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Fight against terrorism/Daesh/Iraq/Syria

Published on June 3, 2015
Ministerial Meeting of the Small Group of the Global Coalition to counter Daesh – Press conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)
Paris, June 2, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for being here. Along with the Iraqi Prime Minister and the representative of the United States of America, Mr Blinken – in the absence of our friend John Kerry –, I’m going to quickly review the work we’ve done this morning and over lunch. (…)

First of all, to explain this meeting: as you know, the Global Coalition to counter Daesh [ISIL], which brings together more than 60 countries, is deeply committed in Iraq, and it’s just come together in the so-called Small Group format – although it’s still 25 countries – with the United Nations and the European Union, to coordinate at political level our strategy for combating Daesh. We had to meet to ensure the coalition gets regular follow-up, but it was all the more necessary because a number of events have made this meeting particularly essential.

Over the past nine months, progress has been made on driving back the terrorist group Daesh, particularly in Saladin and Diyala Provinces in Iraq but also in Syria. At the same time – and we all acknowledged this clearly this morning –, there have been new Daesh offensives, and it was all the more necessary to take stock.

I co-chaired this meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister and the Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Tony Blinken; we spoke on the telephone to our friend John Kerry. (…)
I refer you to the declaration of the co-chairs, which has been published following our discussions, but I’ll pick up on three or four points we talked about, before handing over to the Prime Minister and then Antony Blinken.

The first thing that strikes me is that our discussions provided us with an opportunity to reaffirm our unity and our shared determination to combat the Daesh terrorists, who I often say are religious fakes and genuine criminals. At the same time, we emphasized that this is a long-term battle. There’s progress, there may be setbacks, but we must be aware that it’s a long-term battle. We thought about the fundamentals of our strategy, which, in Iraq, consists in supporting the Iraqi forces through airstrikes, and providing equipment and training to enable the Iraqi government to regain the room for manoeuvre necessary for victory against Daesh.

The effort, as the Prime Minister told us, will be concentrated in particular on Anbar Province: recapturing Ramadi and other targets too. The Iraqi government has announced a plan to bring together tribal security forces in Anbar Province with this goal; the plan has the coalition’s support.

The second thing that struck me is that this military strategy can’t be dissociated from the implementation of the policy of reconciliation in Iraq: the things are linked, there’s not a military side and a political side. Our meeting this morning enabled me to confirm the commitment necessary from the Iraqi government to fully implement the reform programme announced, in order to address the aspirations and expectations of all Iraqis and bring them together in the fight against Daesh.

The third thing that struck me – and we talked about it, too, this morning – is that Iraq can’t be completely stabilized unless there’s a political transition in Syria, because the borders have now been destroyed and we know that Daesh is acting on both sides of the border. Daesh is a mobile group that ignores borders, and so the real headlong rush into chaos taking place in Syria has a direct impact on the effectiveness of action in Iraq.

Just recently in Palmyra, the Syrian regime showed once again that it had neither the capabilities nor any real desire to protect its territory against the terrorist push. That’s why, only this morning, we reiterated our determination to work for a political transition in Syria based on the Geneva Communiqué, which is absolutely essential.

Finally, the last point: I’d like to point out that the coalition has now decided to include a goal of protecting persecuted communities and endangered heritage. We spoke to Ms Bokova and Mr Guterres, who set out the situation and their proposals.

Encouraging the return of displaced people was one of the goals I set, on France’s behalf, at the Security Council meeting in March; it’s now a full part of the coalition strategy.

It’s difficult – you explained to us why it’s difficult – but it’s absolutely crucial, and France intends to organize a high-level conference in the autumn on the issue of persecuted communities.

That, in a few words, is what I wanted to say about the concrete results of this meeting, which enabled us, in a clear-sighted way, to mobilize the coalition and its partners on the basis of a shared political-military vision.

We must now implement those goals without delay, in this essential battle against Daesh, which will be a long-drawn-out battle, but we’ve shown this morning that our determination is total. (…)./.

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