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Sahel – Syria – Francophonie summit/DR Congo – Syria – Iran – Syria/Mali – Africa/Francophony/ Hollande visit

Published on October 12, 2012
Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his joint press briefing with Mr Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General (excerpts)

Paris, October 9, 2012


THE PRESIDENT – We discussed three subjects in our meeting this morning.


The first was the Sahel. It was the logical follow-up to the initiative taken in New York by the Secretary-General, in which I took part. It must lead to a new Security Council resolution enabling us to stop a terrorist group establishing a territorial base, as is happening today, and also to end the division of Mali and halt a process based on trafficking – drug trafficking, arms trafficking, people trafficking – which risks destabilizing the whole region.

France once again confirmed to the Secretary-General that she’s ready not only to vote in favour of the resolution but to support at the logistical, political and material levels the initiative that would be taken by the Africans. We’re aware of the difficulties involved. There’ll doubtless be a timetable to adhere to. But the intention can’t be questioned. The goal is to eradicate terrorism, in the interests of Mali, Africa and global stability too.


The second subject was Syria. The deterioration is visible day by day, both inside and outside [the country]. There were some very serious incidents on the border with Turkey. An escalation would have been possible. If it was avoided, it was because Turkey herself showed restraint, but for how long [will she]? There are also risks of destabilization in Lebanon, Jordan etc. France’s position, which I reiterated to the Secretary-General, is to strengthen the sanctions in order for the regime to give way, for Bashar al-Assad to go and for there to be a political transition. Proposals have been made: that of Turkey, who suggested that the Syrian Vice-President could be a solution. If it’s accepted, why not? The Secretary-General himself – and he’ll come back to this – made a proposal: a unilateral ceasefire. Everything that can be brought to bear to protect the population, stop the massacres and make the transition possible will be a step in the right direction from France’s viewpoint.


The third subject we discussed was the Kinshasa meeting, the Francophonie summit, to which the United Nations is paying close attention, because it’s aware of its importance, diversity and liguistic and cultural pluralism. There are very high-level relations between the International Organization of La Francophonie and the UN. The goals are also the same: to enable reconciliation, develop a democratic system, promote values and give culture its full role. But the summit will be held in Kinshasa in the DRC, and I personally have two concerns in mind. The first is the situation in that country, which is totally unacceptable in terms of the right to democracy and recognition of the opposition. The second is the aggression the country is subject to from outside, on its borders, particularly in Kivu. That’s why I support the operation being conducted by the UN to enable the protection of the DRC’s borders, which should be strengthened if need be. (…)


Q. – (…) Do you think the American presidential election will change things in Syria?

THE PRESIDENT – I’ll give you a quick answer. The difficulty we’re encountering isn’t to do with the American election, but with the split on the Security Council over decisions that could be of immediate benefit to the Syrian people. But just because there’s this deadlock – I’d like it to be overcome – doesn’t mean we can’t act. We can step up the sanctions, help the opposition more to coordinate itself – hence the French proposal for an alternative government – and provide it with all the help necessary. And we can also ensure the liberated areas are protected. There can even be initiatives like the Secretary-General’s, for a unilateral ceasefire. There’ll soon be a meeting in Qatar of the Friends of Syria so that the opposition can finally find a solution by itself – in other words, through the political strength it must represent and through its ability to propose a transition. So the American elections are an event we’re watching with great interest, of course, and not merely in relation to this subject. But they’re not a factor that should prevent us from acting.


Q. – The Israeli press this morning spoke of a slowdown in the Iranian nuclear programme. I’d like your reaction to that. I’d also like to know your position on Israeli strikes and the possibility of delaying them; it’s being said this morning that this risk has been delayed by eight months. Also, on the economic crisis Iran is undergoing, I’d like to know whether, in your opinion, the sanctions have worked, whether you welcome them and whether you think the recent demonstrations, following the closure of the bazaar in Iran, are the solution – in other words, bringing about an overthrow by means of a popular uprising?

THE PRESIDENT – I believe in the usefulness and effectiveness of the sanctions. It’s hard for a people to suffer these constraints, and I know the Iranian people aren’t to blame and are suffering. But it’s one of the paths – I think the only path, even – that will enable a solution to be found. On whether there’s a slowdown of the Iranian nuclear programme, I have no information. Before answering your question, I’ll await confirmation of this by the IAEA, which is the only authority that can give us this confirmation.


Q. – You’ve just said the UN Secretary-General could propose a unilateral ceasefire in Syria. What makes you think the Damascus regime might actually respect a ceasefire? (…) On Mali, can a resolution be passed enabling progress towards a solution while there’s deadlock on the Security Council? Could this resolution be passed soon?

THE PRESIDENT – On Mali, my answer is that all the conditions now exist for a resolution to be passed within a reasonable time – i.e. soon. Secondly, I support the decision taken by the Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy, and the name proposed strikes me as the right one: Mr Prodi.

On Syria, the unilateral ceasefire must be a starting-point, not a destination. The goal isn’t merely to separate the belligerents, it’s to find a solution for Syria. So the ceasefire is the precondition for other decisions to be taken, and those decisions include the protection of the liberated areas.

Q. – On Mali, Mr Ban Ki-moon says there’s a need for clarification. (…) When do you see an intervention taking place?

THE PRESIDENT – On the resolution, I think the Secretary-General and I agree that it can be done soon, particularly because no members of the Security Council – the five who have the right to veto – are opposed to an intervention if it’s requested by the country, in this case Mali, supported by the regional organization, in this case ECOWAS, and endorsed by the African Union. It will then be up to the Africans to organize the intervention itself – they’re already working on it – so that it’s conducted under good conditions, both swiftly and effectively. That’s where certain preconditions have to be overcome.


Q. – You’re embarking on a tour of Africa at the end of the week. I want to know – apart from what you’re going to say in Kinshasa – what messages you intend delivering during this trip and whether you are making it a point of honour to deliver a different message from those of your predecessors?

THE PRESIDENT – I’m not going to Africa to differentiate myself. I’m going to Africa to convey a message, from France to the Africans. A message of confidence in their future, a message of solidarity as regards their development and a message of friendship, because we need a dynamic Africa. I’m also going to talk to young Africans, who are an asset and in no way a burden. I’m going to do this in Dakar, because Senegal is a country which, in the past few years, has shown its ability to make democracy a reality.

And then I’m going to Kinshasa, because that’s the place the International Organization of La Francophonie has chosen for its meeting. I’m going to talk to all French-speaking people, but also to Africans, telling them that Francophony isn’t simply about a language. Moreover, it’s a language which isn’t just that of France but of Africa too. In a few years’ time, it will be Africa which has the most French speakers. And I’m going to tell them that this language belongs to them but that it also considers itself to be a language of values and principles. And among these values and principles, there’s democracy, good governance and the fight against all corruption. I’ll be doing this in Kinshasa, in a country marked by a number of democracy-related difficulties, but also, as I’ve said, at its borders. For further information, wait for my visit!

I’d just like to conclude by thanking the Secretary-General for his words on the fight against hatred, discord and anti-Semitism. It’s a global cause and too many countries are hit. I’d also like to express to him my deepest gratitude for what he said about the release of our hostages./.

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