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Official speeches and statements - February 3, 2022

Published on February 3, 2022

1. Foreign Affairs - Mali / Sahel / Ukraine / Russia - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 2 (excerpts) (Paris - February 2, 2022)

France has formally noted Mali’s decision to expel our ambassador, which could be felt as a humiliation. France has formally noted it, but will it act accordingly?

What I find very striking in the behavior of the junta, which took power in Mali after two coups, is this reckless action it’s taking. The junta excludes. It is excluding our ambassador; a few days ago, it excluded the Danish special forces who had come, at its request, to help fight terrorism and support the Malian forces. Prior to that it excluded the representative of what’s called the [Economic] Community of West African States, who was there as the spokesman for those countries. It excluded him. It’s acting recklessly, in a kind of complete isolation from the other African States and the community...

But what lessons are we drawing from this, while our troops are on the ground?

Admittedly deep splits have occurred there. There’s a political split, insofar as that country is now ruled by a self-proclaimed junta which believes it can’t start a democratic process for five years. It’s been there for two years...

Is there a diplomatic split with Mali?

A political split and a military split, because there are more and more obstacles to the way we operate. And then there’s also a split between that country, between the junta in power and the international community, the United Nations and the neighboring countries. So the split compels us to consider our posture. And we’ve begun consultations. We aren’t alone in this matter. The battle against terrorism in the Sahel isn’t being waged only in Mali. It’s being waged in other countries. So we’re currently in discussions with the Europeans...

You’re implying that the decision to withdraw French soldiers won’t be a French one? Will it be a European one?

It will be a French one. But we must be able to talk to all our partners, European and African, about how we’re going to act tomorrow, to continue fighting terrorism - because we’re going to continue.

Are you and France still thinking in terms of staying?

We’re consulting, we’re thinking and we’re going to take action in the coming days.

What criteria is your thinking based on?

It depends on the force that we have to fight terrorism with others, because we aren’t on our own. We’re with the Africans, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger; they’re fighting with us, and we’re with the Europeans. Ten European countries are present. And then there’s also the international community.

Let Mr. put the question to you in another way: are the conditions being met for us to remain in Mali under these conditions?

I don’t think the situation can remain as it is today. And it’s why we’re engaged in a consultation to adapt our set-up to the new situation created by the junta in power in Mali.

We’ve been there for nine years.

Yes, but a lot has already been done.

There’s a huge number of troops and infrastructure in place in Gao; a decision to leave Mali wouldn’t happen just like that, wouldn’t it take time?

If we left Mali it would take time, but the issue today is how we’re going to continue fighting terrorism tomorrow not just in the Sahel but also in the Gulf of Guinea area, because the countries...

The battle goes on, that’s what you’re telling us this morning, but couldn’t it be waged from Niger, for example?

The battle goes on. It could be waged in another way. We’re in the process of thinking about this.

In Niger, in particular?

It may take another form; we need to talk to the various African capitals. We’re having that discussion. At the end of this week there’ll be a summit of the African Union, which is also taking an extremely firm stand against the authoritarian junta in Mali, which disagrees with the junta’s agenda and which has also adopted sanction measures.

Mali is accusing you, is accusing France of exploiting the ECOWAS sanctions, among other things.

ECOWAS is made up of sovereign leaders who take decisions against countries which, in their view, break the democratic norms which are necessary in that region.

You’re saying to Vladimir Putin "not one step further" when you talk about Ukraine, and the Wagner commandos remain in Mali?

It’s the Malian authorities’ decision to rely on mercenaries who have never proven their ability to combat terrorism. We saw them in the Central African Republic; they’re people who carry out atrocities, they’re people who help themselves directly to the country’s resources and whose main objective is to protect the ruling junta.

Seeing how things are playing out and are maybe going to end in Mali, there are people who will be looking at you this morning and saying: "Fifty-three French soldiers have died... Is this operation a failure?"

I was defense minister at the time when the operations began, and I remember the first death, Lieutenant Damien Boiteux. And there was also recently the 53rd, Brigadier Martin. France has stepped up to the fight against terrorism, at the request of those countries. France has paid the price in blood. And I’d really like that to be respected.

It went there at the request of those countries. Can it go again, also at the request of those countries?

