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Regional ministerial conference on borders/Libya/Sahel/kidnapping

Published on November 20, 2013
Press conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs (excerpts)

Rabat, November 14, 2013


THE MINISTER – The ministerial conference in Rabat was useful: that’s the conclusion I draw from this morning’s work and our final declaration.

It was useful firstly because it focused on an extremely important topic, namely border security throughout Africa and particularly in the Sahel-Sahara region. (…)

Secondly, it was useful because we talked about Libya. I welcome the presence of its Foreign Minister. The joint commitment I sensed in the statements from various quarters is to do the maximum to help Libya. As far as France is concerned, we stand alongside the Libyan authorities, we’re helping them at every stage of the process and we’re going to continue helping them because it’s in the interest of the region’s stability and of peace.

It was also useful because we’re going to achieve concrete results. That’s not the case with every conference. This time it’s the case particularly due to the creation of a secretariat, a regional centre for training officers in border security, a follow-up mechanism and the assurance that there will be future meetings. These won’t be short-lived initiatives. (…)

Finally, it was useful because it was masterfully prepared. I can pay tribute to my neighbours, who were involved in different ways: of course our colleague and friend, the Libyan Foreign Minister, for reasons everyone understands; our colleague, the Malian Foreign Minister, who demonstrated his own security experience – current experience; and finally – honour where honour’s due – the Moroccan Foreign Minister, who welcomed us, as Morocco always manages to do, with warmth and friendliness. I had the pleasure of holding meetings with each of my neighbours, and I was able to note that France’s relations with each of those countries are not just excellent but absolutely excellent. (…)


Q. – Paris is going to host a meeting on Libya in February. Have you talked about this meeting? Who will be present, and what subjects will be discussed?

THE MINISTER – Paris has hosted a large conference on Libya in the past. France is ready to support Libya; we’re doing so through different channels. A few days ago we and our Libyan friends signed an agreement to train about 1,000 police. We’d like to go further in the same direction with our Libyan friends, and we’re ready to organize every meeting deemed necessary. But it’s firstly up to our Libyan friends to tell us exactly what will be useful.


Q. – After the human scandal off the Italian island of Lampedusa and the events in Mali, are you convinced that security in the Sahel region is the most important issue when trying to stem this flow of people and also trying to put a stop to those terrorist attacks, which are increasingly dangerous for Europe?

THE MINISTER – I think that whenever you tackle these subjects you must link security and development. The two are absolutely inseparable. Unless there’s security, be it in Africa or Europe, there can be no development. But at the same time, unless there’s development, you sow the seeds for a whole series of violent acts to be carried out that jeopardize security. So the common feature of all our work is security and development.

Secondly, you’re asking two different questions and they mustn’t be confused. You’re asking about migration. It’s true that for different reasons, and given different levels of development, migration occurs. It’s not only a question of differences in development, either. Recently, people from Eritrea have tried to reach the coasts of Europe. They’ve been coming not for reasons of development but because they can’t accept the regime that’s oppressing them. So the migration issue must be tackled.

There’s legal immigration, but there’s also illegal migration, which raises a number of humanitarian and economic questions. Europe has looked into them. It’s one of the topics that were discussed at the last European Council. Our partners are also doing so. Specific agreements have been forged: for example, the agreement reached between Spain and Morocco. A great deal of work is going on. I think we must look at all sides of the problem.

On the one hand, when the origins of this illegal immigration lie in the dictatorial nature of certain regimes, the problem arising is the regimes themselves. On the other hand, the countries of origin must be allowed to be more developed. That’s why cooperation is necessary between the North and the South and even between the South and the South. When these phenomena exist, we must also be able to control them. That’s what Frontex is for. The reception countries must also do what they have to do. It’s a very complex subject. In any case, both the emigration countries and those in Europe are fully conscious of it, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

There’s also the issue of security, which mustn’t be linked [to migration], because otherwise we risk misunderstanding things. Just because there’s insecurity doesn’t automatically mean there’s immigration; things don’t work that way. There are terrorist phenomena that are extremely dangerous for the countries of both Africa and Europe. Very few things divide us, frankly, from the Mediterranean region. We must act in a concerted way to combat these terrorist acts, which often adopt the mask of religion as cover but actually combine drugs, terrorism, human trafficking etc. There’s action to be taken. This action is being taken in the case of Mali, by our Malian friends, by France and by the international forces. It must be taken in other spheres. Borders are among the areas where we must concentrate our action on security. The work we did this morning is going to contribute to this.


Q. – Will the latest unfortunate events for French nationals (the kidnapping in Cameroon this morning, the murder of RFI colleagues, and documents testifying to Boko Haram’s presence in Mali) contribute to a strengthening of France’s presence in that region of Africa? I’m not necessarily talking about a military presence, but better cooperation between the intelligence services.

THE MINISTER – Terrorist acts are unfortunately perpetrated, despite the often extremely positive efforts by different people. I’m thinking in particular of the restoration of territorial integrity in Mali. The other day there was the tragedy of the abduction and murder of two French journalists. The people who murdered them were committing a double crime. They were taking human lives but also killing the possibility of informing and being informed. (…)

One of the things that was clear in this morning’s meeting was that we’re all united in saying that terrorism is an absolute eveil, that it potentially concerns all our countries and that we must unite to combat acts of terrorist violence. Those acts of violence are always serious threats to the stability, development and security of all our countries./.

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