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Official speeches and statements - March 18, 2021

Published on March 18, 2021

1. Ukraine - G7 Foreign Ministers’ statement (Paris - March 18, 2021)

We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in our condemnation of Russia’s continued actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.

Today, seven years after Russia’s illegitimate and illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, we reaffirm our unwavering support for and commitment to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders

The UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter clearly state the fundamental principles of respect for the territorial integrity of any State and the prohibition of any use of force to change borders. By its use of force against the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia has clearly violated international law and contravened these principles.

We unequivocally denounce Russia’s temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. Russia’s attempts to legitimize it are not, and will not, be recognized. We condemn Russia’s violations of human rights on the peninsula, particularly of Crimean Tatars. We call on Russia to respect its international obligations, allow access to international monitors, and to immediately release all those who are unjustly detained. We welcome in principle Ukraine’s initiative to establish an International Crimean Platform to consolidate the international community’s efforts on Crimea.

We also firmly oppose Russia’s continued destabilization of Ukraine, especially Russia’s actions in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, disregarding the commitments it made under the Minsk agreements. The full implementation of the Minsk agreements is the way forward for peace. Russia is a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, not a mediator.

We welcome the recommitment to the ceasefire implemented on July 27 last year, which has significantly reduced violence in the conflict area. However, the conflict continues to claim lives and cause serious damage to critical infrastructure. We deplore recent military escalations by Russian backed armed formations at the line of contact. We call on the Russian Federation to stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs in eastern Ukraine, as well as by granting Russian citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens, and to instead ensure that steps recently taken by Ukraine aimed at helping improve people’s lives on both sides of the line of contact are reciprocated. We reaffirm the importance of respecting the ceasefire as fundamental for any progress towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

We commend France and Germany’s tireless efforts as part of the Normandy Format to pursue a diplomatic path to resolve the conflict and affirm our readiness to provide further support to these efforts. We call on all sides to fully implement the Minsk agreements and underscore Russia’s responsibility to engage constructively in the Normandy Format and the Trilateral Contact Group with a view to achieving a fair and lasting political solution to the conflict.

The G7 remains fully committed to the implementation of sanctions and will continue to stand with Ukraine in support of its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Crimea is Ukraine.

2. Burma/Myanmar - Reply by Mr. Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the Senate (Paris - March 17, 2021)


You’ve been following Burma very closely for a long time, and you’re right, the situation is serious and quickly getting worse. On March 14 alone, 70 deaths were recorded in Burma. As you know, France obviously condemned the coup, as did the European Union. We don’t recognize the junta, and technical discussions are under way in Brussels to ensure that sanctions targeting the people who contributed to that coup, those responsible for the coup, can be imposed at the Foreign Affairs Council of March 22.

We’re also thinking about extending those sanctions to certain economic entities, because nothing must be done to continue giving money to the Burmese army at such a dangerous time.

Obviously you can count on France’s determination to find a solution to the crisis. Jean-Yves Le Drian is making many contacts with his counterparts from the countries you mentioned, the ASEAN countries, because I believe ASEAN has a major role to play in the matter. We’re also continuing to follow very closely all the NGOs working in Burma. We’re continuing our humanitarian aid. We’re supporting civil society, because the situation in Burma is very serious, as you recalled. Jean-Yves Le Drian and all the teams in the Quai d’Orsay and the Government more broadly, under the Prime Minister’s authority, are paying close attention to ensuring this major crisis in Burma can be overcome very quickly. (...)

3. Foreign Trade - African tech ecosystem - Interview given by Mr. Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to (Paris - March 12, 2021)

The French President has often been regarded as the standard-bearer for the "startup nation". How does this fostering of entrepreneurship and digital technology manifest itself in France’s policy of supporting the digital sector on the African continent?

