France Supports Civilian Revolutionary Councils in Syria
Ladies and gentlemen,
I want to begin by thanking you for coming today. I most particularly want to welcome the chairman of the Civilian Revolutionary Council of the town of Maaret al-Numan, which has been hard hit, in recent days, by the Bashar al-Assad regime’s appetite for murder. Welcome, too, to the representatives of the civilian councils and committees of Homs, Hama and Jabal al-Zawiya, as well as those of Tal Rifaat and Atarib in the Aleppo area, who have all travelled from Syria for this meeting and who will return there in the coming days. I also want to welcome the activist living in France since the 6 July meeting, who will talk to us about southern Syria, including Damascus.
On behalf of us all, I want to pay tribute above all to the commitment and courage you’re showing in upholding – on a daily basis, and despite the violence of the regime – the ideals of a revolution that has aspired from the outset to be democratic and civilian.
There are many exemplary Syrian citizens here who represent the efforts of a collective mobilization that remains strong, despite the fighting. Today we wanted to give you the opportunity to be heard, so that we might better help you and better understand your role. You’ve come to speak to us about the situation on the ground but also to explain how you work, how you’re organizing yourselves and, most important, to talk about your projects and needs.
I’d like to say a word about what my country is doing. Since the beginning of the revolution, France has supported the peaceful demonstrators and their legitimate, democratic aspirations. We have made repeated efforts within various international forums and through European sanctions – which we’ve recently adopted more of – to step up pressure on the Assad regime.
This has not been enough, notably because of the deadlock within the UN Security Council that you are familiar with.
During this time, the regime has continued its mad headlong rush – 100, 200, 400 deaths depending on the day – even more cruel and brutal, deploying tanks and aircraft against the people, bombing schools and hospitals, and killing and torturing men, women and children.
From the beginning, France was determined to support the Syrian opposition and people, through essentially medical and humanitarian aid. We did this discreetly in Damascus with the help of Ambassador Chevallier, when the Embassy was still open. We persevered and are continuing to provide support through local solidarity networks and the courageous commitment of Syrian doctors, in particular with the help of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, whose presence here I salute, because they’re doing a remarkable and very brave job.
During the past few months, while it was gradually losing control of the situation on the ground, the regime stepped up the violence by using MiGs and – this isn’t well enough known to the public – then dropping barrels of TNT, and more recently and still, according to reports, using cluster bombs. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated still further, leading me to make a trip to the region in August to tour refugee camps before convening the UN Security Council for a ministerial meeting on humanitarian aid at the end of August.
Since the Friends of Syria meeting, which we hosted in Paris on 6 July, the President and I have decided to take a new step in supporting the Syrian people. Through a union of the opposition we’d like a representative interim government to be swiftly formed, which we’ll recognize. In the meantime, we have launched a programme to directly support civilian revolutionary councils, both in the “liberated” areas and in regions still “occupied” by the regime.
This approach to supporting the civilian revolutionary councils has aroused great interest in the international community among my foreign minister colleagues. Several countries are represented here because they want to join France’s effort in this area.
Our aim in supporting the civilian revolutionary councils is fourfold:
to provide assistance to a portion of the population that isn’t served by the traditional humanitarian channels (United Nations, ICRC, international NGOs) which we also actively support and whose efforts we salute, even though they are restricted by the Damascus regime;
to lend direct support to centres of stability and local governance until they’re able to rely on an interim government, because we think these centres, created with the help of peope who have distinguished themselves in combat, will play a very important role in the future;
to strengthen the credibility of civilians with respect to the governance of the Syria of tomorrow, because many people are wondering what will happen afterwards. It seems to me that these civilian revolutionary councils are beginning to answer that question;
to respond to the Syrian people’s feeling that they have been abandoned by the international community, which often shows itself to be powerless.
Since 31 August, France has made available millions of euros for 15 civilian committees in the Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Hama, Damascus and Latakia governorates.
This assistance has made it possible first of all to respond to very urgent humanitarian needs, notably in the area of medical care. Several thousand families with no income have also benefited from food and direct financial assistance, thanks to the work carried out to identify needs, on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis, by the neighbourhood committees working for the revolutionary councils.
In the areas that managed to liberate themselves, our assistance has made it possible, among other things, to restore certain public services, such as rubbish collection, street cleaning, road works and the repair of water pipes and the electricity network. It has also made it possible to carry out projects such as the rehabilitation of several industrial bakeries which provide bread to around 300,000 people every day, or, for example, to establish a local police force which is no longer a tool for repression but helps the citizens. This was particularly appreciated by my foreign minister colleagues from other countries that are going to join this initiative.
Elsewhere, in Hama and Homs, as well as in certain areas around Latakia and Damascus, our support has made it possible to provide emergency medical and food assistance, and to respond to other basic needs.
I was proud to hear the messages of thanks being sent to France from many Syrians whose lives are being made hell by a regime I haven’t hesitated to call murderous. But I also know that this cannot and must not be the international community’s only focus of action. We must continue to mobilize our efforts to ensure that Bashar al-Assad’s regime falls and makes way for a democratic transition.
Thank you again, all of you – representatives of more than 20 countries, representatives of international organizations – for being in Paris today to listen carefully to what our Syrian friends, whose courage I want to salute, have to tell us and for examining together the practicalities of providing this support to the people.
I’ve been made aware of the results already achieved, and from what we’re already seeing it seems clear that the post-Bashar era has already begun in the areas that have managed to rid themselves of the regime, as well as in those parts of the territory where the regime is maintaining control only through violence and where it has lost the people’s trust.
Now I’m going to leave you to work. I’ll express a hope: that your work is fruitful, that many others will join in the effort France is making, and I’ll make a rendezvous with you: I’d like us all to meet again in this same hall, as soon as possible, when Syria is free at last.