control of large chunks of territory.
"When groups belonging to the same population are overwhelmingly torn asunder and kill each other, if that's not civil war, then we can't give a name to what's happening," Fabius said.
"What must be done to prevent this civil war from growing further is to ensure that Mr Bashar al-Assad leaves power and to find ways for the opposition... to provide a disciplined alternative."
France will seek tougher sanctions against the regime and continue to seek to identify those giving the orders for the bloodshed with a view to bringing them before international justice, Fabius said.
"We have to up the pressure on the Damascus regime by toughening sanctions, I will make contact with my European and American colleagues to propose to adopt a raft of new, even tougher sanctions that affect not only Bashar al-Assad but army officials and all those who support Assad," Fabius said.
"Those who are helping with the repression must understand that a list of intermediary officials will be drawn up, notably of military officers, and they will be brought to justice," he said.
"France wants to be at the vanguard of action against Bashar al-Assad and his crimes."
Monitors say more than 14,100 people have been killed in the 15-month uprising against Assad's regime.