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SYRIA

France to propose UN resolution on Syria

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday that Paris will present a resolution to the UN Security Council demanding Syria immediately turns its chemical weapons arsenal over to international control.

France to propose UN resolution on Syria
Demonstrators in Paris protest against the possibility of strikes against Syria. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Speaking at a press conference Fabius said the resolution will be presented later on Tuesday.

Fabius said the resolution would require Assad to offer full disclosure of his chemical weapons programme and that his arsenal  be dismantled “without delay”.

The foreign minister says the resolution will also demand that the perpetrators of the chemical attack in Damascus that left scores dead, be handed over to the International Criminal Court to face justice.

If the terms are not adhered to then the resolution will commit the UN to "serious measures", Fabius said.

Speaking earlier in the day about Russia's propsosal that Bashar al-Assad hands over the chemical arms to international observers Fabius insisted that the Syrian president "commit himself without delay" to the elimination of his country's chemical weapons arsenal.

"The proposal of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov merits close examination," Fabius said, demanding that Assad "commit himself without delay to put his chemical arsenal under international control and to let all of it be destroyed".

Assad "must commit without delay to put his entire chemical arsenal under international control and have it destroyed", he said adding that this "operation must be carried out on the basis of a binding Security Council resolution, with a short timetable and firm consequences if he does not respect his commitments."

And the International Criminal Court must get involved because "those responsible for the August 21 chemical massacre must no go unpunished".

"We demand precise, quick and verifiable commitments by the Syrian regime," he added.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said on Tuesday that international pressure had worked, after a plan emerged to head off punitive US air strikes on Syria by destroying the regime's chemical weapons.

"It's an opening. It must be seized upon and Bashar al-Assad's regime must formally respond and firmly engage to it, and it must be implemented quickly," Le Drian said. "The international pressure worked."German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped "action" would follow Russia's proposal, and that it was not just a way to buy time.

"Today there was an interesting proposal from Russia, which called on Syria for the first time to place its chemical weapons under international control," said Merkel on German public television speaking to a group of German voters.

"If this is followed by action and not about buying time and this materialises, then Germany will push for that road to be followed," she said.

"Everything must be tried to achieve this without military intervention," she added, referring to the threat of US-led military action to punish the Assad regime for its alleged chemical attack.

Merkel, who is seeking re-election for a third term in September 22 poll, also again stressed that "Germany will under no circumstances" be part of any military strike.

France and the United States claim growing international support for military strikes to punish the Syrian regime for the alleged chemical attack, while Russia, Syria's staunchest ally, on Monday seized the diplomatic initiative with its plan to head off the threat of US military strikes.

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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