France's foreign minister warned countries supporting the Syrian opposition on Monday that unless they honored their pledges of aid, the control of Syria could fall to militant Islamist groups.
Children driven from their homes by the fighting in Syria found shelter on Monday at a school in a village not far from Damascus. (Mohammed Abdullah/Reuters)
"Facing the collapse of a state and society, it is Islamist groups that risk gaining ground if we do not act as we should," said the minister, Laurent Fabius. "We cannot let a revolution that started as a peaceful and democratic protest degenerate into a conflict of militias."
His comments seemed as much an analysis of the current bloody chaos in Syria as a warning about the future.
"Chaos is not tomorrow, it is today, and we need to end it," Mr. Fabius said. "We need to end it in a peaceful way, and that means increased and concrete support to the Syrian National Coalition."
He was addressing the Friends of Syria group of more than 50 countries, including the United States, that support the official Syrian opposition, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. He spoke two days before a donor conference in Kuwait sponsored by the United Nations, which aims to raise $1.5 billion for the two million Syrians displaced in Syria and the more than 600,000 who have fled across its borders.
Separately, Israel warned on Monday that the Syrian government's control of its stockpiles of chemical weapons was precarious, adding a sense of urgency to fears that the weapons could fall into the hands of the Lebanese Hezbollah or Islamist extremists, and fueling speculation in Israel about military options.
Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defense official, told Army Radio that while the chemical stockpiles were still under the control of the government, it "does not control large parts of Syria."
Daniel B. Shapiro, the United States ambassador to Israel, told Israeli Radio: "There are two dangerous possibilities. Either the regime will use chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or chemical weapons will be transferred to Hezbollah or other extremist organizations. We want to prevent both possibilities from happening.
"We are monitoring the situation closely. We share intelligence with each other and we continue to coordinate."
Adding to the sense of heightened alert in Israel were reports of feverish security consultations in recent days between Israel's political and security chiefs and the deployment of at least one Iron Dome antirocket missile defense battery in northern Israel.
At the Friends of Syria meeting here in Paris, Mr. Fabius stressed that the longer the civil war continued, the greater the likelihood of an ascent by Islamist militants.
Source: The New York Times | STEVEN ERLANGER