Official speeches and statements - September 10, 2021
We have no political dialogue with the Taliban. We’re holding only pragmatic operational contacts to facilitate the evacuation operations, both of our nationals and of those Afghans who have helped the French army or our own services in the past, and also to help evacuate those Afghans who are under threat because of their involvement, their job, their profession, their history, their fight for freedoms to be respected. We have no political dialogue. We’re holding those technical talks through the benevolent intermediary of the Qatari authorities. That’s enabled us to exfiltrate 2,800 people, including 2,600 Afghans in recent days, in 10 days, and I want to pay tribute to our teams, who have done a remarkable job with a cool head and courage. We’re in talks to check whether, when HKIA airport in Kabul is reopened, we could still proceed with other exfiltrations. We still have a few nationals left, a few dependents and also some Afghans who have registered their struggle and whom you yourselves, ladies and gentlemen Senators, have singled out; and we’re following every case specifically.
You mention the Taliban’s statements. As for us, we’re waiting for deeds. When I say we, I don’t mean solely us, France, but we Europeans, we the Security Council, which met at France’s request last week and which endorsed these principles through a resolution; the Security Council, with the fact that it was adopted unanimously, with two abstentions from China and Russia, but nevertheless the resolution was passed.
There are major principles we expect the Taliban to adhere to regarding the break with terrorism, regarding respect for human rights and women’s rights and regarding unhindered freedom of movement - free access to humanitarian aid too. This hasn’t happened for the moment, and even aside from that, the composition of what the Taliban are calling the interim government, the provisional government, isn’t giving us signs to be very optimistic.
So we’re mindful of the actions of the Taliban before moving beyond that; not just us, this is the basic principle of the international community.
An evacuation operation between Kabul and Doha is being organized today. France thanks the Qatari authorities for their decisive assistance. This is allowing 49 of our compatriots and their dependents to reach Qatar.
A flight chartered by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs will enable these passengers to be transferred to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport.
All the State’s services remain fully mobilized to ensure further evacuations take place as soon as possible for our compatriots who may still be over there and for Afghans particularly under threat due to their commitments.
3. European Affairs - Afghanistan - Excerpts from the interview given by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France Info (Paris - September 7, 2021)
Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are calling for discussions with the Taliban to continue to allow the evacuation of Afghans who want to flee the country because they feel in danger. What point have we reached today on talks with the Taliban? Have you got any information?
Well, I’m very cautious on this issue, because obviously, in this instance, it’s accepted that there has to be confidentiality. We must be very clear about the position: there’s no political contact or recognition of a Taliban government. The Taliban, which took power by force, do seem today to be setting up a power, a government, forming a government in Kabul. One of the conditions which Europe - and, incidentally, the United States - has always set in order for discussions to take place is for there to be a government which brings in other political representatives. This isn’t the case today; I don’t know if it will be one day.
As long as it isn’t the case, there can’t be any kind of recognition of a brutal military, Islamist power in Kabul.
Must they, for example, recognize, bring into this government, for example, the allies of Commander Massoud’s son? Is this one of the conditions today?
Europe has set a number of conditions in order for contacts to take place.
Which haven’t yet been met?
Which haven’t yet been met at all.
So there’s no contact between any member of the European Union and Taliban representatives?
Several European countries have a number of so-called "operational" contacts, to give an exact answer to what you’re saying, which is our duty and our wish, i.e. to try - this is no longer the case, as you know, because operations had to be suspended, but to try and reopen routes, by air or otherwise, so that people being threatened today by the Taliban regime - women, journalists, artists, people who have sometimes still been working for European countries - can leave the country and be recognized as asylum seekers.
But the UN estimates that nearly 500,000 Afghans could leave the country in the next few months. Does the European Union envisage putting in place an agreement between countries on sharing the task of taking in these refugees?
Well, we haven’t reached that point, but I don’t want there to be any fantasies about migration either. People who say we’re going to have millions of Afghans landing in France and stealing our bread - honestly, it’s neither responsible nor decent, because today...
Yes, so how do we protect ourselves against illegal migration flows, as the President was saying?
As regards fantasies about migration, Emmanuel Macron explained that there would be significant illegal flows.
No, he didn’t say that. He said: when the time comes, we’ll have to organize. It’s not about the whole of Afghanistan coming to Europe, I don’t think that would be in the country’s own interest...
But he said we’d have to protect ourselves against these flows.
Yes, but what’s urgent today - he said this too, I think he said it very clearly - is to protect those who need to be protected because they’re in danger. And today, as we speak, the danger isn’t so much that millions of people are leaving Afghanistan. The danger is that people who may have the right of asylum, who need protection, are unfortunately unable to leave the country; and we’ve got to take them in and try to restore a right of passage.
On the Afghanistan issue, Marine Le Pen, President of the National Rally party, proposes the setting-up of humanitarian camps in the countries bordering Afghanistan, huge camps which would be there for a long time, probably 30 or so years, to take in these refugees. Does that seem - even coming from her - a good way forward to you?
With Marine Le Pen there’s always a kind of ambiguity. If it’s about having humanitarian reception camps or places organized by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, helping the countries, because there are already a lot of Afghans in the countries bordering Afghanistan, why not?
That’s slightly what we’re doing today with Turkey, which has taken in more than a million Syrians - and in other countries, under those conditions.
