The Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry for Europe
and Foreign Affairs

Paris - August 23, 2018
In this issue:

◢  Switzerland – Visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian (Bern - Aug. 24, 2018)

◢  Israel – Detention of Salah Hamouri

◢  Iran

◢  Syria

◢  Saudi Arabia

◢  Libya

Switzerland – Visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian (Bern - Aug. 24, 2018)

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will conduct a working visit to Bern on August 24. He will meet with Federal Councilor and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis.

The discussions will focus on the positive momentum in our bilateral relations, the main international issues, as well as relations between Switzerland and the EU. Switzerland, like France, is attached to preserving strong and effective multilateralism.

The bilateral relations between France and Switzerland are longstanding and close: We engage in regular political dialogue; the development of our cross investments reflects the mutual trust among our investors; the quality of our scientific cooperation reflects our high level of excellence in many areas (space, transport, energy and pharmaceuticals in particular). Switzerland has the largest French community (187,000 expatriates) and the largest Swiss community abroad is in France (200,000).

During his visit, Jean-Yves Le Drian will go to the Kunstmuseum Bern - Zentrum Paul Klee, the sole heir of the Gurlitt collection. He will be received by Vice President of the Foundation Jonathan Gimmel, as well as the director of the museum, Nina Zimmer. During the visit, he will reaffirm the commitments made by the prime minister at the commemoration of the Vel'Hiv roundup on July 22 to restart the provenance research work and the process of returning looted cultural property, to which the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is actively contributing.

Israel – Detention of Salah Hamouri

It has now been a year since Salah Hamouri, a French national, was detained by the Israeli authorities. France remains concerned by his continued administrative detention, which has been extended to September 30.

President Macron and the minister for Europe and foreign affairs have discussed our compatriot's situation with the Israeli prime minister on several occasions. They requested that he be released from administrative detention, which prevents him from being informed of the charges against him. They also requested that all of his rights be upheld and that his family, especially his wife and son, be able to visit him. These requests are being discussed on an ongoing basis with the Israeli authorities with a view to ensuring their implementation.

Pending his release, Salah Hamouri will continue to benefit from the consular protection provided for under the Vienna Convention, according to which he has been able to receive regular visits by the French consular authorities since the start of his detention. We reiterate our request that all his rights be upheld.


Do you think that a European payment system instead of the SWIFT system, as advocated by the German foreign minister, is a feasible proposal in order to help save the Iranian nuclear deal?

France defends the preservation and implementation of the Vienna agreement by all parties.

Together with our partners, notably our European partners, we are looking at ways for Iran to continue to reap, to the extent possible, the economic benefits associated with the implementation of the agreement, notably through the preservation of financial channels and finance mechanisms, provided that it continues to fully comply with the agreement.


What, according to the Foreign Ministry, are the necessary conditions for a voluntary repatriation of refugees to Syria in safety and dignity? Do you believe it is possible to begin a return in the current circumstances?

More than 5.6 million Syrians have taken refuge in neighboring countries and in Europe. There are 6.6 million internally displaced persons in Syria the largest displaced population in the world. These people have fled violence, insecurity and the atrocities of a criminal regime. Their return must be voluntary and must guarantee them a decent, secure life, consistent with HCR criteria.

To date, these conditions do not exist. The adoption of Law No. 10, which confiscates the property of refugees and displaced persons, the country's instability, and cases of the arrest and forced conscription of refugees returning from Lebanon prove that the regime is continuing its strategy of preying on refugees and displaced persons. As this year saw the largest movement of displaced persons since the beginning of the conflict, with 920,000 new DPs since January 2018, and the entire international community is warning of the risks of a major humanitarian and migratory crisis in the event of an offensive against Idlib province, envisioning the refugees' return is unrealistic in the current circumstances.

France remains committed to supporting the efforts of Syria's neighbors, which are harboring millions of refugees. In this spirit, we announced at the Brussels II conference on April 25 that we are allocating more than a billion euros for Syria and the countries harboring Syrian refugees for the period of 2018-2020.

We are also working actively within international bodies and with our partners to ensure that the conditions are met for a voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity. We are demanding in particular the abrogation of Law No. 10 and guarantees by the regime that there will be no reprisals or forced conscription. We reaffirm that only a negotiated political solution in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 will make it possible to establish the conditions for a voluntary repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons in safety and dignity.

Saudi Arabia

The death penalty was demanded for five human rights activists in Saudi Arabia. Do you have any comment?

Our position to the death penalty, along with that of our European partners, is well known: France opposes the death penalty everywhere and in all circumstances. It is resolutely, staunchly committed to the universal abolition of this unjust, inhuman, ineffective punishment. It calls on all nations that still have the death penalty to establish a moratorium on it ahead of its definitive abolition.


What do you think of the Italian initiative supported by the United States on holding a conference on the stabilization of Libya?

We have noted with interest the intention of Italy a major partner with respect to Libya to hold an international conference that would follow the one that took place in Paris.

France is convinced that only a political solution under the auspices of the UN will make it possible to stabilize Libya in the long term. That is the purpose of the roadmap put forward by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, who has our full support.

It calls for the adoption of a new constitution with a view to holding presidential and legislative elections, whose timetable was established and agreed upon by the main Libyan actors at the Paris conference on May 29, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative and the international community, before being endorsed by the Security Council.

France supports all UN-brokered initiatives that open the way to inter-Libyan reconciliation and the country's stabilization.

France in the
United States
Embassy of France in Washington, D.C.
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