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French envoy: Russia is key player in Syria crisis

Russia supplies Syria with arms and protects it from military intervention by UN forces. But the French ambassador to US, François Delattre, says Russia may be more flexible than it seems. 

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Russian and Chinese opposition to intervention at the UN Security Council – the same body that approved humanitarian intervention in Libya in March 2011 by NATO forces – may be waning, Delattre says, particularly as it becomes clear that much of the Arab world supports intervention. Russia is clearly keen to maintain its relationship with Syria, he says. But in the meantime, the US and France should keep talking with Russia about how to encourage an end to the violence in Syria.

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That France is able to see itself as a full partner with the United States in conflict resolution is a major step forward, Delattre says. “In Europe, we say it is a multipolar world, and President Obama says it is a multipartner world, but the key change is to move to a world that is not confrontational, but is based on cooperation,” he says.

There is still much work to be done in restoring the developing world’s faith in international institutions, like the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, and the International Criminal Court, by including emerging nations like India in permanent positions on the Security Council, he says.

The good news is that France and Germany remain strong partners in the effort to resolve Europe’s ongoing financial crisis – specifically the heavy debt burdens of Europe’s poorer southern countries, Greece, Spain, and Italy, and the strains on Europe’s common currency, the euro. Greece now seems ready to make some hard decisions in cutting back its public spending, as Greek voters have elected a coalition government that is willing to work with other European countries on a bailout plan.

The election last month of French President François Hollande, a Socialist, ensures that there will be a “balance” between Germany’s push for fiscal discipline and France’s preference for financial stimulus programs, he says, such as a $1 trillion bailout fund, and creating a European investment bank for infrastructure projects.

“The center of gravity of the Euro zone has changed since the French election,” Delattre says, “and there is more of a focus on growth oriented policies versus fiscal discipline.”

Delattre rejects predictions that the eurozone is headed toward collapse. Other currencies have been volatile, but the euro has been strong and stable, and 14 million jobs were created in the eurozone during the past 12 years, compared with 8 million jobs created in the same time period in the US.

“The euro is a young teenager, just 12 years old,” says Delattre.

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