Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris, January 15, 2013)


First of all, I’d like to make a general comment about the goals of the French operation, since this is directly related to the first question that you asked and to the question about the handover.

The goals were reaffirmed by Laurent Fabius yesterday evening. There are 4 goals. The primary and immediate goal is to stop the terrorists’ advance from the north to the south toward Bamako. The second goal is to save the Malian state and to allow it to regain its territorial integrity and its sovereignty. The third goal is to prepare for the deployment of the African troops. Finally, the fourth goal is to ensure the safety of the French citizens; there are about 6,000 of them living in Mali.

The priority for us – and our permanent representative to the UN reaffirmed this yesterday evening at the end of the meeting that we requested at the Security Council -, the absolute priority for us, is to hand over to the African force, MISMA (the International Support Mission for Mali), as swiftly as possible, in accordance with the third resolution adopted by the Security Council, resolution 2085 of December 20. With this in mind, the Nigerian general who will lead MISMA has been in Bamako since yesterday evening together with his Nigerien deputy. A meeting of the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defense Staff is taking place today in Bamako and an ECOWAS summit will take place in Abidjan on January 19; these two meetings have very clearly been organized to allow this force to be deployed as swiftly as possible.

You will also have noticed that a certain number of African countries have already officially announced the contingents that they are prepared to deploy: Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Senegal will contribute a company, i.e. 500 men each, Benin will contribute 300 men, Nigeria will contribute 600 men. Other countries are considering what to do, they have indicated that they are prepared in principle to make a contribution but have not yet announced any figures. With respect to non-ECOWAS countries, I’m thinking for example of Chad. Our goal is to accelerate the implementation of UNSCR 2085.

There will also be an entire component that relates to the Malian armed forces since this African operation will support the Malian armed forces. The latter will benefit, as was anticipated, though certainly based on a timetable that will also be accelerated, from the support, training and advisory services of the operation decided upon by the EU. One of the goals of the extraordinary meeting of the council, convened on Thursday at France’s request, is not just to provide information to our European partners, who all support France’s action, but also to see how we can speed things up with respect to this operation, for which France is the lead nation. We’re trying to secure, as swiftly as possible, within the frameworks established before France’s intervention, both with respect to the component decided upon by the Security Council and also the second component – the European component –, a decision by the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels. Any assistance is welcome. It will then be up to each country to make a sovereign decision. That may range from political support, which is key and unanimous, to a commitment on the ground.

We’re doing a very noble job. When President Hollande took the decision to intervene, he did so in response to a request by the Malian president, which was a genuine call for help. If the president had decided not to respond positively to this request, then the whole of Mali would have become a terrorist state.

To use the minister of foreign affairs’ words, “it was an honor for France to respond to this call for help.” The operation was urgent and necessary. When you look at the discussions that took place at the Security Council yesterday, no one disputes the legality of France’s intervention. We’re acting in accordance with the UN Charter, in accordance with the Security Council resolutions, in response to a Malian request. And what would have been said if President Hollande had refused to intervene when President Traoré had asked him to do so? A terrorist state would have been established a few hours by plane from Paris, threatening the entire region, Europe and France. To put it another way, there would have been a war in any case, and dishonor as well.

We have a very clear legal framework: Article 51 of the Charter, the Security Council resolutions and the Malian request. The mechanisms were already in place in the Security Council resolutions and the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council. What we need to do now is to speed up the implementation of these decisions. The framework has been firmly established.