French President Francois Hollande (R) and German counterpart Joachim Gauck in Paris on September 3, 2013
French President Francois Hollande (R) and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck give a joint press conference after a meeting at the Elysee palace in Paris on September 3, 2013. Hollande called on Europe Tuesday to unite in response to the Syria crisis, ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the weekend. © Bertrand Guay - AFP
French President Francois Hollande (R) and German counterpart Joachim Gauck in Paris on September 3, 2013
AFP
Last updated: September 3, 2013

Hollande calls on Europe to unite on Syria crisis

France on Tuesday urged its European Union partners to unite in response to the Syria crisis, as Paris pushes for punitive military strikes against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"Europe must also unite on this issue. It will do so, each with its own responsibility. France will assume its own," President Francois Hollande said during a joint press conference with German counterpart Joachim Gauck.

"When a chemical massacre takes place, when the world is informed of it, when the evidence is delivered, when the guilty parties are known, then there must be an answer," Hollande added.

"This answer is expected from the international community," he said.

France is pushing, along with the United States, for military strikes in response to an alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack by Assad's forces that Washington says killed more than 1,400 people.

"This crime cannot remain unpunished," Hollande said, adding that "global security is at stake" in the crisis.

EU foreign ministers meet Saturday in Vilnius, Lithuania to discuss a series of issues, notably the Syrian conflict, and will be joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Gauck, whose role is largely ceremonial, agreed that the alleged gas attack in Syria must have an "appropriate response".

It is "unacceptable that a dictator can act with impunity and break such a taboo without consequences", he said.

Gauck said Berlin believed it would be possible to find an agreement on how to respond, including at the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg this week.

"(Chancellor) Angela Merkel thinks that at upcoming meetings, for example during the G20 summit, it will be possible to reach an international agreement on the appropriate response in regards to Syria," he said.

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