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70th annual United Nations General Assembly

70th annual United Nations General Assembly

Published on September 28, 2015
Officials from over the world have gather at the 70th annual United Nations General Assembly in New York from September 25 to October 2, where they are discussing essential issues for the international community, including gender equality, climate change, the refugee crisis and the ongoing conflict in Syria. Find statements from President François Hollande below. Check back for updates and statements from other French officials in attendance, including Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius.

General debate

Address by Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic

New York, September 28, 2015

Mr President,
Mr Secretary-General,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Our organization, the UN, is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Immense progress has been made since it was founded as an institution charged with keeping the peace. It has succeeded in doing so on numerous occasions. And yet, 70 years on, we still have drama, tragedy, conflict and war. And the world is obliged once again to face up to great challenges. What are those challenges today? Hundreds of thousands – millions even – of refugees in the Middle East, in Africa, in the hope of obtaining protection or quite simply of saving their lives. Terrorism is hitting civilian populations and no country is spared by this scourge.

And then there are conflicts that have gone unresolved for years and years despite the fact that we know they could degenerate at any time – I have the Middle East in mind here. And then at the same time there are disasters, tsunamis, earthquakes, islands soon to vanish, coasts going under water and glaciers melting: climate change.

Faced with these challenges, we must all shoulder our responsibilities at our own levels. France, in many domains, never refuses to participate. But France wished to host the Climate Conference, no doubt because it was aware that a terrible failure occurred in Copenhagen and that it was necessary to take the right decision this time, a decision that can only be taken by the international community as a whole.

So in Paris we will need to ask ourselves just one question: is mankind – are we – capable of taking the decision to preserve life on the planet? Yes, that question alone places us in a position of a gravity we could never have imagined for our generation. You may say “but we can do it later, perhaps at another conference!” I can assure you of one thing, and I will be blunt: if it is not done in Paris, it will be too late for the world.

For several months, things have been making good progress and very strong statements have been forthcoming precisely from the countries most responsible for global warming – I am thinking notably here of the two major emitters, the United States and China, that have made commitments that help change the state of play. There have also been many calls from all continents stressing the gravity and urgency, with detailed testimony on what global warming is already, now, today.

There are also countries that have hitherto been reluctant – here I have the developing world in mind – and who have been asking themselves whether it is in fact useful to impose constraints upon themselves when the most developed countries have themselves refused to be bound by such rules and obligations. Today, if you ask me for my own prediction – and I am often asked – I will say that an agreement in Paris is far from certain but that all is still possible.

I see three conditions to be met for us to be able to say that the Paris Conference has been a genuine success, worthy of the task you have entrusted to us in asking us to host it. The first is to be able to conclude a universal agreement, generally applicable to all, an agreement that is binding and differentiated in order to ensure that all contribute their fair share and no more. To date, ninety States – half therefore of those that sit at the United Nations – have submitted their national contributions, and this represents – the figure is already substantial – 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. That means that half the world has not yet responded and I invite you therefore to do so and to do so rapidly to ensure that we can assess as of now what, given the contributions from all States, we can assure the world will be the limit on global warming.

The second condition that will determine our success or failure is that we must be able to ensure that our resolution, our action is long-lasting. The Paris agreement must not be a destination, a conclusion, but rather a starting point, the beginning of a process. We shall be able to be assured of that with a revision mechanism to be included in the agreement that will make it possible to evaluate regularly, to measure periodically and even to revise every five years our national contributions. That is what will allow us to be sure that at the end of the century, that is to say well beyond our own lives, the planet will not have warmed by more than two degrees.

The third condition that will signify failure or success, is that the developed countries will need to make financial commitments. I am well aware that the figure was announced already in Copenhagen: $100 billion to finance energy transition, adaptation and technology transfer. We need to raise $100 billion in 2020, but it must be said now to ensure that emerging countries, developing countries can be sure that they will be helped, supported, assisted and that this leap forward, this sharing of technology, will actually come about.

