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Military intervention in Syria? Germany pushes back hard on French warning.

French President Hollande suggested yesterday that military intervention might be required in Syria. Why that idea resonated particularly negatively in Germany.

By Correspondent / May 31, 2012

French President François Hollande waits for the arrival of Benin and African Union President Thomas Boni Yayi, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, May 29. Hollande surprised viewers at home and abroad with his remark that a military intervention in Syria should not be excluded.

Jacques Brinon/AP



In his first TV interview after his inauguration on May 29, French President François Hollande surprised viewers at home and abroad with his remark that a military intervention in Syria should not be excluded. Mr. Hollande’s words irritated policymakers in Washington, Moscow, and at the UN Headquarters in New York. But nowhere did they resonate more negatively than in Berlin.

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The reaction underscored how seriously Germany – which is still smarting from criticism of its abstention from action on Libya – takes the debate over intervention. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle immediately spelled out his country's perspective that a military approach on Syria is fraught with problems.

“From our point of view, there is no necessity to speculate about military options in Syria,” Mr. Westerwelle told Der Spiegel magazine. “We want to help the people of Syria, and we want to prevent a military wildfire spreading across the region.”

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria 

His objection is echoed by voices from across Germany’s political landscape. “I was very surprised by Mr. Hollande’s words, the more so as French foreign minister Laurent Fabius just recently declared there was no intention to start a ground offensive against Syria,” says Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the foreign committee in the German parliament and a party colleague of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany’s political opposition agrees. “I doubt very much that we would be able to control the consequences of a military strike against Syria,” says Hans-Ulrich Klose, foreign affairs spokesman for the Social Democrats.

He says that rather than using military force, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which just sentenced the former Liberian leader Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison, should start proceedings against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


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