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Qatar/Syria/Lebanon

Published on June 25, 2013
Press conference given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Doha, June 22, 2013

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SYRIAN OPPOSITION/FRENCH ASSISTANCE

Q. – Syria was at the heart of your meetings with the Emir of Qatar. There was the Doha meeting on Syria yesterday. Firstly, what assistance is France ready to provide to the Syrian opposition? And secondly, aren’t you afraid that the Syria conflict might spill over into to Lebanon and that there might be more problems, especially because there’s been a lot of tension lately? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT – The assistance is firstly political. We’ve been providing it since the beginning of the conflict. And I myself was the first head of state to recognize the Syrian opposition’s legitimacy to speak on behalf of the Syrian people. The assistance is political because we, France, were the first to organize a conference of the Friends of Syria. The assistance is political because whenever we’ve been able to exert pressure to give the Syrian opposition structure, we’ve done so.

The assistance is material and it’s humanitarian. In a few hours’ time I’m going to visit Jordan, where we’ve contributed a lot. Let me remind you that last summer the Defence Minister and I took the decision to set up a medical team in Jordan and ensure that the refugees – even more numerous than today – could be received in decent, sanitary, humane conditions.

The assistance is also military. As you know, we were the first to tell the Europeans that the embargo could no longer be left [in place], given that Russia is continuing to supply weapons and isn’t doing so clandestinely, moreover – she’s doing it officially. The very day the G8 summit concluded, the Russian President said he was going to continue supplying weapons to honour contracts signed. We said the embargo necessarily had its limits or at any rate its contradictions. So how do you deliver [weapons] after that? It’s a question we Europeans must resolve amongst ourselves, but also with our American friends, because we’ve set conditions. The [first] condition is that the opposition should structure itself politically and militarily. The second condition is that we can’t imagine delivering weapons to groups that could subsequently use them to the detriment of democratic Syria’s interests, moreover, or possibly against us. But the intention is indeed to exert military pressure because unless there’s military pressure, sadly things can happen on the ground, and to whose advantage? Bashar al-Assad’s on the one hand, and that of the most radical elements on the other. We refuse to accept that.

SYRIA/LEBANON

On Lebanon, you’re right. Insofar as Hezbollah is involved in Syria, necessarily with consequences for Lebanon, Lebanon’s fragile balance can be jeopardized. On France’s behalf, I support the Lebanese President in his efforts to preserve the balance that was found, through a principle of non-interference in what’s happening in Syria and therefore of Hezbollah’s return to Lebanon. (…)./.

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