One hundred billion. The OECD now has the task of providing an initial estimate. This will be presented at the Lima meeting – I thank the President of Peru for taking forward the programme begun at COP20. Yes, the OECD will make an initial estimate – we are not yet at $100 billion. So it will be necessary between now and Paris, in two months, to continue to mobilize the World Bank, the major development banks, the financial institutions, States and private actors if we are to arrive at $100 billion. Everybody must set an example and France is no exception to the rule that when you are the host country, you must do better than your guests, or at least as well. I can announce here that our annual funding, France’s annual funding for the climate, which stands today at €3 billion, will exceed €5 billion by 2020. And the increase in aid will not involve loans alone, but also grants because it is with grants – that is to say funds transferred directly and not repaid – that we will be able to provide powerful aid to developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change.

If we are in a position to meet these three requirements: a universal agreement that can be revised and which will be revised every five years, with funding that can be at the level of all that we need to cover in terms of new needs and to bring to bear in terms of future technology, then yes, in that case we will be able to say that in Paris, in two months, we stepped up to the mark. Not simply up to the mark of History but to that of the future.

It is a good thing that the international community is able to look to the future and say what kind of world it desires – we did so with the Sustainable Development Goals – and we must do so for the climate. But what is expected from the United Nations is not only – and it is already a great deal – to ensure that the world is fit to live in at the end of the century, it is also that it should be bearable today at a time when conflicts and wars confound us with tragedies nobody imagined we would ever see again in 1945 when the United Nations Organization was founded.

Today it is Syria that is calling for us to mobilize, to intervene once again. Many before me have come to this podium to speak on this subject. All consider it to be a tragedy that has struck the Syrian people. All say that a solution must be found. So let us look for that solution together. But first let us take the measure of what has not been done.

Three years ago I stood on this same podium to address you. The Syrian tragedy already counted 30,000 victims; today there are 250,000; 12,000 children are dead, victims of the regime of Bashar al-Assad because the dramatic events in Syria began with a revolution that set out to undermine a dictatorship, the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. At that time there were no terrorists, there were no fundamentalist groups, there was a dictatorship that massacred its own people. And the refugees, those we talk about today, those who are in the camps, the displaced persons, number eight million. That mass of women and men, of children, is not fleeing the war alone, it has been fleeing the regime of Bashar al-Assad for over three years and still today that same regime is raining bombs on innocent civilian populations.

But it is not because there is a terrorist group that itself massacres, kills, rapes and even destroys Humanity’s essential heritage that there should be a form of pardon, of amnesty for the regime that created the situation, as if the fact that there exists a terrorist group perpetrating the worst possible acts of evil could provide a way to being part of what is good. No. They are all, those women, those men, those children, victims of the tragedy produced by an alliance of terrorism and dictatorship. No solution can be found other than through a political process.

France, due to its history and also to its ties with this region of the world, intends to shoulder its responsibilities. It has done so once again recently, including the taking of military action, the projection of force. France wishes to work with all and excludes no country, the neighbouring countries that are most concerned, the countries of the Gulf, as well as Iran, the countries of the permanent members of the Security Council, in addition to the Europeans. Our desire is to work with all those who are willing.

I am told there is to be a coalition. This broad coalition, it is possible, it is even desirable, it is necessary to put an end to what is happening in Syria. But such a coalition must have a clear basis or it will never see the light of day. That basis was laid down in Geneva more than three years ago now. And what does the Geneva agreement say? A government of transition with full powers, including, based on mutual consent, members of the present government and the opposition. That is the basis! Let us use it to move forward. Faced with this catastrophe, I see that some are devoting their diplomatic efforts to ensuring the inclusion of Bashar al-Assad in the process. But it is not possible to get the victims to work with the executioner: Assad is the source of the problem; he cannot be part of the solution.

We must therefore put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people but we must also, looking beyond the political transition that must be sought, the broad coalition that must be formed, the condition that must be laid down – a new government capable of uniting those who have fought but without the dictator – we must also give a thought to all the refugees. Until now, they have been in neighbouring countries but here also the international community closed its eyes: it was a long way away. Today, those refugees can bear it no longer; they are beginning a long march. I recalled yesterday before this Assembly that 80% of the world’s refugees – refugees because of war, because of conflict, because of the climate, because of poverty – are in the South. Solidarity with the South is coming from the South. It is often the most deprived who welcome the poorest as guests. So there comes a time when refugees start to walk and they cannot be stopped.

If we wish to avoid what we have, alas, seen: tragedy, crossings at the risk of passengers’ lives, if we want to avoid a situation in which people-smugglers and criminals exploit despair to enrich still further the coffers of terrorism, in that case, we must take action.

