Across the Bay

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chirac Nixes Engagement with Syria

French President Jacques Chirac spoke today in a televised session with three journalists, including LBC's Marcel Ghanem (aired on LBC and Future TV). He was asked why he does not engage Syria. His response (my on-the-spot translation of some excerpts):

I have great respect for the Syrian people. But experience has taught me that the current Syrian leadership, who are a minority of the Syrian people, it's difficult to believe them.

Those few in Europe who did go to talk to the Syrian leadership were very disappointed. They got absolutely nothing.

This has been Chirac's position, and indeed that of the Quay as well (contrary to the illusions of Syria's cheerleaders).

I was recently at a hearing on Syria at the EU Parliament, where I spoke to several EU officials. One official told me that in France, support for Lebanon is "across the board" (and not just Chirac, as many cheerleaders like to think). He also repeated what Chirac said (which is something I've said before, re: the British envoy Scheinwald, the German FM Steinmeier, and even US Sen. Bill Nelson) that the Europeans who went to talk to Assad got "absolutely nothing." No surprise there, as I've written numerous times before.

He also added that it was very clear that all this riff-raff now in Lebanon is aimed at one thing: scuttling the international tribunal. Again, no surprise there.