France working on humanitarian access in Syria

AP News
Posted: Jul 24, 2013 3:52 PM

PARIS (AP) — France pushed Wednesday for humanitarian corridors in Syria, with a bid that is very unlikely to win U.N. Security Council backing but is part of a diplomatic effort to pressure Russia.

French President Francois Hollande met Wednesday in Paris with a delegation of the opposition Syrian National Coalition and said France is working on "corridors that will possibly be opened to give necessary aid to the population."

Such corridors, presumably guarded by international forces, would need the approval of a resolution of the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China have already vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

But Western diplomats are trying to put pressure on Russia ahead of an international conference in Geneva aimed at agreeing on a transitional government in Syria.

The president of the National Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba said that the delegation was "happy to hear the French president speaking of humanitarian aid, of the possibility of humanitarian corridors or access."

A French diplomatic source acknowledged that such a resolution is not likely to be approved but insisted France is keeping up pressure "as much as possible," he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because government policy doesn't authorize him to be publicly named.

The French president also discussed the delegation's demand to deliver weapons to its combatants, in the presence of Gen. Salim Idris, the chief of staff of the Coalition's army. Hollande vowed to keep up the political pressure.

After Paris, the National Coalition was heading to New York, where Britain is organizing an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday. The council has been deeply divided over Syria since the conflict began 2 1/2 years ago, with Russia and China supporting the Syrian regime. The violence in Syria has killed more than 93,000 people, according to the United Nations.