Europe has taken in refugees not only from Syria but also from Iraq, Eritrea and Sudan. That was its duty because Europe is founded on values and principles. The right of asylum is part of that common core that unites all European countries and must continue to unite them. Otherwise it will not be the Europe we set out to build.

But while Europe must do its duty, the rest of the world must also help the refugees. What have we learned in recent days and weeks? That the High Commission for Refugees no longer has the resources, due to lack of funding, to provide the necessary support and assistance to the populations concerned. What have we learned? That the World Food Programme no longer has the resources, here again, to ensure the provision of all refugees’ vital needs and food. What have we learned? That in some neighbouring countries, refugees are unable to work.

This is where the cycle that we might have imagined was set in train. If we wish to reverse, may I say, these flows, if we wish to keep refugees as near as possible to their countries of origin then we need to give more resources to the HCR, we need to help neighbouring countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, as well as African countries. We need to assist transit countries, to aid countries that avoid migration. This is a grand plan that we must envisage on this occasion because tragedy is calling upon us to do so, to enable us to take action and avoid further tragedy.

France is doing what it can and will do what it must. Where the World Food Programme is concerned, France has decided to make an immediate increase of €100 million in its support for the United Nations agencies in Syria’s neighbouring countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wished to end my remarks by saying to you that the legitimacy of an organization like the United Nations is founded on credibility. If the UN does not have the ability resolve conflicts that have lasted all too long, if the UN does not have the ability to bring calm to the situations of civilian populations, then we shall be condemned by our powerlessness. Which leads me to think that if we want our Organization, now celebrating its 70th anniversary, to have a future worthy of what its founders envisaged, then we have no option but to reform the United Nations.

France advocates a broadening of the membership of the Security Council. France advocates a change in representation on the Security Council. France advocates that continents should clearly bear responsibility for the world in the context of the Security Council. France wishes the permanent members of the Security Council to be unable in the future to use their right of veto in cases of mass atrocities. How can we accept that the UN, still today, can be paralyzed when the worst possible events occur? Here again, let us set an example. I give an undertaking here that France will never use its power of veto where there have been mass atrocities.

The right of veto as it was introduced at the founding of the United Nations was not a right to block action. It was a duty to act. We must act. We can act. We have shown that we can for 70 years. Here today we must act to resolve the tragedies of today and to save the planet tomorrow. Let us act.


Counter-terrorism summit/Daesh/Syria

Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

New York, September 29, 2015

Thank you, Mr President.

First of all, I’d like to thank President Obama for taking the initiative for this very important debate. I have four minutes; I’d like to set out four ideas.

The first, which was very well set out by the previous speakers, is the absolute necessity – we all agree on this – of combating Daesh [ISIL] in various forms.

There is of course the military battle, there is – we’ve just talked about it – the media battle and there is the battle aimed in particular at young people, to manage to show that this terrorist group consists, in short, of religious fakes and genuine criminals.

We have a big job to do on this, because it’s true that, among the public, it’s not always considered as such. That’s the first idea.

The second, quite simple idea – but sometimes the simple ideas are forgotten: if we want to show specifically that we’re against terrorism and against Daesh, we must engage practically in the fight against Daesh. In recent days I’ve heard a whole series of very well-conducted media initiatives, but we too are acting in the coalition. It’s not easy, but we’re playing an active role.

The best way of fighting Daesh, for those who say – so much the better – that they want to lead the battle against Daesh, is for them to conduct practical operations. We here are conducting them; that’s still not the case for everyone.

The third observation I’d like to make is very quick, because on the issue of Iraq, Prime Minister Abadi has said everything that has to be said. It’s necessary to have local military action on the ground, international action from the skies and a political and social contract respected by all.

I think everyone is convinced that only the continuation of our collective efforts on these three fronts will ultimately enable us – because it’s going to take time – to defeat Daesh in Iraq and stabilize those territories in the long term.

Finally, Syria is clearly the most difficult part today. As you’re no doubt aware, France has recently decided to carry out reconnaissance flights over Syrian territory, increase our intelligence capability and carry out strikes if necessary.

We carried out a strike a few days ago and we’ll continue to do so in the self-defence framework of United Nations Charter Article 51. These military actions must be conducted; and I’ll say that from this viewpoint, a clear-sighted assessment of what each of us has been doing for several months now is undoubtedly leading to improvements.

