London, 07 Feb – On February 7th, the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said that all Iranian militia, including Hezbollah, must leave Syria.
In a televised interview Le Drian was asked whether he wanted Turkish armed forces to withdraw from Syria. He replied that what he wanted was,“the withdrawal of all of those who ought not to be in Syria, including Iranian militia, including Hezbollah.”
According to Le Drian indications suggest that the Syrian regime is using toxic gas weapons against civilians, in its nearly seven-year civil war against rebel forces that has thrown the Middle East into turmoil.
“All indications… tell us today that chlorine is being used by the regime at present in Syria,” Le Drian said in the interview.
France’s foreign minister said in his toughest comments yet on Turkish involvement in the Syrian conflict, that Turkey and Iran were both violating international law through their actions. The foreign minister also warned that Ankara should not add “war to war” — while not specifically calling for Turkey to pull back from an offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria, he said Ankara should not worsen the conflict.
“Ensuring the security of its borders does not mean killing civilians and that should be condemned. In a dangerous situation in Syria, (Turkey) should not add war to war,” Le Drian was quoted as saying.
He added that international law “is being violated by Turkey, by the Damascus regime, by Iran and those who are attacking eastern Ghouta and Idlib.”
France has backed the Syrian opposition during the seven-year war and is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State militants.
Turkey launched an operation in Syria last month against Kurdish militia which it views as allies of separatists fighting an insurgency in southern Turkey. Its European Union Minister Omer Celik said Le Drian’s statement reflected “a double standard on the issue of terror”.
“Turkey’s fight conforms to international law. Those who violate the law and commit crimes are those who arm the PYD-YPG terror groups,” he said of the main Syrian Kurdish militia.
Le Drian is due in Tehran on March 5 for talks at a time when Washington has put pressure on European allies to toughen their stance on Tehran. Relations between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent months. Le Drian has accused Iran of harboring “hegemonic” aspirations in the region.
Iran is a key ally of the Syrian government in the seven-year civil war and it says it has no intention of withdrawing unless Syria requests it do so.