The Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry for Europe
and Foreign Affairs

Paris - February 14, 2018
In this issue:

◢  European Union – Jean-Yves Le Drian's participation in the informal meeting of foreign ministers (Sofia - February 15, 2018)

◢  Syria

◢  Iran

◢  Libya

◢  Yemen

◢  Democratic Republic of the Congo

◢  Cameroon

European Union – Jean-Yves Le Drian's participation in the informal meeting of foreign ministers (Sofia - February 15, 2018)

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will take part in the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers (Gymnich), due to take place in Sofia from February 15 to 16 at the invitation of the Bulgarian presidency and the high representative.

The agenda will include following points:

  • Syria: The ministers will reaffirm the central role of the Geneva process, propose ways to strengthen it and will reaffirm the EU's support for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. Special attention will be given to the role of countries in the region in this process, to coordination between partner and like-minded countries, to support for the opposition and to EU humanitarian aid efforts;
  • Western Balkans: Following the publication on February 6 of the Commission’s strategy for the Western Balkans, the discussions will provide an opportunity to reaffirm the European perspective and to emphasize the reforms which must be implemented by the countries of the region, notably with respect to the rule of law, so that they are able to meet the conditions for accession;
  • North Korea: Jean-Yves Le Drian will underscore that the backdrop of rapprochement between the two Koreas, marked by the participation of North Korean athletes at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, does not negate the need to continue to take a firm stance vis-ŕ-vis the Pyongyang regime in order to steer it toward starting negotiations on its nuclear and ballistic program;
  • Security and defense: In the presence of the foreign ministers of the candidate states, the ministers will discuss the participation of these countries in the Common Security and Defense Policy operations and the strengthening of cooperation in the face of shared challenges such as the fight against trafficking and organized crime, radicalization, the spread of small arms and light weapons and illegal migration.


Three weeks after the attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 in Syria, France publicly released, through the Quai d'Orsay, a national assessment of what happened. In September 2017, France took note of the conclusions of the report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, led by Sergio Pinheiro. In this report, the Commission underlines that three chemical attacks, involving in these instances the use of chlorine gas, had been reported in July 2017 and the Quai d'Orsay had paid "the utmost attention to the corroborating evidence provided by the Commission with respect to various types of chemical weapons attacks that took place in 2017." Is France calling the report's conclusions into question and does it intend, for reasons of transparency, to swiftly publish a French assessment of chemical attacks believed to have taken place since July 2017 as had been promptly done just three weeks after the attack in Khan Sheikhoun?

Assessing whether a chemical weapon or toxic substance has been used requires in-depth scientific analysis in a laboratory.

France enforces this very strict rule before taking any measures and is actively working with its partners on recent reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

As President Macron indicated, France continues to be extremely vigilant and will not accept any violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Does France maintain the legal view that chlorine gas is one of the chemical weapons that are prohibited under the treaties?

Chlorine gas per se is not one of the substances that are prohibited under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.

This does not however preclude the fact that chlorine gas may be a chemical weapon that is prohibited by the convention when it is diverted from its peaceful purpose and used as a chemical weapon, notably as a choking agent, as might currently be the case in Syria.


Would you like to add elements that would target Iran and ballistic missile weapons to the resolution at the Security Council on Yemen that is expected to be renewed soon?

As we have reaffirmed on several occasions, the Iranian ballistic missile program is a major source of concern for France and its partners.

As President Macron indicated yesterday, Iran's ballistic missile activities or those linked to Iran, both in Yemen and in Syria, are a destabilizing factor and pose a security challenge to several of our allies.

This is a topic that we are notably addressing with our Security Council partners.


Since Monday, Libyan personalities have been meeting in Geneva to make peace and bring the views of the various actors involved in the crisis there closer together. What do you think about that? Do you believe that at this point, when attacks and violence have been on the rise in Libya, the plan to resolve the crisis put forward by Special Representative Ghassan Salamé last September is deadlocked or not?

France reaffirms its support for UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé's action plan to reach a political solution. It was endorsed by the Security Council. Everything must be done to meet the goal of holding a national conference in the near future and to hold general elections in 2018.

France fully supports the UN Special Representative's efforts and is pleased to note the Libyan people's interest in registering to vote. The number of registered voters has now surpassed 2.3 million.

France stands alongside the Libyan people in their fight against terrorism and assures them of its support in achieving an inclusive political solution that will make it possible to strengthen institutions and to unify the armed forces under a civilian authority.


Can we conclude that since May 2017, France has never suspended or reduced its arms shipments to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates because of their involvement in the Yemen conflict?

We addressed this point on February 13:

"France enforces an export control policy based on a case-by-case analysis within the framework of the interministerial commission for the export of military goods.

This case-by-case assessment takes into account the type of materials, the end user, respect for human rights, regional stability, and the need to uphold the fight against terrorism. Anything that might undermine the security of civilians is considered in determining whether or not to authorize such exports.

Permits are issued in strict respect of France's international obligations, and notably the Arms Trade Treaty and the EU Common Position. Like its EU partners, France applies the eight criteria set forth in Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of December 8, 2008, defining the common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment."

Democratic Republic of the Congo

At an informal meeting on Monday at the UN dealing with the election process in the DRC, the American ambassador to the UN affirmed that her country opposes the electronic voting system proposed by the Congolese independent electoral commission for the vote normally scheduled for this December. The United States prefers paper ballots to avoid doubts on the outcome of these elections. What is France's position?

France is committed to the effective holding of elections in keeping with the electoral timetable published on November 5, 2017, in respect of the Congolese constitution and the spirit of consensus that prevailed at the signing of the political agreement of December 31, 2016.

It also considers the implementation of measures to "ease political tensions" essential to the holding of calm, credible elections.

The use of machines to print ballots – unprecedented in Africa – merits in-depth study, given the particular context in DRC. This question underscores the need for the independent national electoral commission to agree to the deployment of international experts and to ensure that every aspect of the electoral process is characterized by complete transparency. It is vital to the trust among the parties In this regard, France applauds the consensus among the African Union, the East African Development Community, the European Union, the UN, and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, as well as their willingness to provide technical electoral assistance at short notice.


Do you believe the situation in Cameroon's English-speaking regions is stable, as President Biya claims?

We addressed this point on February 2:

"France condemns the latest murders of law enforcement officers on February 1 in Cameroon.

We reiterate our call for an end to the violence and call on all actors to exercise restraint.

Only through dialogue will it be possible to respond calmly and in a coordinated way to all the parties' concerns while respecting the country's unity and integrity. This is a message we are also conveying to the Cameroonian authorities, in close cooperation with our European and international partners."

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