But we also know military action isn’t sufficient. We must also – these discussions are under way – free up security zones for the Syrian people so they’re not forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries, which poses huge problems. And we must of course make progress towards a political transition.

Not all countries agree on the forms of this political transition. For our part, we say clearly that not only is there a moral obligation but that it’s very difficult to envisage Syria’s future continuing to be entrusted to someone the United Nations Secretary-General has described as a criminal against humanity.

Quite apart from this moral aspect, the aspect of effectiveness makes it very difficult to imagine we can have the Syria we would all like to have – i.e. a united, free Syria which respects communities – if it is written that its leader will be the person who has caused the chaos. We must – it’s complicated, but I think everyone here has goodwill – succeed in finding a political solution. A solution which I’ll call a transition out, which allows for a government which has not only elements of the regime – this must be clearly said – but also elements of the moderate opposition.

That’s what I wanted to say, in a few words.

There is no miracle formula that will save us the long effort needed to combat Daesh. But we must avoid false solutions that would actually only prolong the tragedy and worsen the situation. We need a political base to unite local forces against the terrorist threat, and if we don’t have this our necessary military action will remain insufficient.

That is why France, like many of you, is proposing that we continue the military engagement against Daesh, while continuing to work for a political transition in Syria.
Thank you./.


Press conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

New York, September 29, 2015

(…)

SYRIA/FIGHT AGAINST DAESH

THE MINISTER – The other subject that I would like to come back to is Syria.

We, France, have had the opportunity to address this issue with many countries and this will be supplemented by the meetings that I will hold in the coming hours and days. Naturally, we discussed it with the President of Iran, the President of the Syrian National Coalition and the Prime Minister of Turkey. For my part, I have had many discussions, including yesterday morning and continuing this evening, with John Kerry and my British and German friends, as well as a number of key Arab partners in the region. I have also spoken to my Iranian colleague, Mr Zarif, my Emirati colleague, my Saudi Arabian colleague and my Turkish colleague. And I will see my Russian colleague and my Chinese colleague today. We are therefore speaking to everyone, without exclusion.

I have read a whole series of statements and comments on the heart of the matter, but I would like to start by telling you that what is important in the fight against Daesh [ISIL] is not the media impact but the real impact. It is important to bear that in mind when reading the newspapers.

What do I mean by that? We want to strengthen our fight against Daesh, and luckily we are not the only ones. In fact, this morning we have a meeting chaired by President Obama on the fight against terrorism. France’s position is absolutely clear. We have been effectively combating Daesh in Iraq for several months already and we decided, in conditions that you are aware of, a few days ago, in view of Daesh’s threats against France from Syria, to send out reconnaissance planes. On Thursday, the President of the French Republic gave the order to strike. That strike happened a few days ago. We will continue to do this each time our security is under threat. This means that, along with many others, not only are we ready to fight Daesh but we are actually fighting them. This sets us apart from others who talk a lot about combating Daesh but so far, unless I am mistaken, I have not seen them commit a plane to the fight against Daesh. If they do so, bravo. And even with regard to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, until last week there had been no strikes. So let us be clear: there is the media impact, which is very important in today’s world, but we want a military impact.

POLITICAL TRANSITION/ASSAD DEPARTURE

Secondly, we clearly need a political transition mechanism. Experience shows us that we cannot definitively resolve problems using military solutions, especially from the outside. We are, of course, discussing this issue with many others.

We – and France has not changed its stance – believe that we need to focus on effectiveness and, if possible, morality too. As far as morality is concerned, there is nothing to discuss. Bashar al-Assad has been described by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as a criminal against humanity. Everyone knows that he is responsible for the fact that, starting from a small rebellion involving a few young people in Syria three and a half years ago, 250,000 people have now been killed. So on this basis alone, I would say there is nothing even to discuss: not that he is the only tyrant in the world or in history, but that it is clear that he cannot call for moral recognition of any kind. But let us state our position, because it is crucial in terms of effectiveness. What do we want for one another? We would like Syria to be free, to be able to regain all of its territory, for the Syrian government currently only controls a small portion of its territory, and to recognize community diversity and the law. And we would like there to be a transitional governing body, as stated in the Geneva Communiqué, that would enable all of those things. It is in the name of this quest for effectiveness that we say it is necessary to establish a “transition out” mechanism. It is not a question of affection or personal determination. It is unimaginable that the Syrians, the Syrian refugees, 80% of whom have left Syria because they were threatened by Bashar al-Assad, could return to Syria and participate in this free, united and respectful Syria that we are seeking if they are told that “the future of Syria is Bashar al-Assad”. It is a contradiction in terms. That is why, over and above the moral aspects, we want there to be a transition out. Of course, it is very difficult because there are different positions, but it is the role of diplomacy to achieve this. That is the position adopted by France and many others.

