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European Union/Foreign Affairs Council

Published on August 6, 2013
Press briefing by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs (excerpts)

Brussels, July 22, 2013

THE MINISTER – Many subjects were discussed at this meeting.

MALI

We reviewed the situation in Africa: in the Great Lakes region, Somalia and Mali. On Mali, the Council lent its support to the process under way: the first round of the presidential election in Mali, which takes place on Sunday. This support is accompanied by vigilance, because there’s still a lot of work to do in the future. It’s a position I totally share. When you compare the current situation in Mali with what it was six months ago when the terrorists were about to capture Bamako, considerable progress has been made. The election must now be held so that Malians can give themselves the leaders they want. That’s the direction everyone’s working in.

EU/HEZBOLLAH

We also discussed issues relating to Hezbollah, with the decision – proposed by France, among others – to include the armed wing of Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations. You know how Hezbollah has acted in several situations. One thinks in particular of what’s happened in Bulgaria and Cyprus and, in general, what’s happening in the region. There’s no question of allowing terrorist organizations to exist in Europe. So we took a decision on the subject. Moreover, we know that Hezbollah, as a political organization, is important in Lebanon and we reaffirm our commitment to Lebanon’s stability and to contact with all that country’s political parties.

SYRIA

We also talked about Syria. I emphasized two absolutely major points: firstly, an appalling humanitarian tragedy is currently unfolding in Syria, one of the worst situations we’ve seen for decades. Not only have there been more than 100,000 deaths in that country but millions of people in the region are also destitute. We must increase our humanitarian effort at European and international level. We must ensure the United Nations can finally adopt a resolution enabling humanitarian issues to be dealt with. We think a political solution is needed, namely Geneva 2. In order to achieve a political solution, the situation on the ground must be changed. France clearly supports the Syrian National Coalition. (…)

MIDDLE EAST

Finally, we had a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry – who had also called me on Friday evening – regarding the prospect of an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Once again, I’d like to congratulate him on the progress this represents, as well as the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, who made this progress possible. Of course, a solution hasn’t yet been achieved, but it’s already a considerable first step, because for three years there had been no progress along the path of negotiations. And France, like Europe, will do everything she can to support a lasting solution enabling the Palestinians to have a viable, sovereign state living in peace and security alongside Israel. (…)

EU/HEZBOLLAH

Q. – Why not, as the United States has done, include the whole of Hezbollah – the political and military wings – on the blacklist, at the risk of creating a great divide [in Lebanon]?

THE MINISTER – No, I think that, on the contrary, this solution is appropriate. As you know, whatever our basic thoughts are about it, Hezbollah, as a political organization, makes up part of the Lebanese government. We want a stable Lebanon with a government and a majority.

On the other hand, as regards the armed wing, there’s no question of allowing there to be a terrorist movement acting in Europe. By drawing this distinction, we want to say that we’re committed to Lebanon’s stability, but that, on the other hand, we can’t allow terrorist action conducted by the military part.

Q. – But it’s impossible to differentiate between the two; how can you make a distinction, for asset freezing for example – how’s it done?

THE MINISTER – But it isn’t impossible. This is borne out by the fact that it’s been done in a number of conflicts. (...)

Q. – How do you tell the difference between the military and political entities? How is this going to happen?

THE MINISTER – In practice, it means that, when Lebanon needs to be provided with assistance, economic assistance for example, it will continue to be provided. On the other hand, for everything to do with the military wing’s movements and the figures belonging to it, they’ll be deemed terrorists. This has a very specific consequence; I take the example of France: as you perhaps know, in France there’s already legislation which means that when a French person, sadly, signs up to a terrorist group abroad, he is criminally responsible when he returns to France. So this means that if there were French people or others acting on Hezbollah’s behalf at the military level, criminal proceedings would be brought against them./.

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