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Official speeches and statements - February 19, 2021

Published on February 19, 2021

1. E3+USA - Statement by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (Paris - February 18, 2021)

The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Secretary of State held a virtual meeting, for the second time in this format since Secretary Blinken took office, to discuss Iran and other pressing issues. They reaffirmed the centrality of the transatlantic partnership in dealing with the security, climate, economic, health and other challenges the world faces.

Regarding Iran, the E3 and the United States expressed their shared fundamental security interest in upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime and ensuring that Iran can never develop a nuclear weapon. In this context, the conclusion of the JCPoA was a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy. The E3 welcomed the United States’ stated intention to return to diplomacy with Iran as well as the resumption of a confident and in-depth dialogue between the E3 and the United States. The Ministers affirmed strong interest in continuing their consultations and coordination, including with China and Russia, on this key security issue, recognizing the role of the High Representative of the European Union as Coordinator of the Joint Commission.

The E3 and the United States affirmed their shared objective of Iran’s return to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA. Secretary Blinken reiterated that, as President Biden has said, if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end.

In this context, the E3 and the United States called on Iran not to take any additional steps, in particular with respect to the suspension of the Additional Protocol and to any limitations on IAEA verification activities in Iran. The E3 and the United States are united in underlining the dangerous nature of a decision to limit IAEA access, and urge Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity. They reiterated their full support for the professional and impartial role of the IAEA and its Director General and their efforts to implement the necessary verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear commitments under the JCPoA.

The E3 and the United States also expressed their shared concerns over Iran’s recent actions to produce both uranium enriched up to 20% and uranium metal. These activities have no credible civil justification. Uranium metal production is a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon.

The E3 welcomed the prospect of a U.S. and Iranian return to compliance with the JCPoA. The E3 and the United States affirmed their determination to then strengthen the JCPoA and, together with regional parties and the wider international community, address broader security concerns related to Iran’s missile programs and regional activities. The E3 and the United States are committed to working together toward these goals.

The Ministers also called on Iran to release all our arbitrarily detained nationals and reunite them with their families. They also expressed deep concern about the continuing grave human rights violations in Iran.

The E3 and the United States look forward to engaging with partners in order to work together toward these key objectives.

They expressed their joint determination to work toward de-escalating tensions in the Gulf region. They stressed in particular the urgency of ending the war in Yemen, while reaffirming their steadfast commitment to the security of their regional partners. On Yemen, the Ministers agreed to work closely together to support United Nations Special Envoy Griffiths’ efforts to end the war and to address the humanitarian crisis. They expressed concern about the recent Houthi offensive against Marib and strikes against civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, calling upon the Houthis and all Yemeni parties to engage constructively in the political process.

On Iraq, the Ministers reiterated their condemnation of the February 15 rocket attack in Erbil. They expressed their condolences for the victims, their families, and the Iraqi people and emphasized that attacks on U.S., Coalition and NATO personnel and facilities will not be tolerated. Ministers reiterated their support for the Iraqi Government.

Discussing the evolving challenge posed by Daesh, ministers re-committed to continuing critical efforts to target and eliminate the Daesh threat in Iraq and Syria, including efforts via the 83-member Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh. They also emphasized the growing importance of coordinating efforts to target the threat posed by Daesh branches and networks worldwide.

The Ministers agreed to closely coordinate to address the global challenges posed by China, as well as the need for cooperation across a range of issues, including climate change.

On Myanmar, they condemned the military coup. They called on military leaders to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically elected government, refrain from violence, release all those unjustly detained, and respect human rights and the rule of law.

The Ministers agreed on the importance of further strengthening NATO and ensuring it is positioned to address today’s strategic realities, building on the NATO Reflection Group’s recommendations.

Ministers agreed that strong international and multilateral cooperation was essential to ending the COVID 19 pandemic and building back better collectively. They reviewed efforts on the global response, including support for rapid deployment of vaccines globally, primarily through the ACT-A/COVAX facility.

They agreed to work with urgency to address the climate crisis ahead of the 26th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow in November. They agreed that significant collective action was needed to implement the Paris Agreement, including keeping a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise within reach. They looked forward to the upcoming U.S.-hosted Leaders’ Climate Summit as an important forum for enhanced climate ambition.


2. European affairs - COVID-19 vaccines / Brexit - 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 Midi Libre (Paris - February 18, 2021)

COVID-19 VACCINES

The issue of vaccine passports is dividing EU countries. Are you in favor of them?

THE MINISTER - We think it’s premature, for two main reasons. First, because we’re at a moment, all over Europe, when the vaccination program is moving up a notch. It’s going to speed up between now and the end of the first quarter and become much more extensive in the second. But as long as you aren’t in a situation where everyone has easy access to the vaccine, thinking about rights which could be granted to the other people who’ve been vaccinated would be neither understandable nor fair. The second important point is that full light must be shed scientifically on protection afforded by the vaccine. We know it protects the person vaccinated, that’s already significant; we don’t yet know exactly whether it prevents any infection. There’ll have to be a discussion when the time comes, which in my view won’t be before the end of the spring. At European level, France and Germany are conveying the same message: prudence and forward planning.

