French FM 'not comfortable' about Assad visit

Assad is one of dozens of heads of state invited to attend a July 13 summit in Paris on a proposed Mediterranean union and, like all of the others, has been invited to the annual military parade that takes place the following day.

French FM 'not comfortable' about Assad visit
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Friday he was uncomfortable about inviting Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to the Bastille Day parade in Paris on July 14 but that the visit had to be accepted.

Assad is one of dozens of heads of state invited to attend a July 13 summit in Paris on a proposed Mediterranean union and, like all of the others, has been invited to the annual military parade that takes place the following day.

"It doesn't make me especially comfortable but that's what you have to do or you're going to keep up a state of tension and difficulties and probably confrontation," Kouchner told French radio station Europe 1.

"It doesn't particularly amuse me but I think if you're making a Mediterranean Union and if the Israelis are talking to the Syrians at the moment, let's not be too smart about things. I think it's important to talk to people on opposite sides."

Assad's expected presence at the Bastille Day parade, one of the grand symbolic occasions in the French calendar, has drawn criticism from the opposition Socialists and rights groups.

Socialist party leader Francois Hollande said on Thursday he understood why Assad had been invited to the summit but that his presence at the Bastille Day parade was a "regrettable symbol".

France suspended diplomatic contacts with Syria last year, accusing Damascus of blocking presidential elections in Lebanon, but relations have improved since the political stalemate in Beirut was finally broken last month.

Reuters
Last Mod: 13 Haziran 2008, 17:19
Add Comment