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Official speeches and statements - April 29, 2021

Published on April 29, 2021

1. European Affairs - United Kingdom/Brexit - Interview given by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to BFM Business (excerpts) (Paris - April 27, 2021)

(...)

Here you’ve got clear proof that it [the UK] doesn’t respect everything. On the Irish chapter, indeed it should be reiterated that the agreement provided for Northern Ireland to remain in the European market, meaning customs and health checks would be restored. Yet the British have announced they’re delaying certain checks on goods arriving from Britain until October 1.

You’ve actually got two issues. You’ve got the fact that the UK decided—we had the so-called transition period—to extend it, without asking us what we thought. That goes against the agreement and we began legal proceedings which may lead to a form of sanction or retaliation against the UK precisely in order to enforce the agreement itself. We shall be uncompromising on this. There are negotiations, but if necessary we’ll put retaliatory measures in place against the UK.

Does the renewed Unionist violence observed in Northern Ireland, around Belfast, worry you?

Yes, absolutely. That’s the other issue, the fundamental issue. It’s the most serious one. But the UK can’t say to us: listen, I’m not implementing a protocol or checks because there are tensions and violence which, admittedly, are very dangerous and risky. The truth needs to be spoken and political responsibilities shouldered, those of Mr. Johnson and the UK. This is the consequence of Brexit. It’s because of Brexit that there are checks. It’s because of Brexit that there’s a border. I regret this and we knew from the outset that one of the issues was the threats it was posing to stability, indeed peace in Ireland. This mustn’t be treated lightly, nor should Europe engage in any kind of provocation. Everyone must shoulder their responsibilities. It’s because of Brexit that there are checks. It’s because of Brexit that there’s a border and there are risks of tensions which will be managed, but while respecting the commitments made. It’s the UK which has got to shoulder its responsibilities.

And now we have this flare-up of violence—the like of which hasn’t been seen since 1999, since the 1999 agreements—by kids, young minors who didn’t live through that period.

Yes, because what people have also forgotten is that peace in Ireland in 1998 was enabled by Europe. It’s because there was the single currency, the single market, that we were able to abolish the border—no customs checks, etc.—, and this had political repercussions, it enabled people to move around and tensions to be calmed. This renewed tension today is the consequence of the referendum and the Brexit decision. I regret it, but everyone must accept it, too.

And also Boris Johnson, who isn’t honoring his commitments on the Irish side. In terms of the fishermen, basically it’s about the licenses which have to be allocated to European and particularly French fishermen and which are finally trickling in. Is that what it’s about?

Absolutely.

And indeed it’s starting to provoke reactions around Boulogne-sur-Mer in particular.

Yesterday I was there with the Minister of Marine Affairs for the fourth time, so that we could honor our commitments. And I said that we’ll show no weakness towards the UK, which must grant those licenses, i.e. authorization to access its waters for fishing. That’s the agreement. We’re asking for the whole agreement, nothing but the agreement. And we’ll continue until it’s implemented, and again, we’ll also take retaliatory measures in other sectors if necessary.

But over what timescale? What retaliatory measures? You say: we’ll take retaliatory measures...

I’ll give you a very concrete example. The UK is expecting a number of authorizations on financial services from us. We won’t give any until we have guarantees that the UK is honoring its commitments on fisheries and other issues. It’s give and take. We’re looking for cooperation, we have a good agreement, but each side must honor its commitments, otherwise we’ll be as harsh and difficult as necessary, as partners. (...)


2. United Nations - Syria (political and humanitarian situation) - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Riviere, permanent representative of France to the United Nations at the Security Council (New York - April 28, 2021)

[translation from French]

Mr. President,

I thank the Special Envoy and Mr. Mark Lowcock for their briefings.

The Syrian conflict is far from behind us.

France is concerned about the continuation of hostilities across the country. The risk of a resurgence of Daesh is worrying. Chronic instability in the areas recaptured by the regime shows that there will be no lasting stabilization without a political solution.

As the month of Ramadan has begun, France reiterates its call for a nationwide, verifiable and UN-supervised cessation of hostilities, in accordance with the Secretary-General’s calls and the resolutions of this Council.

The humanitarian situation is worsening day by day.

More than 12 million Syrians are food insecure. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread. In the Northeast, the number of cases has increased by 57% in one month. The first delivery last week of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility is positive. It is essential to ensure equitable access to this vaccine, including in the Northeast and Northwest.

International humanitarian law must be respected by all: not only in terms of the protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, but also the guarantee of full humanitarian access.

The systematic blockade of aid by the regime shows that there is no alternative to the cross-border mechanism. France is determined that this mechanism be renewed for another twelve months, wherever it saves lives, in accordance with the Secretary-General’s call.

Progress in the implementation of Resolution 2254 must be made to overcome the current deadlock.

It is time for the constitutional committee to finally work on drafting a constitutional reform. The regime must demonstrate its willingness to participate in the negotiations in good faith.

France urges the Special Envoy to work on the implementation of the other components of Resolution 2254 and to report on them, clearly indicating to this Council where the sticking points are.

We must now prepare for the holding of inclusive, free and transparent elections, under UN supervision, and in which the diaspora can take part, as provided for in Resolution 2254. France will not recognize the validity of the elections planned by the regime to be held at the end of May. These elections will not meet the aforementioned criteria and will be held under the control of the regime alone, without any international supervision.

Progress must also be made on the issue of people detained in the regime’s jails and those who have disappeared. There can be no justification for the lack of progress on this issue.

Mr. President,

There is no peace without justice. France, together with its partners, will relentlessly pursue its fight against impunity for crimes committed in Syria.

The latest report of the Secretary-General on violations against children once again establishes the overwhelming responsibility of the regime and the forces supporting it, especially for attacks committed against hospitals and schools.

France will continue to provide its support to international mechanisms to fight impunity. It will continue its action in the framework of the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons.

The adoption a week ago by a large majority of a decision to take measures to address Syria’s failure to comply with its international obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention is an important step.

Proceedings brought in court across Europe are also aimed at bringing justice to the crimes committed by the regime.

Mr. President,

Without a credible political settlement, France and its partners will remain steadfast in their position on reconstruction, normalization and sanctions. And France will continue to work with all those who want to see a political solution to the crisis.

Thank you.