French PM at the National Assembly during his speech on the military intervention in Syria
17 April 2018

The military intervention in Syria has punished a repeated violation of international law

A Parliamentary debate was held on 16 April following the military intervention in Syria. It provided the Prime Minister with an opportunity to explain France’s position and its participation in the action undertaken.
France’s position had already been made clear on 29 May 2017 by the President of the Republic in Versailles: “A confirmed chemical attack, on the part of the Syrian armed forces and with fatal consequences, would result in immediate reprisals. This had been stated in no uncertain terms (…) in the presence [of Vladimir Putin], who had gone on to approve the President of the Republic’s wording”, the Prime Minister reminded those present during his statement to the National Assembly. This red line was crossed.

The Syrian regime’s maintenance of a secret chemical weapons programme and repeated deliberate use of chemical weapons against civilians are clear violations of international law:
  • Violation of the 1925 Protocol (prohibiting the use of chemical weapons), ratified by Syria in 1968.
  • Violation of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to which Syria was a signatory in October 2013.
  • Violations of several United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting Syria from using chemical weapons, two of which (2118 and 2235) provided for the Council’s recourse to armed force in the event of violation.
“We took every possible diplomatic and political step to make Damascus see reason before resorting to force”, Édouard Philippe emphasised. But the Security Council was unable to punish the repeated violations, due to the Russian veto (12 vetoes on Syria, including 6 on chemical weapons). France therefore shouldered its responsibilities alongside its American and British allies and in collaboration with its partners. Such unchecked use of chemical weapons posed a threat to collective security, in the face of which it was imperative to take action.

The response was confined to the Syrian regime’s capacities for producing and using chemical weapons and there was no loss of lives among the civilian population or the Syrian armed forces.
Portrait of Edouard Philippe
"Our action has garnered widespread international backing, both from our allies, not least Germany (…), and major international organisations. The EU, NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) very clearly expressed their full support via their representatives."
Édouard Philippe

Chemical weapons were used by Bashar Al Assad’s regime

Intelligence gathered by France and its allies confirms the reality of a chemical attack and that the Syrian armed forces were responsible for it, by:
  • analysis of images: there was no question of a video montage;
  • analysis of symptoms, which were characteristic of chemical weapon attacks;
  • analysis of the tactical plan, which was the same as that employed to take Aleppo. Reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military leaders coordinated the operation;
  • the fact that this was not the first time the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons (it did so during the attack on Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017, for example).

The objectives were achieved

The strikes destroyed Syrian chemical-weapon research, production and storage facilities: secret facilities that had been concealed by the Syrian regime in contravention of its international commitments.

Targets were selected with the aim of decreasing the regime’s capacities in this field as much as possible. All of them were hit and destroyed. It is impossible, however, to say categorically that the regime no longer possesses any capacities with regard to chemical weapons, as it may well have other components of its programme hidden elsewhere.

We know for certain, though, that the programme has been heavily compromised, and that the regime no longer has the same capacities for continuing its production of these banned weapons.

What now?

"This intervention is not the prelude to a war. Our intention is not for the situation to escalate," Édouard Philippe stated.

France’s priorities regarding the Syrian crisis remain unchanged:
  • Winning the fight against Daesh in Syria and preventing any resurgence of this threat in the region.
  • Stepping up and enabling delivery of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in application of Security Council Resolution 2401.
  • Bringing about an inclusive, concerted political solution so that Syria finally knows peace once again.
France will continue to reach out to the whole world: “The President of the Republic is continuing to hold talks with his counterparts as we have no intention of abandoning the only option that promises well of the future: a political solution”, the Prime Minister emphasised.

Information to Parliament in compliance with the Constitution

On 16 April, pursuant to Article 35 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister informed Parliament of the decisions taken on our armed forces’ intervention in Syria. Taking full account of the importance of the operations concerned, the Government wanted such information to be followed by a debate at the National Assembly and the Senate.

Without waiting for the debate to take place, the Government ensured that Parliament was continuously updated on the situation: the Prime Minister informed the Presidents of the two Assemblies the evening before our forces went into action; he received them yesterday morning along with the Chairs of the committees involved and the parliamentary groups.

The future of relations with the United States regarding the Syrian situation

During a press conference, the President of the Republic stated that, from the United States’ and international coalition allies’ point of view, military engagement in Syria is only seen as being justified in the context of a war against Daesh.

But by joining forces with France to carry out an operation targeting the Syrian regime’s chemical capacities, the United States showed that “it fully understood that our responsibility (…) was (…) also humanitarian on the ground, and a long-term responsibility to achieve peace”, Emmanuel Macron added.

France will therefore continue to work with the United States towards an inclusive political solution in Syria. The United States has also confirmed that it will be part of the “Small Group” (United States, United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan) set to meet in the near future.

Prime Minister's speech - 16 April 2018