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G20 summit/economy/climate/Syria

Published on September 9, 2013
Press conference by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic at the G20 summit (excerpts)

St Petersburg, September 6, 2013


It so happens that one issue dominated: the Syria crisis – and rightly so. What would people have said if – even in a body where the agenda is only economic, financial and monetary – the world’s 20 most representative countries hadn’t wanted to discuss the consequences of this crisis, including for the world’s stability, including for the world’s economy, [even] if they only wanted to look at that one aspect, at a time when the humanitarian dimension is plain for all to see: 100,000 deaths, two million refugees, as many displaced persons, and risks even for the neighbouring countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey).

So we had – and for this I thank President Putin, who wasn’t obliged to – this discussion, which was lengthy and which at least made two points of agreement possible, even though some disagreements remain.

The [first] point of agreement was that all the countries present at the G20 condemn the use of chemical weapons. The second point of agreement was that the evidence tallies: chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria on 21 August, and the UN inspectors are tasked with providing confirmation of this very point in their report. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who was first to speak at last night’s dinner, confirmed that he was going to ask his inspectors, as far as possible, to publish the results of their work as soon as possible. Everyone was able to agree – it was another point of agreement – that the sooner [this happens] the better.

What is there disagreement on? I’m not telling you anything new: on who was responsible for that crime, that atrocity of gassing the people. A good number of countries, including France, have enough evidence, enough indications, enough conclusions from a number of undisputable facts to say it was the regime that committed that intolerable act, that chemical massacre. I said it early enough, and everything we’ve had since has been confirming it.

We’re not the only ones to say it, and certain analyses will confirm this position, this affirmation. Other countries, particularly Russia, dispute it and claim – I’m not making anything up: President Putin reiterated it at his press conference – that it was the opposition that gassed its own districts, its own people, in order to spark an intervention. So from that viewpoint, we’re in disagreement there.

There’s another issue that sparked debate, and there too it was perfectly legitimate: who must issue the condemnation, the punishment. Of course, France believes that the United Nations, the Security Council, is the only legitimate body to issue conclusions regarding the violation of an international treaty – and not any old treaty: the 90-year-old Protocol of 1925, which banned chemical weapons.

But it so happens – and from this viewpoint, we had something of a confirmation of this attitude – that the Security Council has been in deadlock for two years. Now, certain countries say, “we must go to the Security Council again; we’ll see”, and others say, “let’s ask ourselves whether the Security Council is continuing to obstruct and preventing an adequate response, the essential response to a chemical attack”.

That was the debate. It couldn’t be concluded. Everyone here can understand that. But I want to learn a number of lessons from it. Firstly, the inspectors’ report must be issued as soon as possible and will be a factor to consider.

Second lesson: there’s a requirement of the international community, namely to draw consequences from a violation of international law.

Third lesson: the best thing would be for the Security Council to be the framework for this condemnation, because the inspectors’ mission is a United Nations mission and, on that basis, it should be there that the conclusions are drawn. If that’s the case, so much the better. If it’s not the case, a broad coalition will have to be formed, right now, to bring together all those countries that don’t agree to a country – a regime, I should say – using chemical weapons.

Finally, the Europeans must work together – as they’re doing right now and again tomorrow – in order at least to agree on these simple principles: we must ban chemical weapons and we must condemn those who use them. In Syria, chemical weapons have indeed been used, unfortunately. It’s the regime that is responsible for it, and we’ll have to draw every conclusion from this.

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are the lessons I’ve taken away from this G20. In every respect it will have been useful, very useful as regards the economy, growth, employment, regulation, the preparation of the Climate Conference and the fight against tax avoidance.

Yes, this body that was created during crisis to combat crisis is a body which is now going to be at the service of growth and employment and everything that can contribute to it, including development, including in its climate dimension.

And the G20 will even have been useful for bringing countries together regarding the situation in Syria, and France will, for its part, have contributed on both the economic issues and the Syria issue. (…)./.

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