It went at the request of those countries because there isn’t only Mali: it also went in agreement with the United Nations, because every year the United Nations and the Security Council mandate both the Barkhane force and United Nations forces to maintain peace in the region. The junta would do well to realize that.

Is there a credible prospect of seeing our soldiers remain in Mali, as we speak?

The prospect of continuing to fight against terrorism is absolutely essential.

In Mali or elsewhere?

In the Sahel and throughout West Africa.

Understood. In Ukraine, are we drifting inexorably into war?

I’m not going to hide the fact that the situation is very serious. There are tens of thousands of Russian soldiers at Ukraine’s border; in the coming days there are going to be military maneuvers in Belarus, with Russian and Belarusian forces at Ukraine’s border. All the elements are there for an intervention to occur.

A clear and present danger, says Boris Johnson. A clear and present danger?

It’s a clear and present danger, but at this time we have no information about President Putin’s willingness to move into action. And so it’s always time to give priority to de-escalation. It’s up to President Putin to say whether he prefers confrontation or negotiation. And we’re in favor of there being negotiation. It’s possible. We must...

About what? Can you see Vladimir Putin setting a condition to NATO, to the Europeans, to the West, which would be acceptable?

There are two different issues, but they’re complementary. On the one hand there’s the discussion and negotiation about the situation in Ukraine. There’s already been a small step forward, namely the so-called Normandy-format meeting the other day, where you have the Russians, Ukrainians, Germans and French negotiating on the basis of an agreement that was reached a few years ago now, in Minsk in 2014. This Normandy format [meeting] endorsed - and it was the first time it had met for two years - the continuation of the ceasefire. It produced a communiqué. There’s already been modest progress, but it can continue. That’s the situation in Ukraine. We can reach an agreement, because we now know the elements of the agreement; we need the political will to reach it. And also, more broadly, there’s the issue of Europe’s overall security, because today there are no longer any rules. Previously, since the end of the 20th century, there had been a whole series of agreements that existed on arms control, on the transparency of maneuvers. That no longer exists. We must rediscover forms of collective security in Europe. And on that, we’re ready...

Who are we talking to? The Russians? The Americans?

To the Russians and the Europeans, and to the Americans. We know where we have to talk about this. We know we have to restore rules. Well, let’s get round a table at the various bodies to do so.

You’ve proposed [it] to them. Do they agree?

For the moment there are reservations, but we must continue dialogue persistently.

Isn’t there an element of escalation by the Americans in all this?

I think all the allies, all the Europeans, have made the same assessment: a massing of forces, tanks, armored vehicles, military support at the border and the major risk which is there; but at the same time there’s a desire to talk. We all agree on this need, and the French President, as the current president of the European Union, has stepped up his contacts.

Is he going to go to Kiev?

He’s talked to President Putin; he’s talked to President Zelensky. We’re continuing the discussions non-stop, to try and achieve a de-escalation. The issue today is de-escalation.

And if Vladimir Putin takes a step further, what happens?

At that point we can maybe enter into negotiations, both in the Normandy format...

A step further - I meant an invasion.

Oh, sorry. At that point there will, as he knows, be considerable measures and retaliatory steps.

Considerable?

Massive, considerable, and if by any chance there were an intervention now which undermined Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty, it would mean there would already be consequences on energy, because European gas comes largely, passes largely through Ukraine. That would have serious consequences, but there would be serious and massive consequences for Russia to deter it from intervening in Ukraine.

Would Europe, too, be penalized by economic sanctions against Russia?

There will be mitigation measures to prevent Europe suffering the consequences. But Russia knows that if it takes a step, then the measures will be severe.

Economic sanctions?

Financial. (...)


2. North Korea - Joint statement by the spokespersons of the Foreign Ministries of France, Germany and the United Kingdom (Paris - February 2, 2022)

France, Germany and the United Kingdom express their deep concern over the continued testing of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the recent intermediate-range ballistic missile launch of January 29.

Since the beginning of 2022, the DPRK has conducted a series of six ballistic missile tests. We note with deep concern the DPRK’s stated willingness to continue, and potentially escalate, testing including the resumption of "actions which had been temporarily suspended". Such activity is a matter of grave concern and will receive a united response.