Border closures are also the subject of debate. What’s your position?

We aren’t in favor of an uncoordinated approach which would obstruct cross-border workers; this is the priority in terms of movement at the borders. It’s what guides us. I’m in constant contact with the German authorities, with the German Government and the Länder concerned: let’s coordinate measures and avoid difficulties for cross-border workers, who aren’t travelers but workers. There’s no ban at the moment, either in France or Germany, on working, even with restrictive measures. The same thing must apply to all France’s workers.

Has the European Union turned a corner in this crisis?

There are still failings, sometimes things are slow, but it has taken a huge step forward. The EU didn’t foresee this any more than individual Member States or other countries in the world. Moreover, the EU wasn’t created to respond to a major economic crisis, let alone to a pandemic.

On the economic aspect, Europe acted swiftly and strongly. The action of the European Central Bank enabled us to have very low interest rates, make guaranteed loans under very favorable finance conditions and therefore save businesses and jobs. We also reacted very quickly and in a pragmatic way to remove a number of budget and competition rules that may be understood in normal times but no longer work in times of crisis. And on the basis of a French-German initiative, we’ve also built the European recovery plan, which is already proving useful because our euro100-billion [French] recovery plan will bring forward euro40 billion in European funding, which I hope to see arriving as soon as possible.

In terms of health...

There are criticisms, and there’s also a very significant step forward: we’ve bought our vaccines together. We’re building a vaccination strategy over several months, we need several vaccines in very large quantities, and only European leverage allows that. The main problem we’re encountering today is the pace of production and delivery; we must do even more to ensure laboratories in France and in Europe produce more doses. We’re going to move up a notch, from this February onwards, but especially in March and April.

Could that help curb the feeling of Euroscepticism?

There are still a lot of opportunists trying to make Europe a scapegoat. But yes, I think there is an expectation vis-à-vis Europe. Even in the criticisms, incidentally: when French or German citizens criticize Europe for something in a crisis, it’s often for not doing enough, whereas a year-and-a-half ago, just before the health crisis, no one, not even those who are most pro-European, would have dared imagine giving Europe health powers. So you can clearly see how useful it is to act together, even if it’s sometimes imperfect. Now we must go further and have - because this has been an advantage for the Americans in this crisis - a European agency that provides advance, large-scale funding for medical research and innovation. We must also relocate a number of pharmaceutical companies, and there too we need a European strategy. And after Brexit, after the COVID shock, this perception of a need for Europe is probably greater.

BREXIT

On Brexit, a trade agreement was found at the last minute. Was it a good agreement, in your view?

Yes, in the sense that it respects three major priorities set by France and the French President. To defend our key interests in this new relationship with the United Kingdom - I’m thinking of the fisheries sector and more generally our businesses, under fair competition conditions. To defend European unity. That’s very important: contrary to what some doom-mongers were predicting, Brexit hasn’t been the start of a break-up of the EU. On the contrary. And finally, to maintain a cooperation framework with the UK, economically, scientifically and in other spheres. And we must build on it when it comes to security and defense. We must now be 200% vigilant about the implementation of, and compliance with, this good agreement.


3. United Nations - Yemen - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations, at the Security Council (New York - February 18, 2021)

[translation from French]

Madam President,

I thank Special Envoy Martin Griffiths for his efforts.

I also want to thank Mark Lowcock for the remarkable work of humanitarian actors on the ground. And I thank the Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for her work as Chair of the sanctions committee.

We must be fully and collectively mobilized to finally put an end to the war in Yemen.

France condemns the attack by the Houthis against Marib, where there are approximately one million internally displaced persons, and condemns the attacks carried out by the Houthis against the Saudi territory. These attacks must be stopped immediately.

We condemn the ecological blackmail by the Houthis and demand once again that they immediately facilitate the access of the UN inspection mission to the SAFER oil tanker.

We also deplore the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. We denounce the impediments to humanitarian access and the diversion of aid and public funds. We recall that those resources must benefit the population.

Truth must be established on the attack of December 30 in Aden. We reiterate our full support to the Yemeni government and ask to allow the panel to report to the sanctions committee after its investigation on site.

France calls on the Yemeni parties to engage in good faith in the search for a political solution. They must show responsibility and work with the Special Envoy, to whom we reiterate our full support.

The current context must make it possible to achieve a ceasefire, confidence-building measures and a political solution.

Such a settlement is indeed the only way to end the suffering of the Yemeni people.

The humanitarian situation is catastrophic: 16 million people will suffer from hunger in 2021. Children continue to suffer the consequences of the conflict, and in this regard, France calls for the full implementation of the conclusions of the working group on “children and armed conflict" adopted last year.

We have a collective responsibility to avoid such a tragedy.

The donors’ conference scheduled for March 1 is an important step. France will be there.

The decision of the United States to revoke the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization is welcome. The humanitarian consequences of such a designation would have been catastrophic.

We will not stop repeating it: respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians are obligations that are binding on all.

France will remain fully mobilized to achieve peace in Yemen and a de-escalation in the region.

Thank you.