Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris, December 20, 2013)


Russia – Amnesty/ Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s release (December 20, 2013)
Syria – Bombing of Aleppo
South Sudan – Attack against a UN base (December 19, 2013)

Russia – Amnesty/ Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s release (December 20, 2013)

The pardon granted to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his release on Friday, December 20, are very good news.

France welcomes the adoption on December 18, 2013, by the State Duma of the Russian Federation of an amnesty law, which will lead to the release of 25,000 prisoners, including two members of the group, "Pussy Riot." We also note that the charges against the members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise have been dropped.

Syria – Bombing of Aleppo

France condemns the bombing of Aleppo by Bashar al-Assad’s air forces, including the dropping of barrels of explosives. These attacks against the civilian populations which have killed more than a hundred people, including women and children, are unacceptable. In accordance with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, they constitute war crimes. The Syrian regime must put an end to them. 

France renews its demand that the UN Security Council Presidential Statement of October 2 on humanitarian access be put into practice on the ground in order to ease the suffering of the Syrian people.

Only a political solution can end the conflict. The Geneva II conference must result in a political transition that will respond to the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

Is this a case of the rebels using human shields?

The regime is filling barrels with explosives and dropping them on the civilian populations. What the regime is doing is mass murder. That may constitute a war crime. It’s up to the International Criminal Court to determine the exact classification of these crimes.

What progress has been made with respect to building the opposition delegation for Geneva II?

A meeting of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council is taking place today in Geneva to prepare for this conference which should take place on January 22. We would like the Syrian National Coalition to be the heart and lead of the representation of the opposition. Together with our partners, we’re doing everything we can to help it continue to define itself. With respect to the regime, the delegation must also be capable of truly engaging in discussions and making progress toward a political solution in accordance with Geneva 1.

Following the abduction of three priests a few months ago, the kidnapping of two bishops, and lastly what happened in Maaloula, will you take action in order to protect Orthodox religious leaders in Syria?

We do that systematically. We condemn all violence – the violence perpetrated by the regime, which is chiefly responsible for the crisis, but also the violence perpetrated by the extremists. On our initiative, the UN Security Council has included the groups affiliated with Al Qaeda on the list of terrorist organizations. More generally, we’re paying very close attention to the situation of Eastern Christians. Please refer to our statement on December 3, following the events in Maaloula; we reaffirmed our solidarity with the churches of Syria and demanded that places of worship and religious institutions be respected.


South Sudan – Attack against a UN base (December 19, 2013)

France condemns the attack against a UN base in Akobo, South Sudan, which has reportedly left several people dead. Those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice.

We reiterate our deep concern at the continued fighting in several regions in South Sudan and call on the parties to immediately cease hostilities.

There’s an urgent need for discussions between the parties, with the help of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the regional organization in the Horn of Africa, whose action France supports.

Will France bring its citizens home from South Sudan?

As soon as the first events took place in Juba, we advised our citizens, who are mainly NGO personnel members, to temporarily leave South Sudan by taking the available flights.

Only a few of our compatriots are still in the country, most having temporarily left this week. Indeed, several flights left yesterday from Juba. Some of our compatriots left Sudan yesterday on a flight chartered by Italy, which we thank. Further flights, notably chartered by the United Kingdom and Germany, will be made available and our citizens will be able to take them.

Our embassy is mobilized and in continuous contact with our compatriots. They are being kept informed in real time about changes in the situation and about the safety precautions to be observed – by email or text messages.

Will you call on the Security Council to meet as a matter of urgency?

As far as I know, we haven’t requested an emergency meeting. It’s first and foremost up to the regional organization of the Horn of Africa, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to encourage the parties to engage in immediate dialogue.

How many staff members make up the UN Mission in South Sudan?

As mandated under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, at this time this mission comprises 7,633 uniformed personnel – including 6,802 soldiers, 149 military observers and 682 police officers.