Tue, Oct 11, 2016 - Page 6 News List

France wants war crimes probe of Syrian, Russian acts

Reuters, PARIS

France will ask the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor to launch an investigation into war crimes it says have been committed by Syrian and Russian forces in eastern Aleppo.

French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking after a French-drafted UN Security Council resolution on Syria was vetoed on Saturday by Russia, also said French President Francois Hollande would not welcome his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Oct. 19 to just trade “pleasantries.”

Since the collapse of efforts to reach a ceasefire last month, Russian and Syrian warplanes have launched their biggest offensive on Aleppo’s rebel-held sectors, in a battle that could become a turning point in the five-year-old civil war.

“These bombings — and I said it in Moscow — are war crimes,” Ayrault told France Inter radio. “It includes all those who are complicit for what’s happening in Aleppo, including Russian leaders.”

“We shall contact the International Criminal Court prosecutor to see how she can launch these investigations,” he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also called for a war crimes investigation last week.

“It is very dangerous to play with such words because war crimes also weigh on the shoulders of American officials,” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to RIA Novosti news agency.

It is unclear how the ICC could proceed given that the court has no jurisdiction for crimes in Syria because it is not a member of the ICC. It appears the only way for the case to make it to the ICC would be through the UN Security Council referral, which has been deadlocked over Syria. Moscow vetoed a French resolution in May 2014 to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC.

Ayrault said Paris would also seek separate sanctions on the Syrian government at the UN once a joint UN and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inquiry concludes on Oct. 21.

The inquiry has identified two Syrian Air Force helicopter squadrons and two other military units it holds responsible for chlorine gas attacks on civilians, Western diplomats have said.

“We do not agree with what Russia is doing, bombarding Aleppo. France is committed as never before to saving the population of Aleppo,” Ayrault said.

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