The aim of the strikes was ‘destruction of the Syrian regime’s chemical capabilities’, according to French officials.

Parly said France notified Russia of the strikes ahead of time [Michel Euler/Pool via Reuters]
Parly said France notified Russia of the strikes ahead of time [Michel Euler/Pool via Reuters]

France‘s defence minister has ruled out “confrontation” and “escalation” following its joint military operation with the US and UK that attacked “targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities” in Syria.

The strikes early on Saturday came in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in the former rebel stronghold of Douma last weekend.

Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly told reporters the military action targeted the “main research centre” for Syria’s chemical weaponsprogramme and “two important production sites”.

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She added that France was not looking to escalate the conflict.

“We are not looking for a confrontation and refuse any logic of escalation,” said Parly.

“That is why, with our allies, we ensured that the Russians were notified ahead of time.”

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, said the Syrian government crossed a “red line” with the alleged chemical attack on Douma before calling the US-led response “targeted and proportionate”.

“It was limited to specific objectives: The destruction of the Syrian regime’s chemical capabilities to stop it from committing new chemical massacres,” said Drian.

Earlier on Saturday, President Emmanuel Macron said France could not tolerate the “trivialisation of chemical weapons”.

“From today, France and its partners will renew their efforts at the UN to allow the establishment of an international mechanism to establish responsibility, prevent impunity and prevent any recurrence by the Syrian regime,” said Macron.

Theresa May, UK prime minister, said her government found no alternative to military action after its efforts at deterring the Syrian government from using chemical weapons were “repeatedly thwarted”.

“Even this week, the Russians vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack,” said May.

“So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. And while this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.

“We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion, there is none,” she said.