Official speeches and statements - January 21, 2021
The Governments of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States welcome the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s (LPDF) vote in favor of the selection mechanism for a new interim executive authority, which will guide Libya toward national elections on December 24, 2021. This is an important step towards Libyan unity. The LPDF’s decision affirms the clear demands of the Libyan people that it is time for a change of the status quo. We encourage all Libyan parties to act urgently and in good faith to finalize the adoption through the LPDF of a unified and inclusive government. As participants in the Berlin Conference process and international partners of Libya, we will lend our full support to the LPDF’s efforts.
We also welcome the UN Secretary-General’s appointment of Ján Kubis as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Libya, and the appointments of Raisedon Zenenga as the UNSMIL Coordinator and Georgette Gagnon as Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, and we will fully support them in their important roles. We express our ongoing gratitude to the Acting UN Special Representative, Stephanie Williams, for her continuing steadfast leadership of UN mediation until Mr. Kubis takes up his position.
One year after the Berlin Conference, we underscore the critical role of the international community in support of a political solution in Libya as well as our continued partnership with the Berlin Process members. We remind the Berlin Process members of the solemn commitments we all made at the Summit one year ago, reinforced by UNSCR 2510. In particular, we must continue to support a ceasefire, restore full respect for the UN arms embargo, and end the toxic foreign interference that undermines the aspirations of all Libyans to reestablish their sovereignty and choose their future peacefully through national elections. It is crucial that all Libyan and international actors support steps toward full implementation of the Libyan ceasefire agreement signed on October 23 of last year, including the immediate opening of the coastal road and removal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries.
2. European affairs - United States of America/European Union/COVID-19 - Interview given by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the daily newspaper La Provence (excerpts) (Paris - January 20, 2021)
Joe Biden and transatlantic relations
What can Joe Biden’s presidency contribute to relations between the United States and Europe?
THE MINISTER – There will be a more conciliatory atmosphere which will become very tangible in the first solid American commitments President Biden chooses to make straight away, in particular on the climate by returning to the Paris Agreement. (…) We need a strong transatlantic partnership. We need to concentrate it on the issues where we haven’t managed to cooperate in recent years and which are vital, like relations with China and the reform of international trade rules.
We’ll do so within a Franco-American relationship, but above all within a renewed Euro-American relationship, which Europe needs. We’re consistent when we say we want an autonomous, independent and sovereign Europe. It’s what the United States itself is asking us for, including when it comes to defense: taking on more responsibilities in international crises. We must also succeed in defining a common agenda, common interests which won’t be those of the past. We won’t go back to the Cold War relationship. But on the climate, defense and democracy, and on the relationship with China, we need a strong transatlantic partnership.
On trade relations with the United States, there’s been a lot of talk about taxes, including taxes on wine affecting the PACA [Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur] region. Can that change quickly?
We hope so. We’ve always been clear. We never sought this trade war. We never sought escalation. We defended our interests. When taxes were applied by the Americans, who began introducing this commercial tension under Donald Trump, we reacted. We’re suffering – I’m thinking of our wine growers first and foremost – the impact of that tension initiated by the Americans, who targeted the high-quality products whose export is of major importance to us. We took emergency French and European action through aid to support the sector.
It’s only a temporary remedy. What our wine growers and producers want is to make a living from their business. Franck Riester, Bruno Le Maire and I are really hoping that in the first few weeks there’ll be a more conciliatory atmosphere there too, and a de-escalation of those customs duties, which are absurd. We’re mutually penalizing each other, and for certain sectors, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in particular, it’s obviously painful. That’s a priority for us in this new transatlantic era. (…)
EU / COVID-19
There are a lot of criticisms about the closure or non-closure of Europe’s internal borders. Some countries have started. What do you think about this?
We’ve closed Europe’s external borders. That’s important! I hear Ms. Le Pen’s speeches in particular. Let me remind you that Europe’s external borders were closed on March 17 at our request. On Monday, France introduced compulsory tests on departure in the rare cases where it’s still possible to travel to Europe. And you also have a seven-day quarantine which everyone is asked to observe. We mustn’t lie to people: the number of journeys is very limited, they mainly concern our compatriots, and we’re not going to put a police officer in front of every person who arrives.
And what about the internal borders?
We’re working on it this week, probably in order to have compulsory testing measures. We took a few extra days to get European coordination. Germany and others are moving towards compulsory testing before departure. Measures are being taken in the coming days. In any case, cross-border workers will be able to continue doing their jobs.
Are you in favor of a European vaccine passport?
(…) We’re talking here about a certificate for moving around Europe. That’s a very premature debate. It will take place regarding travel in Europe. But we can’t give additional rights to certain people and be fully engaged in a vaccination campaign that is being progressively rolled out and extended throughout Europe. It hasn’t yet reached its general-public phase. When that’s the case and we know everything about the vaccine’s level of protection against infection, it’ll be different.