We also want Bashar al-Assad to promptly stop what is known as barrel bombing – that is, the indiscriminate bombing of his own population, because civilians are still being killed in their hundreds. We are currently discussing various initiatives in this regard, for example Turkey’s proposal, and others. It is important to ensure the safety of the Syrians, or at least as many of them as possible. That is the point that I wanted to emphasize because sometimes, no doubt in all good faith, we let ourselves be led.

To put it bluntly, Daesh are absolutely terrible people and must be fought without restraint. To be precise, they must be fought not through the media but through concrete action, as some are doing, including the coalition and France.

But combating Daesh is not enough. We must also enable a political transition, and that is the discussion that needs to be held, and we hope to find a way for the major powers and others to reach an agreement. I will chair a P5 lunch with Mr Ban Ki-moon, where this very issue will be addressed with my fellow permanent members of the Security Council. (…)

Q. – Is it conceivable that Assad might be part of this transition out in Syria at the beginning and for a period?

THE MINISTER – We are discussing these aspects, which are important. In any event, it must be clear that it is not him who is being proposed as a component of the solution at the end of the process, otherwise there can be no movement whatsoever, for the reasons I have explained to you. Naturally, various arrangements are possible and it is necessary to make discussions possible with all concerned; each party has its own concerns at the outset.

But it must be clear, for reasons – as I have said, let’s pay close attention to this – not only of morality but also of effectiveness, that it cannot be said in any way whatsoever at the beginning of the process that the end of the process will be the maintenance [in power] of Bashar al-Assad, because that would be a contradiction in terms.

Q. – You do not wish to play all your cards before beginning negotiations?

THE MINISTER – That is what diplomacy is about.

Q. – I will repeat the question I put to the President of the Republic yesterday. How do you intend to get rid of Assad? He does not want to go and is hanging on to power. What do you intend to do?

THE MINISTER – The question of what one man wants is one thing, but what really counts is the welfare of his people and the destiny of Syria. I have said this before, and I hope to convince you. Given everything that has occurred, nobody can imagine, at least no reasonable person, that we are going to build a reunited Syria, whole once again, as it were, free and respectful of communities if the person leading it for the duration is responsible for so many dead. That is inconceivable.

Between the current situation, in which Bashar al-Assad is where he is, and the situation we need to move towards, which I describe as the transition out: that’s the scope of all our discussions.

FIGHT AGAINST DAESH

Q. – Let’s talk about effectiveness. France has begun strikes in Syria. For the last year, the Americans have been conducting strikes in Syria: 2,500 strikes and no results. The training programme for local troops is a fiasco, and has in fact just come to an end. Who in your way of thinking is going to fight Daesh on the ground?

THE MINISTER – That is why we certainly need to make changes to the approach. Where France is concerned, it is engaged and will continue to be engaged, but not on the ground. Where the coalition and our American friends are concerned, we had discussions at the meeting yesterday or the day before and we will be having further discussions this evening because there are practical steps to be taken. Where air strikes are concerned, I would say that we have everything we need. As for presence on the ground, that must be the task, in our view, of the Syrians and regional elements.

Q. – That is not working.

THE MINISTER – Because, in our view, things have not been done in a sufficiently coordinated manner.

Q. – Persistence is needed…

THE MINISTER – No, adaptation is needed. The results – you cited the figures that have, I believe, also been cited in the US Congress – are completely unsatisfactory. Strong engagement is therefore needed, real engagement, and also by the Syrians and regional populations on the ground.

Q. – Yes, but who? If you can be a little more specific…

THE MINISTER – Look at the map.

Q. – A secondary question: would you oppose the parallel initiative of a coalition led by the Russians? What would you do in such a case?

