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New Year greetings to the armed forces

New Year greetings to the armed forces

Published on January 9, 2012
Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Lanvéoc-Poulmic, January 3, 2012

Harmattan [French operation in Libya] mobilized units from our three armed forces and from all our support services. I want to pay tribute to the excellent responsiveness and remarkable effectiveness of everyone involved. (…)

We know the number of missiles, shells and bombs used, but we must also keep in mind the whole chain further up which made possible the strikes that ensured the Libyan people’s protection and then Libya’s liberation. (…)

You can be proud of your military leaders, who coordinated our resources in a remarkable way and enabled interventions that were – let me be clear about this – without loss of human life, despite their great intensity. Our very short chain of command also proved its worth. Barely two hours after I took the decision, our air force fighter planes were already above Libya. Our aircraft carrier, which was returning from four months of operations in the Indian Ocean, was fitted out in a matter of a few hours to take part in Operation Harmattan.

All this power, all this strength, all these logistics were mobilized for a single purpose: to prevent a massacre that had been planned and announced. France can be proud to have thwarted it. France was the first to express her outrage. France was in the very vanguard. The French army was, once again, the army of freedom.

Our intervention in Libya mustn’t make us forget the remarkable work done by the French units of the Licorne force in Côte d’Ivoire. French soldiers protected the people and ensured that the Ivorian people’s choice in the presidential election was respected, as the UN and African Union were demanding.

It’s in Afghanistan that our troops today face the most delicate work. We’re taking part, along with our allies, in a gradual transfer of the country’s security to the Afghan security forces. By 2014, the Afghans will take over responsibility for their security. They’ll do so thanks to the armed forces and police we’re training. There’s been major progress. The Afghan security forces today comprise 322,000 men; three years ago, there were only 192,000 of them. Our first soldiers returned from Afghanistan in recent weeks, others will return in 2012, in line with the withdrawal plan announced, and I’ll be receiving President Karzai on 27 January. I’ll then confirm and specify our definitive timetable.

Outside these theatres but far from metropolitan France, service personnel are protecting our supply lines by fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean. Others are involved in stabilizing potentially explosive territories, in the Balkans and the Middle East. Other soldiers are protecting our resources by monitoring the 11 million square kilometres of our economic zone off the coasts of our overseas departments and territories. Still more are combating drug trafficking in the Caribbean arc and illegal gold panning in French Guiana. Finally, others under the sea are continuously fulfilling the deterrence mission. (…)

So France – and it’s to her credit – played a frontline role in 2011, thanks to your mobilization. France held her rank. France showed the world her determination. France contributed to the success of democracy and helped peoples take control of their destiny.

Ladies and gentlemen, France will always be there to defend the freedom of peoples, but she can’t do it alone. She can persuade the international community, as she did for Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, but she can’t stand in for it. France is a power that acts in the strict framework of international law, which encompasses humanitarian law and the responsibility to protect.

Today, the massacres committed by the Syrian regime rightly provoke disgust and outrage in the Arab world, in France, in Europe and worldwide.

The Syrian President must stand down and let his people freely decide their destiny. The international community must face up to its responsibilities. It must take effective action by tirelessly denouncing the barbaric crackdown, by ensuring the Arab League observers have the means and complete freedom to carry out their work properly, by imposing the toughest sanctions and by ensuring humanitarian access. We’re going to work relentlessly on this.

As seafarers know, the Mediterranean is an eminently strategic area for our country. It’s in the interest of all those living there to make it an area of peace.

“5+5 Dialogue”-style initiatives are hugely important at a time when some of those southern countries are embarking on democratic processes. The Euro-Mediterranean dialogue is most probably at a crucial turning-point in its history. Let’s tackle this with the necessary objectivity and clear-sightedness so that all those living near this enclosed sea can reap its rewards. (…)./.

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