If France decides to strike the Syrian regime it will target its chemical weapons facilities after a weekend chemical attack chemical which left scores dead, French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.
Bashar al-Assad regime forces struck targets in Douma in Damascus’ eastern Ghouta suburb on Saturday allegedly using a poisonous gas which left at least 78 civilians dead, according to the White Helmets Syrian Civil Defense.
The French leader said a decision on whether to carry out the strikes would be made “in the coming days” after more consultations with the U.S. and Britain.
“Our decision will not target allies of the regime or attack anyone but rather attack the regime’s chemical capabilities,” Macron told a joint news conference with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Paris.
He insisted he did “not want an escalation.”
“We will continue sharing technical and strategic information with our partners, particularly with the United Kingdom and the United States. And in the coming days, we will announce our decision,” Macron said
Asked if Saudi Arabia could take part in the strikes against the Damascus regime, the heir to the Saudi throne said: “If our alliance with our partners demands it, we will be present.”
Separately, Macron defended French weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, arguing it is based on criteria respecting “international humanitarian law and the risk of harm to civilian populations.”
Although he backed the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen against Houthis, Macron said he would host a conference in the coming months to see what more could be done regarding the humanitarian situation.
“France’s position is clear: full support for the security of Saudi Arabia, condemnation of the ballistic activity coming from the Houthis, willingness to find a political solution to the conflict and strong humanitarian demands on civilian populations,” Macron said.
Impoverished Yemen has remained dogged by violence since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains in Yemen.
The ongoing violence has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 3 million, and devastated Yemen’s public infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation as one of “the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.”
Bin Salman said that the Saudi-led coalition is doing everything to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen, but in “military operations throughout history, whatever the country, there were mistakes.”
On the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Saudi crown prince admitted differences between Paris and Riyadh but said the two countries agreed on the need to “limit Iran’s ballistic activity and regional expansionism.”
A Yemeni rights group on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against bin Salman in France, accusing him of complicity in torture and inhumane treatment in Yemen.