Since his speech in Ouagadougou in 2017, the President has maintained a strong ambition to update our relationship with the African continent. Central to the project is innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. It’s a challenge for the economic development of African countries, of course, but beyond that it’s also an opportunity to change the way our two continents look at each other. In Africa there’s a tech ecosystem brimming with talent, a rapidly-growing entrepreneurial fabric that only needs to be supported to continue its development: it’s also where the future of our relationship is being played out.

African entrepreneurship currently suffers from a significant lack of funding. We want to help remedy that. That’s the purpose of the Digital Africa initiative, which mobilizes resources from the AFD [French Development Agency] to support the growth of African tech: to date, 65 million euros has already been committed to a seed fund and venture-capital investments. It’s also the purpose of France’s Choose Africa initiative, which aims to roll out 3.5 billion euros to support the development of 16,000 African VSEs and SMEs by 2022.

In addition, we’ve supported the development of French Tech communities in six African cities: Abidjan, Cape Town, Nairobi, Dakar, Casablanca and Tunis. They’re committed on a daily basis to uniting and boosting their local ecosystems, they connect African and French startups and enable cooperation and projects to be built between the latter, thus helping develop local entrepreneurship.

In your view, what role should the digital sector play in France’s development aid policy in Africa?

There again, some ideas are hard to shake off, because in many respects the African continent is ahead of us, in particular in the ways digital technology is used. I’m thinking in particular of payment and banking via mobile phones, which has skyrocketed with the spread of smartphones, for example.

Digital technology is a powerful lever for development, capable of providing concrete opportunities for young people on the continent, and in particular young women.

That’s why we’ve made the digital transformation not only a vehicle for our development policy in Africa but also an end in itself. We’re convinced that innovation can support and speed up the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular in priority sectors for French aid like education, gender equality, health and the climate.

More generally, how does France’s economic diplomacy intend to follow on from the reinvention of the relationship with the continent?

On each of my visits to Africa - be they to Morocco, South Africa or soon Nigeria - I’ve reiterated our desire to go beyond history, borders and language barriers and build a new economic relationship based on an updated partnership, with special emphasis placed on the key sectors for the future: agriculture, sustainable cities, new technologies and health. On all these issues, we must give African countries the means to draw on their own strengths to build their future.

That requires forging long-term and mutually-beneficial economic partnerships with African countries. It also requires our businesses to be ever more exemplary and highlight even more what distinguishes them from their competitors: social and environmental responsibility fully taken on board, the involvement of African talent and the creation of local value. They must also venture to the countries where France has traditionally been less present but is nevertheless welcome and often long-awaited: I’m thinking of English-speaking Africa.

The multilateralism that will shape the world after [the pandemic] will be ecological and digital or nothing. What advice would you give businesses on both shores so they can take full advantage of what you might call Act Three of globalization?

Carry on forging professional ties, building industrial partnerships and investing on either side of the Mediterranean! You’re right: sustainable development and digitization are now central to our ambition for the French and European economy. They’re also priorities we promote for our international trade, in particular with Africa.

I’m also convinced that developing links between European and African value chains will help strengthen economic resilience for both continents. The post-Cotonou agreement and the modernization of the Economic Partnership Agreements already in place between the European Union and some African States all help deepen this key relationship between Europe and Africa. They’re all opportunities to further integrate digital technology, sustainable development, better access to procurement contracts, and the protection of investments and intellectual property into our trade. In the long term, it’s in our shared strategic interest to build a comprehensive trade agreement that brings our two continents together on the basis of even more intense trade. In this regard, we support the establishment of the AfCFTA, the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will ultimately establish a true African internal market.

They’re all priorities where we can move forward together for the sake of a fairer, more sustainable and more equitable globalization, which France strongly supports.

4. Francophonie - French Language Week - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State for Tourism, French Nationals Abroad and Francophonie, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to TV5 Monde (excerpts) (Paris - March 15, 2021)


French Language and Francophonie Week; 500,000 words and expressions in a dictionary of French speakers, which you’re launching tomorrow with Louise Mushikiwabo, who heads the Organisation internationale de la francophonie [OIF - international Francophone organization], Leïla Slimani, who’s sponsoring the Week, and Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot. What is this dictionary?

