U.S. Ambiguous on Syria, Unlikely To Change for Now Says France’s Fabius

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, who said on Wednesday he was going to leave office, described the United States’ position on Syria as “ambiguous”. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

PARIS, Feb 10 – French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday questioned the commitment of the United States to resolving the crisis in Syria, saying its “ambiguous” policy was contributing to the problem.

“There are the ambiguities including among the actors of the coalition … I’m not going to repeat what I’ve said before about the main pilot of the coalition,” Fabius told reporters. “But we don’t have the feeling that there is a very strong commitment that is there.”

Fabius, who separately announced on Wednesday that he was leaving the French government, as expected, said he did not expect U.S. President Barack Obama to change his stance in the coming months.

“I don’t think that the end of Mr. Obama’s mandate will push him to act as much as his minister declares (publicly),” he added, referring to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Fabius’ exit is set to trigger a wider reshuffle of the unpopular government.

Fabius, 69, told reporters Wednesday was his last participation in the government’s weekly cabinet meetings and that he expected the full reshuffle to be announced later this week.

“I will be leaving office,” Fabius said.

President Francois Hollande is expected to nominate Fabius on Wednesday to head the country’s top constitutional court.

The reshuffle is an opportunity for Hollande to re-shape his team ahead of the 2017 presidential elections, as he seeks to improve his very low approval ratings.

Hollande is fighting strong discontent in his Socialist party and amid allies over plans to strip French citizenship from people convicted of terrorism.

That plan passed a first hurdle in the lower house of parliament late on Tuesday, but the endless debates and government flip-flops have hurt Hollande’s already faltering chances of winning re-election next year.

Speculations are rife in France over who could join his re-jigged government, with Hollande’s former partner, Environment Minister Segolene Royal, or his previous prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, tipped as possible replacements for Fabius.

A lot of attention will also be focused on whether former investment banker Emmanuel Macron, who has been the face of reforms for France’s European partners but has irritated many of his government colleagues, will get a bigger portfolio.

Another question is whether Hollande will call on lawmakers from the Greens party to join his cabinet, in a bid to build a wider left-wing alliance to gear up for the presidential election.

But analysts said a reshuffle was unlikely to do much to help Hollande’s popularity.

Fabius, who had been widely expected to change jobs since the end of last year, told reporters he was likely to start in his new job early March, after parliamentary committees rubber-stamp his nomination by Hollande.

The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France.

Once France’s youngest prime minister in the mid-1980s, Fabius’s key role as Hollande’s foreign minister has been to be part of an agreement deal on Iran nuclear program and in December to help broker a global deal on climate change.

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