THE MINISTER – There was, I believe, an idea for a resolution in one of the speeches yesterday. But for the moment, that has not been translated into fact and we have received nothing of that kind. (…)

Those who are against Daesh are those conducting strikes against Daesh. Take that as a starting point – it is, I think, fairly easy to understand. If there is a willingness for engagement, why not? But there are obviously two conditions to the analysis I have offered. The first is that there must be the transition out I mentioned to you. Because this is not a mechanism which is designed or even used to maintain in position the person responsible for the situation. And the second is that it must be possible – we, along with others, are thinking about this – to free up one or more zones in which Syrians would be protected. As you know, there are initiatives on this from Turkey and others. And the barrel bombing has to stop. But of course, if there is real willingness, let us go forward. But real willingness, not just in the media.

SYRIA/RUSSIAN POSITION

Q. – The Russians are increasingly active in Syria. Are we at risk of being excluded if we have preconditions on Assad?

THE MINISTER – Active… they have sent in a fair amount of equipment on Bashar al-Assad’s side. But, unless I’m mistaken, I haven’t seen them attacking Daesh. Yet the objective is to destroy Daesh. For our part, we’re fairly realistic. We will see what happens. And if there is a desire for a political solution – I was speaking about this only yesterday, because we had a meeting attended by my colleague and friend Mr Lavrov and with Mr Zarif – we must arrive at a transition, what I call a transition out. And we still have major discussions to be conducted on that point.

Q. – Would you take a favourable view of a Russian and Iranian intervention, as is much discussed, against Daesh in Syria at the present time?

THE MINISTER – That has not been proposed for the moment.

Q. – And how would you view it?

THE MINISTER – I deal in realities.

FRENCH NATIONALS/RIGHT OF SELF-DEFENCE

Q. – You talk about real strikes, and I put a question to the President yesterday and received no answer so I hope to have luck with you. The French strike was aimed notably at training camps where French nationals could potentially be present. Given that you are talking in terms of a threat to France, I would like to hear what you have to say on France’s position with regard to the fact that a democratic state, a state governed by the rule of law, could perhaps be targeting its own nationals in strikes conducted abroad. What is your position? Is there debate on this point within the armed forces?

THE MINISTER – He did in fact answer you. Perhaps you weren’t satisfied, but he did answer you. For our part, we are acting under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which provides for a right of self-defence. Once we have identified – a training camp in this case – elements for which all the evidence is that France may be targeted, given that, the right of self-defence applies. Naturally, maximum precautions – and I stress this – are taken to ensure that no civilians are killed. However, I fully agree that it is difficult to make distinctions between people, particularly the terrorists of Daesh, who are people who think ahead and seek to mix with the civilian population. We do everything we can therefore to avoid that, but at the same time it cannot lead to a paralysis of action that would allow Daesh to advance and to destroy us without our having been able to take action.

Q. – I was not referring to civilian victims. I will simplify my question: does France consider today that it has the legitimacy to target a French national abroad in a missile strike?

THE MINISTER – Of course we do not target French nationals. In this specific situation we are targeting training camps under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

CIVILIAN PROTECTION ZONES

Q. – You mentioned zones in which Syrians would be protected? Are you referring to no-fly zones and at what stage are the discussions on this?

THE MINISTER – As you know, there are very many complicated discussions about terminology: “safe zones”, “no-fly zones”, “secure zones” etc. Let’s not launch into this technical discussion. Simply, there’s a common-sense idea – we have to see if it is feasible – and that is that many Syrians under threat both from Bashar and Daesh are trying to flee. They are going to the neighbouring countries and may also travel to Europe. The neighbouring countries are basically Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. If we want to avoid that, firstly Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have to stop barrel-bombing. That is what we are asking for and it is absolutely within his power. And that has nothing to do with Daesh. Secondly, a zone needs to be freed up, perhaps in the north, perhaps in the south, where they would be protected, be safe; that way, they would not need to travel to other countries. It is not straightforward; there are discussions with various parties and we are taking part in those discussions, but no decisions have been reached. (…)

REFUGEE CRISIS/TURKEY SAFE ZONE

Q. – Two questions please. Do you believe the refugee crisis is adding new momentum to the idea of a safe zone somewhere in Turkey? And secondly, what do you make of the Russian proposition? President Putin was very clear on this; he said that while you are fighting ISIL, you cannot remove Bashar al-Assad as army-in-chief. Do you agree with that position and for how long can that go on?