The multiple ballistic missiles tests by the DPRK over the last twelve months, which have included new so-called hypersonic missiles and a submarine-launched ballistic missile, illustrate its continued efforts to expand and improve its ballistic missile capabilities. We strongly condemn these provocative actions, which undermine regional as well as international peace and security and are in clear violation of multiple unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolutions.

We call on the DPRK to implement the decisions of the Security Council in full, to accept the repeated offers of dialogue put forward by the United States and to take concrete actions towards the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles programs.

We call on all States to fully and effectively implement all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, which are crucial to bring the DPRK back to the negotiating table. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, we commend the work of the 1718 Committee, which has swiftly approved all sanctions exemption requests for humanitarian assistance for the DPRK.

France, Germany and the United Kingdom are committed to working with all relevant partners towards the goal of peace on the Korean Peninsula and to upholding the rules-based international order.


3. United Nations - Partnership Forum - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations on behalf of the European Union and its Member States - ECOSOC (New York - February 2, 2022)

[translation from French]

Mr. President, dear colleagues, I am making this statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States, as France holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during these six months.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the Country of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.

The European Union and its Member States strongly support increased participation of all stakeholders, including women’s groups and human rights representatives, the private sector and academia in all spheres of ECOSOC’s work. We commend the Partnership Forum for making this possible.

The multidimensional crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic continues more than two years after its onset. Its far-reaching impact, which cuts across all three dimensions of sustainable development, has exacerbated vulnerabilities worldwide and threatens hard-won gains in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

These serious setbacks are of great concern to the international community and clearly highlight the need for a stronger multilateral system capable of addressing global issues in an effective and coordinated manner. At this crucial time, the 2030 Agenda is more than ever our collective roadmap for achieving a sustainable, inclusive, resilient and just global recovery.

Most urgent for us is to end the global vaccine divide and ensure equitable access to quality, safe and affordable vaccines worldwide. No one is safe until everyone is safe.

We must support health multilateralism and reaffirm the central role of the WHO. We fully support the ACT-A initiative, which the G20, including several EU Member States, launched with the WHO and the European Commission in April 2020, to promote the development, production and equitable and universal access to health products and tools to fight COVID-19.

Its vaccine pillar, COVAX, strives to ensure equitable distribution of safe and effective vaccines to be administered according to WHO recommendations. The European Union and its member states, acting as Team Europe, are the largest donor to COVAX, with a total of 3.7 billion euros in 2020-2021. Global access to vaccines and long-term health systems strengthening will be the focus of the upcoming EU-African Union Summit in Brussels on February 17-18.

In order to fulfill our collective promise to "leave no one behind," the multilateral system must first and foremost address the needs of the least developed countries, which have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic and are furthest from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The new Doha Agenda for Action, soon to be approved, will be an important step in fulfilling the international community’s commitment to reach the poorest countries first.

In our race to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the issue of sustainable financing must remain at the center of our attention, within the framework set by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and its follow-up processes, including the Financing for Development Forum.

The crisis has underscored the need to strengthen cooperation between the UN, other multilateral organizations and relevant G20 initiatives to ensure an effective multilateral response. The debt service suspension initiative scheduled to run from May 2020 to December 2021, the ongoing implementation of the common framework for debt treatments, and the 650 billion dollars general allocation of Special Drawing Rights issued by the IMF last August are all key elements of this collective response.

We recall that official development assistance, of which the European Union is the world’s largest provider, has been the only stable and resilient source of external financing during the crisis. It remains crucial for the financing of sustainable development, particularly in the most vulnerable countries. In the long term, building back better will require mobilizing other sources of financing, ensuring that they are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. In this regard, the private sector has a key role to play, and clear standards must be set to avoid SDG-washing.

In conclusion, as global public goods require coordinated action by all stakeholders, ECOSOC plays a key role in facilitating multilateral cooperation on sustainable development and we strongly support its alignment with the 2030 Agenda.

We look forward to this year’s High-Level Political Forum under the auspices of ECOSOC to take stock of progress towards sustainable recovery and to discuss how far we still have to go to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Sustainable Development Goals 4, 5, 14, 15 and 17.

We remain committed to playing our full role in protecting global public goods and achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Thank you Mr. President.