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Syria/Israeli-Palestinian conflict/Lebanon/bilateral relations

Published on June 26, 2013
Excerpts from the press conference given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Amman, June 23, 2013

FRANCE/JORDAN/SYRIA

THE PRESIDENT – (...) We adopted the same position on two aspects.

The first is to build on what was decided yesterday in Doha, i.e. provide the opposition with all essential assistance so it can continue its action, and, through the pressure it will exert, allow the Geneva conference to be convened. This assistance will be multi-faceted. It will be humanitarian – I’ll come back to this – it will be material, it will be economic, but there’s also military assistance which Jordan also wants not to organize but coordinate. And she’s right. We’ve got procedures, we’ve got rules and we’ll adhere to them. But we want to ensure two things. The first is that the opposition can structure itself – there are signs this is the case – particularly around the Free Syrian Army, led by General Idriss. And secondly, [for the opposition] to separate itself from extremist groups, which want to create a situation which would be one of chaos, one also used – I said this in Doha and say it again here – by the Syrian regime in order not to move towards political transition.

JORDAN/SYRIAN REFUGEES/FRENCH ASSISTANCE

The second aspect of the Syria issue is the matter of the refugees. There are 500,000 refugees registered in Jordan today, probably more; some people are talking about a million. There are also refugees in Lebanon – here again, several hundred thousand – which can only put the two countries in a difficult situation. Here in Jordan, it requires logistics, support and reception facilities, which are putting a strain on the country’s finances. So we’ve got a duty, which is to help. This is why I recalled that there was €100 million of budget assistance from the French Development Agency, so that Jordan can be given immediate support. We’ll add €50 million for the northern areas of Jordan, which, of course, are affected by the influx of refugees. And we’re also going to adopt a policy for the whole refugees issue. We’ve come up with €35 million for this. Here I’m talking about what we’re going to do for the Syrian refugees.

We also recalled what our commitment was here, in Jordan, symbolized by the decision we took a year ago to set up the hospital in Zaatari which, today, is enabling vaccinations – 38,000 –, has become a maternity clinic and is helping a number of refugees: not simply those fleeing the fighting but those who are coming here because there’s no longer any hope in Syria in this period of chaos. The King and I have just seen that today there are people coming from Syria not because they were driven away by the fighting but because, through the reception facilities we’re providing in Jordan and elsewhere, there’s the possibility of a better life. We also need to channel these flows. Hence the responsibility we took on to help the Syrians by shipping a number of food items via Turkey, for the Syrians. In the last few days alone, we’ve shipped 16 tonnes of products.

ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT/LEBANON

The King and I also discussed other issues: Palestine, and thus the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have the same position: seize every opportunity and return to the negotiating table. Here too, Jordan is playing a very valuable, very useful role. And France also wants to do everything so that the negotiation can resume under the best possible conditions.

We also talked about the whole region and Lebanon. I brought this up because we’re committed to the balance which has so far been preserved in Lebanon, and which mustn’t be upset by what’s going on in Syria. (...)

SYRIAN OPPOSITION/WEAPONS DELIVERIES

Q. – (...) Today people are starting to talk about the arming of the Syrian opposition. Russia continues, for her part, to arm the Syrian regime. Can you tell us something about this?

THE PRESIDENT – (...) As you say, weapons are being delivered. Russia has claimed to be delivering weapons – including, moreover, at the end of the G8 summit, when the Russian President confirmed that he was going to continue. On that basis, we’re facing a situation where, on the one hand, there are weapons deliveries, and on the other there is – at any rate for Europe – an embargo. Hence the position – which I’ve taken for several weeks – of saying to the Europeans: we have to review our rules, otherwise we’re going to create an imbalance, and the imbalance is being confirmed on the ground, where Bashar al-Assad’s troops have secured a few successes clearly because there was this inequality in the weapons that could be used. We’re taking action. (...)

LEBANON/HEZBOLLAH

Q. – You’ve just been talking this evening about the balance in Lebanon, yet the balance in Lebanon this evening seems to be a little shaken, because there’s been a death in the Lebanese army. There are problems in the south, there are problems in the east. What can France do today, now that you’re practically at war with a party called Hezbollah, which is sadly very influential in Lebanon, in Lebanese politics?

THE PRESIDENT – What we have to insist on is that Hezbollah withdraws from Syria and stays in Lebanon to maintain the balance, which is fragile, but which is a balance which has been established by the Lebanese authorities – i.e. a refusal to be destabilized by what’s happening in Syria and a refusal to interfere in the Syria situation, which is already complicated. That was also the message from the Doha conference: to say that Hezbollah had to pull out and remain in Lebanon./.

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