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Official speeches and statements - November 25, 2016

Published on November 25, 2016

1. Security and defense policy - Statement by the foreign ministers of the like-minded group, supporting a relaunch of conventional arms control in Europe (Paris - November 25, 2016)

We, the foreign ministers of the Republic of Austria, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Finland, the French Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Italian Republic, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Norway, the Slovak Republic, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of Sweden and the Swiss Confederation, are deeply concerned about the continuing erosion of the rules-based European security order.

In our part of the world, peace and stability, including the peaceful settlement of conflicts, have been guaranteed for decades by a reliable, rules-based order firmly grounded in well-established and non-negotiable principles of international law such as territorial integrity, sovereignty, inviolability of international borders, the right to neutrality and the free choice of alliances and one’s own security policy, as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris.

Reiterating that security in Europe is indivisible, we reaffirm our commitment to these principles and express our concern that some of these principles are being violated. A number of worrying developments and actions over the last years, including the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the following and ongoing crisis in Eastern Ukraine, have raised serious doubts about the prospects of cooperative security on our continent.

In addition, the existing regimes of arms control are crumbling. The CFE Treaty, which led to the destruction of tens of thousands of heavy weapon systems in Europe in the years following 1990, is no longer being implemented by the Russian Federation. The Vienna Document is in need of substantial modernization and some provisions of the Open Skies Treaty are not being fully implemented. These regimes are mutually reinforcing and need to be strengthened.

Confronted with the increasingly unstable security situation in Europe, we see an urgent need to re-establish strategic stability, restraint, predictability and verifiable transparency and to reduce military risks.

We are convinced that a relaunch of conventional arms control is one important path towards a genuine and effective cooperative security allowing for peace and stability on our continent.

We are preparing for an in-depth and inclusive debate on the future of conventional arms control in Europe through an exploratory, structured dialogue. A central forum for such a dialogue is the OSCE.

We call upon all states that share responsibility for Europe’s security to join our endeavor and to support a structured dialogue on conventional arms control in Europe. Working together, we can actively contribute to strengthening security for all on our continent.

(Source of English text: French Foreign Ministry website.)


2. Syria - Russia - Fight against terrorism - Reply by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to a written question in the Senate (Paris - November 24, 2016)

President Putin presented the operation launched by Russia on 30 September 2015, at the request of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as the trigger for the establishment of an international coalition to combat terrorism. France’s position is steadfast: the terrorist groups must be fought in Syria and the whole international community must pursue that goal. As such, France is acting resolutely alongside its coalition partners to combat Daesh [so-called ISIL] in Syria. But that doesn’t mean the battle against terrorism has to be waged at the cost of innocent civilian lives, in violation of international humanitarian law.

Since Russia began its intervention, and despite the agreements concluded with Washington on 22 February and 9 September 2016 aimed at imposing a cessation of hostilities in Syria, which silenced weapons for only a few weeks, the majority of Russia’s strikes have in fact been carried out in support of the Syrian armed forces, against moderate opposition groups, in Aleppo Province and the Homs, Hama and Idlib regions in particular, but also in areas of Damascus held by the insurgents. At the same time, Russia has carried out only sporadic strikes specifically aimed at Daesh and al-Qaeda.

After the United States broke off its bilateral cooperation with Russia on Syria, because of too-flagrant violations of the very terms of the agreement Moscow signed on 3 October, the regime and Russia’s bombing of areas controlled by the opposition in east Aleppo has only got heavier. Much worse than indiscriminate bombing, Damascus and Moscow’s strategy is to target civilian and medical infrastructures essential to the survival of the people in east Aleppo. This spiral of violence serves merely to fuel radicalization and foment terrorism.

To put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, France presented a draft humanitarian resolution to the United Nations Security Council, with Spain, on 8 October. Russia immediately vetoed this appeal for calm and for collective responsibility. France would like Russia to stop its bombing of areas under the moderate opposition’s control, end all its attacks on civilians and ensure that the people in need have immediate, complete and unfettered access to humanitarian aid.

France demands that those responsible for war crimes, particularly those responsible for the chemical weapons attacks, be brought to justice. Finally, at political level, France calls for a transition to be implemented in accordance with the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communiqué. This transition is essential for ensuring lasting peace in Syria and putting an end to regional instability and the development of the terrorist groups which Russia maintains it is fighting by bombing civilians.

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