We mustn’t put the cart before the horse and give more rights to some people than others when it’s not the right time. Our priority is the vaccination campaign and access to the vaccine for the maximum number of people as quickly as possible.
France / COVID-19
How many vaccines should France be getting in the next few months?
On average, 15% of European orders are reserved for France. When you have around two billion doses, that’s more than 250 million doses for France. The European framework will enable us to protect the whole population. The issue now is to speed up the pace of production with the manufacturers.
Do comparisons with other European countries show a delay in the number of people vaccinated? Why?
If you look at the daily rate today, we’re ahead of most of our neighbors. Last week our daily average was ahead of Germany’s. The differences criticized at the outset have been greatly reduced. When you look at the trends in the other major European countries, we’re entirely comparable and often even faster now. We had that controversy linked to the fact that our campaign was cautious and began with the most vulnerable people. The goal isn’t to post the biggest possible figures. It’s to hold out in the long term. To target the most vulnerable and do so under safe conditions.
Are some people, like the doctor responsible for the central pharmacy of APHM [Marseille hospitals], worrying about possible disruption with the second dose?
Our strategy isn’t to rush in blindly. Whenever a person has their first appointment, they have their second appointment and the doses are secured.
3. United Nations - Syria (political and humanitarian situations) - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations to the Security Council (New York - January 20, 2021)
Let me first thank Ambassador Kelly Craft for all the things she did during her tenure as Permanent Representative of the United States, for all her accomplishments during these eighteen months, and wish her all the best for her future projects.
I thank Mr. Lowcock and Mr. Pedersen for their briefings.
France notes with concern the continuing growing tensions and the risk of escalation on the ground. It warns against any attempt to change the front lines in northern Syria.
We reiterate our call for the implementation of a definitive and verifiable cessation of hostilities at the national level, in accordance with the appeals of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy as well as the resolutions of this Council. The Special Envoy must lead these efforts.
Only a cessation of hostilities will bring relief to the Syrian people and unite the efforts of the international community to address the threat posed by listed terrorist groups, within the framework of international law. The resurgence of Daesh in the center and northeast must be a matter of common concern: the terrorist organization has taken advantage of the current instability to reconstitute its forces. France will continue to play its full part in the fight against terrorism, together with its partners in the International Coalition: this is a priority.
The humanitarian situation remains catastrophic. Food insecurity is becoming an implacable reality for the Syrian population every day. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and the official figures provided by the regime seem far from reality. The shortfalls in terms of aid delivery, particularly in the Northeast, are alarming. Due to the harsh conditions of winter, hundreds of thousands of people who do not have adequate shelter are living a nightmare. In this context, it is more essential than ever to ensure safe humanitarian access to all those in need.
We will not stop repeating it: international humanitarian law is an obligation for all. I refer in particular to the protection of civilians, which remains an absolute priority.
France commends the tireless efforts of the Special Envoy to preserve the centrality of the United Nations process. This is my third point.
The constitutional committee will only be meaningful if it finally leads to substantive discussions between the parties and allows to quickly agree on a constitutional reform, as provided by resolution 2254, which Syria very much needs. The drafting of a constitution is, however, just one step. If the next meeting fails to yield substantive results, the Special Envoy and this Council will have to draw the necessary conclusions and review their approach.
It is high time for the political process to respond to the aspirations of the Syrian people and give them hope. This requires progress on the issue of detainees and missing persons and it implies giving the Syrian people their voice back through elections. We call on the Special Envoy to continue his efforts to implement these central elements of resolution 2254, in particular the electoral aspect, and to keep this Council informed about his progress. We also call on Russia to use its influence to ensure that these efforts lead to success.
The crisis in Syria today is far from being behind us. Only a political solution, in line with resolution 2254, will allow to address the chronic instability and allow refugees and displaced persons to return home voluntarily, safely and with dignity. This is a priority for France given the implications of the Syrian conflict on the stability of the region and international peace and security.
Until then, the European Union and its Member States, whose pledges account for 70% of those made during the Brussels IV conference, will continue to assume their share of responsibility to fund the humanitarian response in Syria, including in areas held by the regime. They will also continue to ensure full respect for the guarantees of impartiality and transparency in the delivery of aid and its full compliance with the "principles and parameters" document established by the United Nations.
But until the regime commits to engaging in a credible transition process, France and the European Union will not normalize their relations with the regime and will continue to encourage their partners to follow the same line.
Nor will we fund reconstruction or any assistance aligned with the regime’s development priorities. It is essential that the United Nations do the same, so as not to be complicit in serious human rights violations committed by the regime.
It is those responsible for these violations who are targeted selectively by the European sanctions. They will need to be brought to justice for their crimes. That is why we continue to offer our full support to mechanisms to combat impunity.