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Official speeches and statements - March 30, 2021

Published on March 30, 2021

1. Burma/Myanmar - Statement by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - March 29, 2021)

I reiterate, in the strongest terms, France’s condemnation of the Burmese security forces’ brutal crackdown and the serious crimes they are continuing against the people.

On Saturday the Burmese security forces reached a new level of indiscriminate, deadly violence by again using their weapons against the people, killing more than 100, including very young children. On Armed Forces Day itself they undermined their reason to exist, which is to protect the people. Since then, the death toll has risen again and Burma is plunged further every day into a profound tragedy.

Now that sanctions have already been adopted with our European and international partners, signaling our strong condemnation of the brutal crackdown, I urge all the Burmese forces to overcome the impasse into which they are leading their country, end the violence, unconditionally and immediately release all political prisoners and resume the path of dialogue and of restoring civil and democratic order.

France will relentlessly continue its active efforts alongside its European and international partners in support of the Burmese people’s legitimate aspirations.

2. Lebanon - Communiqué issued by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - March 29, 2021)

Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, spoke to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. The Minister deplored the months-long total deadlock in the discussions aimed at forming a government in Lebanon, at a time when the country continues to descend into a major economic, social, humanitarian and political crisis, for which the Lebanese people are paying the price every day, putting the country under dangerous and unnecessary pressure. He reiterated that Lebanon’s political forces as a whole bear complete responsibility for this impasse.

In this context, the deliberate blocking of any prospect of a way out of the crisis, particularly from certain individuals in Lebanon’s political system, by ill-considered demands from another time, must end immediately. In this regard, the Minister recalled the discussion begun on his initiative with his European counterparts the previous week, with a view to identifying European Union leverage for stepping up pressure on those responsible for the deadlock.

As it has always done, France stands alongside the Lebanese people. Since the explosion of 4 August it has delivered and is continuing to deliver in humanitarian terms, to the direct benefit of the Lebanese population. To this end it has mobilized its European and international partners. But the solution for pulling Lebanon out of the crisis requires a competent government, ready to work seriously and in the general interest on implementing reforms of which everyone is aware. That is the responsibility of all Lebanon’s political forces, which have pledged before the French President to do so, for the sake of their country and the Lebanese people. The Minister told his European, regional and international counterparts that after seven months of deadlock, the time has come to step up the pressure to achieve this.

3. NATO - French army’s ninth commitment in the framework of the eFP - Communiqué issued by the Ministry for the Armed Forces (Paris - March 26, 2021)

Every year, in the framework of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) established by NATO in the Baltic countries and in Poland, France deploys a military contingent alternately in Estonia, within a battle group from the UK (framework nation), and Lithuania, within a battle group from Germany (framework nation).

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, in the Tapa military camp in Estonia, the transfer of authority in the British battle group took place between the 5 RIFLES and the 1 MERCIAN, making the French army’s ninth commitment in the eFP official.

The 300-strong army detachment to be deployed until March 2022 includes:

  • an integrated unit with a Senior National Representative (SNR), Colonel Bruno Démésy;
  • a mostly armored combined arms tactical sub-group (SGTIA) composed of two platoons of Leclerc tanks, one reconnaissance platoon, one infantry combat section, one combat engineers section, and one observation and fire coordination team.
  • a national support unit (ESN), composed of a logistical detachment, a provost detachment and a counter-intelligence detachment.

This multinational commitment is also an excellent opportunity to enhance our forces’ interoperability with those of the eFP framework nation in Estonia (United Kingdom), the host nation and all the other contributing nations. It also helps keep our military personnel and equipment in operational condition.

4. United Nations - UN high-level meeting on the international debt architecture and liquidity : financing for development in the era of Covid-19 and beyond initiative - Statement by Mr. Bruno Le Maire, France’s minister of the economy, finance and the recovery (New York - March 29, 2021)

[courtesy translation from French - check against delivery]

Ladies and Gentlemen Heads of State and Government,
Distinguished colleagues,

The crisis caused by COVID-19 exacerbates the challenges that impact all nations: poverty, inequality and food insecurity.

We therefore call for a financial mobilization of the international community in favor of the poorest countries that are the most affected by this crisis and its consequences.

We believe that the best solution is a new general allocation of special drawing rights (SDR) by the IMF. France has supported this idea for a year. With the President of the Republic, we propose an ambitious allocation of special drawing rights, around $650 Bn, as recently proposed by the IMF Managing Director, Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva. This would make possible to complement within a very short timeframe the foreign exchange reserves of low-income countries. To maximize the effects of this allocation, countries that can do so could also lend some of their special drawing rights through the International Monetary Fund’s concessional lending. These would be additional resources to support the countries that need them most.