Well, I’ve got it online here. It’s the test version, but it’s going to be available. It makes it possible to have all the words in the French language, because meanings sometimes differ from one country to another. For example, the word char [tank]: in France, char means military hardware. But char in Quebec, for example, means car. In Switzerland’s case, it means an agricultural vehicle. So you can see that one word sometimes has different meanings, different senses depending on the country. So the French language, as you can see, is diverse. And I think Tahar Ben Jelloun has a very fine turn of phrase when he says that francophonie is ultimately a house with more tenants than owners. So, yes, it’s true that the French language is employed, is in common use, adopted by all the peoples using it worldwide. And that leads to differences. So the President wanted to show that this language unites, brings together very different peoples. And it’s fantastic, because thanks to the French language, you can work, study, travel and be in love on every continent, in French. I think that’s a very fine message.

Yes, with different accents...


Elsewhere in the dictionary we find un bol d’air ["a breath of fresh air"]: it’s the theme of the Week - we really need a breath of fresh air, with Covid and everything. But beyond that, the French language is faring better, despite what’s said - obviously there’s multilingualism -, despite what’s said about the rise of English.

Well, I’d say the reality is differentiated. On the one hand, the French-speaking world has strong demographic momentum, because its center, as the President likes to say, is somewhere in the Congo Basin area. So it’s true that we’re seeing this strong demographic momentum. But in order for it to be fully achieved, we still have to have enough trained French-language teachers and also enough institutions teaching in French. This is why we’ve put the emphasis on the Global Partnership for Education, the doubling of the number of staff in the French teaching system abroad. And at the same time, a battle still needs to be fought, particularly within international institutions - I’m thinking, for instance, of the European Union - because after all, it’s got to be said, we’re witnessing a sort of emergence of English as Esperanto. I’m not resigned to this. On April 8, Louise Mushikiwabo and my European Affairs colleague and I will be defending multilingualism, the fact that we must use French and other national languages more in institutions because using solely English completely impoverishes: speaking with the same 300 words in gobbledygook is unsatisfactory, and, ultimately, being able to speak in one’s own tongue, being able to express oneself in French, German or Spanish is very important, it’s a key to democracy.

The French language ranks third for business, it’s the fourth most used for international communication and fifth most spoken in world. Can we do even better?

I think we’ve got a major challenge when it comes to the digital world, because we’ve got to make all content visible in French, in the French language, in the digital world. Here too, France is running a project with Canada, Quebec and French speakers about the "discoverability" of Internet content. Because today everything is digital, and as you can see, what’s important is to be able to be well referenced and feature clearly. The French language is venerable, it’s centuries old. Remember [the Ordinance of] Villers-Cotterêts, which standardized the language in France. Today we’ve got to continue in new areas, the information highways etc. There’s a lot to do, but there’s also great determination from heads of State and government. The President is spearheading this ambition, and in a few months we’ve got the [OIF] heads of State and government summit. It will be in Djerba, Tunisia - a tribute, too, to the OIF’s founders. Remember, it happened 51 years ago. The 50th anniversary was last year, but sadly we couldn’t celebrate it properly because of the pandemic. But it’s a legacy which, I think, imposes many duties on us, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, the President and I are attentive to this.

Beyond that, we were talking earlier about visits, about geography. All the same, hasn’t Covid broken the unity of this great Francophone family?