THE MINISTER – Briefly speaking, as far as the refugees are concerned. If we want to stop the movement of refugees: many of them are leaving Syria because of Bashar al-Assad and because of Daesh. Therefore, we have to find a solution for Bashar al-Assad. It is what we call the transition out. And to fight Daesh. Meanwhile, it could be an idea – and we are working on that with different countries – to have within Syria one or two or three – there are different wordings: safe zone, security zone, and so on – in order that these zones would be able to welcome Syrian people, without forcing them to go out of the country. We are working on that, no decision has been taken yet.

There, the point is about the whole conflict. We think that because, both for moral reasons and reasons of effectiveness, both, we have to organize a process of transition out for Mr Bashar al-Assad. Why? Because morally, he has been qualified as a “criminal against humanity” by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And it is very difficult to imagine that somebody who is responsible for 80% of 250,000 dead can be the future of his people. But even if we leave aside this moral aspect, from the standpoint of effectiveness, what is our common aim for Syria? It is to have a free Syria, with respect for the different communities, every community living in peace with the other communities, and respecting the integrity of the territory. How could one imagine that it would be possible, with the prospect of a permanent, not only power, but dictatorship, of the one who is responsible for the present chaos? It is a question of good sense. And therefore, we have to organize all of us, and it is very difficult.
Because Geneva I was in June 2012. We have, but that is the role of diplomacy, to organize things in such a way that we can find a transition out. That is the point.

SYRIA/RUSSIAN POSITION

But, coming back to the fight against Daesh and against terrorism, it’s an absolute necessity. But it must not be a fight only in the media; it must be a real fight. And when I’m looking at who is really committed in the fight against Daesh, I ask you to think about it. So, as far as Mr Bashar al-Assad is concerned, it is fairly recent, fairly modest. As far as Russian partners are concerned, up to now – maybe it will change – they haven’t gone against Bashar. The international coalition is involved against Bashar. We, the French, have bombed a Daesh camp this week. And we have to judge realities. Not mass media. And the first criterion for judging who is really acting against Daesh, the first criterion, is to see who is involved and committed to the real fight on the ground and in the air against Daesh.

Q. – In terms of short-term effectiveness, do you consider it to be possible to engage a political process in a country already at war before the balance of power has already been reversed?

THE MINISTER – Strikes are necessary. Both are necessary.

Q. – At the same time?

THE MINISTER – Both have to be done, of course. We must strike Daesh and at the same time organize a process of political transition.

Q. – But given the ineffectiveness of the strikes?

THE MINISTER – They have not been sufficiently effective for the moment because they have not been conducted in a sufficiently satisfactory manner. And because not everybody has been conducting strikes. The international coalition must of course improve its methods. France can help in this even if it is acting independently. But all those who are against Daesh must be effectively against Daesh.

Q. – Hubert Védrine was saying yesterday that monsters are not necessarily measured by numbers of deaths and that if that were the case we would never have made an alliance with Stalin against Hitler.

THE MINISTER – We can of course look at any number of historical comparisons. Where I am concerned, I have to say that I am not an observer. I head our diplomacy alongside the President of the Republic. We need to hit Daesh, which is an absolute danger and when answering a question earlier I pointed out – something not given sufficient attention – that the international coalition is hitting Daesh, France is hitting Daesh, Bashar al-Assad is doing so very little and for the moment the Russians not at all. So you do need to look at who is doing what.

Secondly, we must obviously begin a process of political transition and to do that we need to have discussions with everybody and arrive at a transition that will enable Syria – and this is very difficult – to restore its integrity and protect all its communities. To think – as Hubert Védrine, who is an intelligent man, does not for a moment – that we can arrive at a position in which the Syrians agree that all communities must be respected if we say that the man who is the cause of the chaos is to lead them for all eternity, no. We must, and this is the role of diplomacy, find both the way to initiate the political transition – that is why I am in discussions with everybody – and conduct strikes at the same time.

Q. – Are you inviting the Russians and the Iranians to intervene? Are you asking the Russians to make strikes?

THE MINISTER – I am not asking for anything at all but I find that there is a certain coherence in what I would express in the following way: if you are against terrorists, it is not illogical to conduct strikes against terrorists./.

¹ M. Fabius spoke in French and English.

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