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News ::
France and The Roadmap For Syria and Lebanon (english)
04 Jun 2003
After the recent change in the Lebanese government, President Chirac came out with the impression that Syria had failed to meet its commitments to help Lebanon carry out the reforms called for by the Paris conference.
France and The Roadmap For Syria and Lebanon
Randa Takieddine, Al-Hayat, 2003/06/04

In his first meeting with President Bush since their rift over the war on Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac suggested, during the Evian summit, that a Roadmap be developed for the Syrian-Lebanese-Israeli track, in a bid to achieve comprehensive peace in the region.

France, which is committed to a comprehensive settlement, is hardly suggesting anything new. President Chirac's call seeks to offer Syria prospects for a just peace, if it abides by the American, French and European demands to close down the offices of Palestinian groups opposed to peace negotiations and based in Damascus.

This is crucial to drive Syria to pressure Hezbollah towards ending its operations in the Shebaa Farms and preventing its support of anti-U.S. factions in Iraq, as well as towards withdrawing from Lebanon.

When French Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin shocked Syria during his press conference on the eve of the arrival of his American counterpart, Colin Powell, to Damascus, by demanding its withdrawal from Lebanon and to implement UN resolution 520 plus exerting pressure on Hezbollah, he was also working with his president to propose the idea of a Roadmap for the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.

And while Powell maintained, during the press conference he gave following the meeting of foreign ministers at the G-8, that the priority was the implementation of the Roadmap on the Palestinian-Israeli track, and that the Syrian-Lebanese tracks would be left to a later stage, France remains adamant on working on both tracks simultaneously.

Still, this French suggestion of a two-tracks process stems from the logic that it is necessary to show Syria prospects for peace in order to bring it to carry out the international community’s demands.

France is realistic, and realizes that it cannot carry out an initiative on its own towards resuming the two tracks. Moreover, Chirac is anxious to explain to Bush the value of launching another Roadmap for Syria and Lebanon, despite the coolness that marked the Franco-Syrian relations following the declarations made by De Villepin.

France had previously remarked that Syria was strengthening its grip, rather than carrying out the demanded reforms, and this was made clear with the formation of the latest Lebanese government, and the efforts to prevent the reforms called for by the Paris-II meeting, in which Chirac had put all his weight to make it succeed in order to help Lebanon.

During the preparations for the Paris-II meeting, President Chirac had maintained contact with the Syrians. But after the recent change in the Lebanese government, he came out with the impression that Syria had failed to meet its commitments to help Lebanon carry out the reforms called for by the Paris conference.

The French impression is that all the participants in the Paris-II meeting have met their commitments except Syria, since it failed to end the rivalry between the three Lebanese leaders, Emile Lahoud, Nabih Berri and Rafic Hariri.

Despite this, what is needed is to offer Syria a horizon for a peaceful solution in order for it to emerge from its fears and carry out the required openness, whether domestically or in Lebanon. What is needed is to give a chance for a comprehensive peace so that things may change in Lebanon. This is a traditional French conviction that was reinforced with Chirac.

But the question is: is it a Syrian conviction?
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