Well, Covid has made us work differently; we’ve all had our share of video conferences, and admittedly sometimes the video conference has alas led, at international level, to the use of English. And here too there’s a battle to ensure that the post-Covid world, with changed habits, isn’t one which denies linguistic diversity. So you’re right, some very big challenges have arisen with this pandemic: to resume the flow of trade and students. Happily, a Maison des étudiants de la francophonie has sprung up at the Cité internationale universitaire in Paris. I’ll be there on Wednesday with the Recteur [Executive-Director] of the AUF, the Agence universitaire de la francophonie [Francophone university association]. We need to resume these exchanges, not just of students, interns and apprentices, and admittedly this has been made complicated. So we’ve got to continue things differently, in large part on the Web. But we aren’t giving up, because this francophonie presents a huge, tremendous field of possibilities. Imagine yourself on five continents, [with] this ability to communicate. I think it’s also a vehicle for the economic world. Incidentally, I pay tribute to MEDEF [French employers’ association], which wants at the end of August to convene a genuine economic Francophone summit. It will provide an opportunity, I think, to boost this economic francophonie which has been the subject of many seminars and reports but which we’ve somewhat struggled to see materialize. This is good timing, because the OIF has, precisely, a new economic Francophone strategy. So as you can see, everyone is moving in the same direction.

Yes, and TV5 Monde is the francophonie channel, with its new free platform TV5 Monde+.

Which is wonderful. I can’t stop talking about it whenever I’m asked questions because there’s this ability to have access, precisely, to different formats and hundreds and hundreds of [cultural] programs - and it’s free -, so I think it’s wonderful. (...)

5. United Nations - Event: 10th anniversary of the Syrian revolution: access and exile invitation - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations (New York - March 18, 2021)

Thank you Madam Chair. I want to thank the Syrian national coalition for organizing this important event to commemorate the grim anniversary of the Syrian conflict.

Ten years ago, tens of thousands of Syrians took peacefully to the streets to demand that their most fundamental rights be respected. The brutal, indiscriminate response from Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his role in the ensuing conflict triggered one of the most serious criminal enterprises and humanitarian crises since the Second World War. Today, the war is far from being over.

Responsibility for this tragedy lies with the Syrian regime and its external supporters. The figures bear witness to the scale of the tragedy. The Syrian regime has committed hideous crimes that have revived the worst moments in recent history. It has tortured, besieged and bombarded its own population to ensure that its clan remained in power rather than concede the slightest opening. Those crimes have been thoroughly documented by the UN, including the Commission of Inquiry’s last two reports. They may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The regime has also broken the taboo of the use of chemical weapons, putting in danger the non-proliferation regime that the international community had built together over the past decades. This use of chemical weapons against its own people has also been documented on numerous occasions. This is unacceptable. France and its partners have made it clear that they will not tolerate it. We will remain fully mobilized to ensure that an appropriate response is provided in the appropriate fora.

It is high time to implement a political solution based on UNSCR 2254 to avoid another decade of conflict, at the expense of the Syrian people. This is necessary to restore the stability in Syria and the regime, as well as to allow for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees to their homes.

It is all the more urgent to register progress on the implementation of all aspects of Resolution 2254. This means achieving progress on detainees and missing persons as a matter of priority, working towards the establishment of a nationwide ceasefire, preparing the holding of free and transparent elections, under UN supervision and in which the diaspora will be able to participate.

The Syrian regime needs to engage at last in good faith in the Geneva negotiations. I want to commend the constructive approach of the Syrian Negotiations Committee and reiterate France’s full support to the Syrian opposition.

Until a long lasting solution to the conflict is found, France is determined to continue its active support to the Syrian people.

It will reaffirm its commitment in the framework of the next conference on the future of Syria on 29 and 30 March 2021. In 2018, the French President allocated €50 million to an emergency program to finance humanitarian and stabilization projects. This aid was renewed in 2021 for the fourth consecutive year. The European Union and its member states remain the largest donor of humanitarian aid to all Syrians in need.

We also strongly echo the Secretary-General’s call for "more humanitarian access" and "consensus on this crucial matter" in the Security Council. Crossborder is a vital lifeline for millions of Syrians.

France will also continue its fight against impunity. We will continue to support the work of the International Commission of Inquiry and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism. Several investigations have also been started by the courts, including in France and Germany. The condemnation of a Syrian regime agent in Koblens marks a first important step in our joint fight against impunity.

