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United Kingdom/Syria

Published on June 3, 2013
Statements made by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mr David Cameron, British Prime Minister

Paris, May 22, 2013

THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to welcome David Cameron here to Paris. It’s the first time he’s come on an official visit. We’ve admittedly had so many opportunities to meet up, in London and then of course at the European Councils and numerous summits. We’ve also just come from a meeting in Brussels where we talked about two subjects we feel strongly about and on which we see perfectly eye to eye: the fight against tax fraud, and “Energy Europe”.

TERRORISM/WOOLWICH ATTACK

But right now I’d like to express my wholehearted solidarity with David Cameron and the United Kingdom in the wake of the despicable murder of a British soldier in London earlier. We must fight terrorism everywhere – which means exchanging our information, working with our respective intelligence services and taking action wherever we can.

MALI/UK COOPERATION

I thank David Cameron for backing France’s intervention in Mali from day one, from the very beginning, and again right now for lending us the support of British soldiers in training the Africans present in that country and shortly as part of the peacekeeping operation.

Relations between our two countries are excellent on the political front, where we share common ground, particularly on Syria, the Maghreb and Iran – in a nutshell, on every issue which sometimes gives us cause for concern, which we’re actively involved in at any rate.

DEFENCE/ENERGY

We’re also liaising closely on our defence policies, and I thank David Cameron again for allowing the British Ambassador to France to be part of the White Paper Commission – proof, were it needed, of the excellent quality of our relationship and of our determination to cooperate on these subjects, including nuclear deterrence: we are two major countries which have this force.

On the economic front, we’re also determined to take our exchanges even further, and on the issue of energy, in particular, we’re working on being able to find areas in the civilian field which can build on our joint defence efforts.

EUROPE

We are also determined to press forward with Europe, each in our own way, but with the same idea of flexibility and freedom. France is in favour of further integration of the Euro Area: I’ve made proposals. The United Kingdom is developing a more original position which David Cameron will uphold. But what matters is for us to be able to find common ground on every essential issue.

SYRIA

Throughout the visit, which took us from Brussels to Paris, we talked about Syria. We’re in favour of a political solution, obviously, and are doing our utmost to ensure not only that the Geneva conference can take place but that it leads to an initiative which finally allows a return to peace. Ninety thousand deaths in Syria in the past two years. But we’re also in favour of exerting pressure, including military pressure. We can’t tolerate arms being supplied to one side and a Syrian opposition unable to get the support necessary for it. But we’re ensuring we work with our European partners to find, here too, the appropriate solutions.

There you have all the reasons which make it very important for us to be able regularly to talk to each other, meet and move into action on the major international issues, because France and the United Kingdom are linked by history and we’ve always wanted to make sure that peace and the principles of democracy prevail throughout the world.

FRANCE/UK/TERRORISM

Q. – France has also been under threat from AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] for a number of weeks. Could what happened in the United Kingdom today have an impact on you?

THE PRESIDENT – I don’t know the circumstances or details of what happened in the UK this afternoon. I’m aware only of its horror. In France we’re never immune, and we believe we can never be sufficiently protected, so let’s do everything possible to ensure all information can be dealt with. That’s the case as I speak. Likewise, we’re increasing the level of protection of all our premises throughout the world, given that there may be risks. The fight against terrorism isn’t only about lending assistance where we’re asked to do so, as in Mali: it’s also about showing vigilance at all times and managing to eradicate the very causes of terrorism. Once again I want to express my full solidarity with the British people, with their leaders, with David, but also to say our intelligence services are cooperating every day to enable us to fight terrorism effectively.

SYRIA

Q. – I’d like to know if you’re both going to launch an initiative on the Syria arms embargo – I believe the foreign ministers are due to meet soon – or is this an idea that’s now been completely abandoned? And do you both think Bashar al-Assad has won the war?

THE PRESIDENT – France and the United Kingdom have been working together since the beginning of the conflict, along the lines set out by David – that is, recognizing the opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and providing it with all necessary support in humanitarian and material terms. There’s been the Friends of Syria conference right here, and there are many meetings in which we, the British and French, are taking part for the very purpose of ensuring the Syrian opposition prevails as the sole possible interlocutor. There’s a changing situation on the ground that indeed currently favours the regime in a number of places, given that there are weapons which it has and the opposition doesn’t. This is indeed an imbalance. We’d like there to be a political solution. This political solution is also necessarily the only one we can imagine after the departure of Bashar al-Assad. The Geneva conference may be the framework that offers this outcome, but in order to achieve this result we must step up the pressure. That’s why, a few weeks ago now, David Cameron and I mentioned lifting the embargo under very specific conditions, namely supplying weapons only insofar as we know their destination and usage. This is our position, and we’re determined to take the Europeans in this direction. It’s what was debated on Monday. We want to act as Europeans and with all the Europeans, and that’s why we’re ensuring we persuade them, with safeguards that we must provide. And it’s this military pressure which will ensure there’s a political solution.

Thanks to David for coming, because on several occasions he was due to be here and things always cropped up. (…) This time, despite the tragedy that’s occurred, I thank him for honouring his commitment and being here, although we’re going to let him leave very early so that he can get back to London as quickly as possible./.

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