I would also like to say a few words about a major issue, aside financing, which is sovereign debt. The G20 members, the Paris Club members, decided in April 2020 to implement a debt service suspension initiative. In 2020, this debt service suspension initiative provided nearly $6 billion in assistance to nearly 46 countries. As the crisis continues into 2021, it was important to extend this initiative into the first half of the year. The G20 and the Paris Club will soon discuss a possible further extension until the end of 2021 at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings. France is in favor of extending the debt service initiative until the end of 2021. At the same time, the affected countries must also request the IMF with a program to consider more sustainable solutions.

Then, the following challenge is to find a structural approach on which we can all agree, one that can truly and definitively address the issue of excessive debt. We have to come out of this transitional solution. It has been effective, it has worked, but we need a lasting and definitive solution to this key issue of over-indebtedness.

The G20 and the Paris Club have therefore adopted a common framework. This common framework has a unique feature: it treats public creditors in the same way as private creditors. It will be based on IMF and World Bank debt sustainability analyses, and will allow for coordinated debt treatment on a case-by-case basis. Three countries have already requested to benefit from this framework: Chad, Ethiopia and Zambia. The G20 and Paris Club creditors will work to provide an appropriate response to these requests.

These debt treatments will require an effort from all creditors. Public creditors but also private creditors, in accordance with the principle of comparability of treatment. And this is the real novelty of this sustainable debt treatment framework. Private and public creditors commit to ensure that the effort is fairly distributed among all creditors. These decisions, regarding the debt service initiative and the common framework, must continue to be taken within the G20 and the Paris Club, in close consultation with the international financial institutions. We therefore encourage the Debt Working Group to focus its further work on debt transparency and sustainable debt.

Finally, the third major topic is to know what sustainable financing model we define together for the poorest countries. Debt restructuring and special drawing rights won’t be enough to cover all the needs. So, with President Emmanuel Macron, we are working on new ideas, more ambitious solutions for the Summit on the financing of African economies to be held in Paris on May 18. We are convinced that the recovery in Africa will be driven by the SMEs of the private sector. Hence it is essential to rely on these SMEs and to improve the business climate, so that small and medium-sized enterprises can participate to the growth in Africa. In any case, this is one of the major ambitions of the Summit that the President of the Republic will hold in a few weeks.

I therefore wish to each of you a successful continuation of the discussions on these essential subjects. We await your proposals and recommendations, and we all commit to support and help the poorest countries of the planet in these very difficult times.

5. United Nations - Syria (humanitarian situation) - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations at the Security Council (New York - March 29, 2021)

[translation from French]

Mr. President,

It is an honor to have you preside over this Council, and I would like to thank the U.S. presidency of the Security Council for the month of March.

I also thank Mr. Lowcock, Ms. Fore, and Dr. Ballour for their briefings.

The Syrian people continue to pay a heavy price of this conflict every day. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives, more than 13 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance, 90% of the population lives below the poverty threshold, half are displaced or refugees, most Syrian children have known nothing but war.

Ten years after the beginning of this tragedy, the conflict is far from over. There is an urgent need for an immediate cessation of hostilities under UN supervision, as well as a humanitarian pause, in accordance with resolutions 2532 and 2254.

The strikes near the Bab al Hawa crossing are very worrying. France has condemned in the strongest terms the attack on the al-Atareb hospital in the North-West. We cannot accept these messages of intimidation. Even wars have rules. Attacking a hospital is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime. The coordinates of this hospital had been transmitted to all parties in the framework of the deconfliction mechanism. All light must be shed on this heinous act. France will continue to fully support the mechanisms set up to fight impunity.

International humanitarian law must be strictly respected by all: not only the protection of civilians but also full humanitarian access. Needs continue to grow, in a context marked by food insecurity and the pandemic of COVID-19.

The systematic blocking of aid by the regime shows that there is no alternative to the cross-border mechanism. Let’s face it: Damascus does not provide sufficient and timely authorizations to meet the needs of the population in areas under its control - let alone in areas outside its control. This blackmail is unacceptable. The announced opening of crossing points inside the country is far from sufficient. The delivery of "crossline" aid remains marginal and can in no way be used as a pretext for calling into question the cross-border aid mechanism.

France is determined for this mechanism to be renewed wherever it saves lives, in accordance with the Secretary-General’s appeal. This is also essential to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The donors’ conference that is currently taking place is a key step. France and the European Union are taking their full part. Since 2011, more than 24 billion euros have been mobilized by the European Union and its member states in response to this crisis.

Without a comprehensive political solution, the position of France and the European Union on normalization, reconstruction and sanctions will remain unchanged. A political solution also requires justice, access to aid and the restoration of rights.

Finally, the instrumentalization of the issue of sanctions in the context of the pandemic to mask the responsibility of the regime deceives no one. European sanctions are targeted: they target individuals and entities that participate in the repression and benefit from the fallout of the conflict. They include strong measures to safeguard the delivery of humanitarian and medical assistance.

Thank you.