France, with its partners, will continue its action to bring about a political solution for a stable, sovereign Syria, in the service of the Syrian people. We will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition is firmly under way.

Thank you.

6. United Nations - Side event - "Making zero tolerance a reality: Peer to peer learning on prevention and elimination of sexual harassment" - Statement by Ms. Nathalie Broadhurst, Deputy permanent representative of France to the United Nations (CSW65) (New York - March 17, 2021)

Dear Anita,

Thank you for this question and for inviting me.

It is a privilege and a pleasure to participate in this discussion as a founding member of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Sexual Harassment, together with the Ambassadors of Israel, Kenya and the Netherlands.

As you all stated, I think that there has been a growing awareness on this top priority for a lot of us, but we must recognize that there are so many challenges ahead of us still.

France has tried to put in place concrete measures in the recent years to overcome sexual and gender-based violence and harassment at all levels. It really is a top priority for my President. And I would take a just a few examples:

At national level, we have been one of the first country to punish the concept of street harassment; which is not a concept but unfortunately is very common. In 2018, we adopted a law that created a new offense to tackle street harassment. It is important because it delivers a message that is clear and strong: we will not tolerate any sexist contempt anywhere, in the workplace, outside, in the streets: zero tolerance.

In addition to that, a few months ago, to make it more operational, we took a few concrete steps in the fight against street harassment, and among them we have launched a plan called "Angela", which comprises several aspects:

  1. The creation of a network of "safe places" or "safe heavens", which are mostly bars, restaurants, that are considered as part of this network. The "Ask Angela" system was created in partnership with UN Women and HeForShe. The principle is very simple: when a woman is harassed in the public space, she can go to a partner bar or restaurant and ask "where is Angela" and people know that she is in trouble or she is facing harassment.
  2. Major communication campaigns have been launched, but especially one last summer on the concept of consent. As you know, the concept of consent is a key issue as we can see during investigation,
  3. The commitment of VTC platforms
  4. The generalization of on-demand bus stops for women
  5. The immediate treatment of street harassment by courts
  6. The mobilization of "youth" social media platforms and networks against cyber-harassment, to increase the awareness of the phenomenon.

At the international level, France carries out a resolute feminist diplomacy. The fight against sexual harassment has been a priority. That is the reason why France and the Netherlands promoted the adoption of the first ever UN resolution dedicated on this very specific issue in 2018.

We also realized that within the United Nation system and the diplomatic community, we were not immune from these practices. Such behavior cannot go unchallenged. For this reason, we have decided with the Permanent Missions of Israel, Kenya and the Netherlands to create the Group of Friends to Eliminate Sexual Harassment.

And to be credible, one must lead by example. So at the level of the Ministry of Foreign affairs in France, we have also adopted an ambitious plan to fight sexual harassment. We put in place a unit mandated for victims of sexual violence and sexist acts to report them. It is a kind of hotline, it is within the Ministry of Foreign affairs and the plan revolves around three main axes: a focus on prevention, through massive training; treatment and sanction. There have been already cases where very strict sanctions were taken. No impunity, zero tolerance. I myself was involved in this program, I benefited from a training trainers program. The idea was that by training a few people in different Embassies and the Ministry you could then train more people in all the network of the Embassies and General Consulates. It is important not only to focus on headquarters, because often most of the victims are on the ground, in remote services or centers and they have to be aware of the phenomenon and of their right. Training is also important to debunk some of the myths about harassment. So there is a hotline where people can report, the investigations are anonymous. And we have received very positive feedback on these training programs. With COVID, the training has slowed a little bit, but the idea is to train everybody in the Ministry.

Finally, regarding the Generation Equality Forum that will take place in Paris at the end of June, we will continue to engage with relevant stake holders to promote the fight against sexual harassment.

I would like to conclude by thanking UN Women for all the work achieved already and for the mobilization on this so important issue.

I hope we’ll continue to work closely together. Thank you.