Yes, there are a lot of countries - often through the UN, through the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees; indeed, we’ve also said we’ll increase our contribution to the UNHCR, the President has announced it, so that people can be taken in under humanitarian, humane conditions, because I also think that rather than risk travelling thousands of kilometers via smugglers before arriving in Europe, it’s always better for people who hope one day to return to their country - because the Afghans’ desire isn’t to come and steal our bread, it’s to return freely to their country - not to be too far away, to be in the neighboring countries.
If it’s a way of saying: there’s nothing we have to do, we have no duty, we won’t grant asylum to anyone, then I obviously don’t subscribe to it. And I think we have a responsibility to the people who have worked for us, and we have a duty which is also in our constitution, which is our shared pact, to grant asylum to Afghans or others who risk their lives in terms of freedom, and to play our part. The one doesn’t exclude the other.
If it’s a polite way of dressing up a rejection of asylum in France, then that’s obviously not the line I take.
Talking of asylum, there’s one European country, Denmark, which adopted a law in June enabling it to open asylum seekers’ centers outside the European Union, therefore on the same principle Marc mentioned, and in line with Marine Le Pen’s idea. In practice, does this idea of processing asylum applications outside the European Union shock you, or not?
That’s a slightly cynical bit of communication - sorry - that our Danish partners are doing, because first of all, I say communication because the Danes said "we’re going to get asylum applications processed, for example, in Rwanda", even when the asylum seekers have no link to Rwanda.
Yes, they send the asylum seekers there, regardless of their origin.
First of all, to my knowledge they haven’t signed an agreement with anyone, and they’re not implementing this mechanism. Moreover, basically the idea that you send [people] back to countries that are already in difficulty, often - because we’re talking about African countries, which already have demographic, migration and security difficulties -, that you further load down their boat, as it were, by telling them, "it’s not us who process asylum, it’s you", and then maybe one day you take in people with the idea of never admitting them - I don’t think you’d be helping them much, and I don’t even think we Europeans would be helping ourselves, because why would...
But then, what is the European Union doing? The Danish Parliament adopted it...
Sorry, why do people come to the European Union? Because they’re suffering in their own countries, because they’re seeking a better future, a better life economically, politically etc. In Africa, unless we resolve the problems, that will continue. So I accept there should be criteria for taking people in; not everyone is destined to have asylum in Europe, from Afghanistan or elsewhere. To believe that by redirecting the problem to another African country [you solve it] - I think that’s an illusion.
So the idea is to have clearer criteria and speedier procedures, so that those people who have the right to asylum get it quickly, and those people who don’t have the right to asylum are taken back more quickly. (...)
4. United Nations - Briefing UNAMA and Afghanistan - Statement by Ms. Nathalie Broadhurst, deputy permanent representative of France to the United Nations, to the Security Council (New York - September 10, 2021)
[translation from French]
I would like to thank and commend the speakers for their testimony and commitment. The presence of three women, especially Wazhma Frogh and Malala Yousafzai before the Council reminds us that women must not be forgotten in the Afghan crisis, and that they must be at the heart of any solution.
To Deborah Lyons, I would like to express our full support. I would like to salute the courage and determination of the UNAMA teams and, beyond that, of all UN personnel in Afghanistan. Those who are still there, as we know, are working in a very deteriorated security and humanitarian context. The safety of these personnel must remain a constant concern for all of us. The Secretary-General’s report reminds us of this as we negotiate the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate.
The international community’s demands of the Taliban are extremely clear: they were clearly stated in Security Council Resolution 2593 and have been repeated on multiple occasions by France and its European partners.
They are first and foremost the safe and unhindered departure of Afghans and of all foreign nationals who wish to leave the country. This is at the core of Resolution 2593, which was supported by France, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Taliban have made concrete commitments on this point in their declaration of August 27, 2021 and it is imperative that they respect them. We are working with all partners involved to ensure that this is the case, including Afghanistan’s neighbors. One of the priorities is to ensure that those who wish to leave Afghanistan can do so through Kabul airport, which must be free, safe and secure.
The second priority is to ensure humanitarian access throughout Afghanistan. The situation on the ground continues to worsen. Nearly half of the Afghan population is now dependent on external humanitarian aid.
France will participate in the ministerial meeting on September 13 in Geneva and will contribute to the international effort to help the Afghan people. But aid is nothing if it does not reach all those who need it most. The protection of humanitarian and medical personnel must be guaranteed. The Taliban have made commitments. And here again, we will not be satisfied with words, we expect concrete actions and above all guarantees. It is essential that female humanitarian personnel be able to continue to carry out their missions.
The respect by all parties of their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, is an absolute requirement.
Nor will we compromise on respect for human rights, and particularly the rights of women and girls. We have heard the absolutely poignant testimonies of Wazhma and Malala. They reminded us, each in their own way, of the courage of Afghan women and girls who have fought so hard to obtain their rights over the last twenty years. The protection of these gains is a top priority and the violation of these rights will not go unpunished.
Girls must be able to continue to go to school. They must be able to continue to aspire to positions of responsibility. Their elders must be allowed to continue to work and enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance. We know the determination of Afghan women and we will support them in their future struggles as we have done in the past.
Afghanistan must not become a sanctuary for terrorist groups again. We demand that the Taliban break all direct or indirect links, including financial ones, with terrorist groups, and in particular with Al Qaeda.
France has constantly reiterated that it would be attentive to the establishment of a transitional government that is representative of the entire Afghan people and that meets the aspirations of the population. It is clear that the composition of the new interim government, which was announced by the Taliban yesterday, in no way meets this requirement.
In conclusion, France will continue to give its full support to the Afghan people and will be vigilant to ensure that the commitments made by the Taliban are respected and translated into concrete actions on the ground.