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State visit to Israel/bilateral relations/hostage/Iran/Palestinian Territories

Published on November 20, 2013
Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press briefing with Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

Jerusalem, November 17, 2013


Prime Minister, cher Benjamin, I’m touched by the welcome being given to me – not to me in a personal capacity, but to the office I exercise and thus to the French people. This welcome is linked – as you said – to history: the history of the Jewish people, the history of France.

We’ve together advanced values and principles which remain today. A history also of hardships, ordeals and tragedies… Visiting Yad Vashem is, admittedly, emotional. Whoever goes to Yad Vashem and doesn’t feel that emotion can’t be human.

For a Frenchman, going to that place and looking at photos of children, mothers, parents, families who were deported from France – from the Drancy camp in particular – is tormenting; it’s an ordeal which creates a feeling of solidarity between us which can’t be simply that of two states which ought to have good diplomatic relations, but of two countries with human, almost physical, ties.

Admittedly, France still has to fight anti-Semitism. We could think, after the Shoah, that there would never be any possible room for this scourge. And yet! I remember when you came to Toulouse to pay tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack. I’ll have the opportunity of visiting their graves with you at Givat Shaul cemetery. I remember what we each said and also the solidarity we showed. You suffered as much as we did by this tragedy.


Today, we’re meeting to talk about the economy, because that’s what makes our countries able to advance. We need to have growth and employment. Israel has growth. So France is at its side as well to share – in the best sense of the word – part of it. We opted – we’ll be talking about this on Tuesday – for development through innovation and technology, because this is what enables economies to experience not just respites, recoveries, but sustainable growth. So we’ll be talking, as we’ve already done, about energy, infrastructure, transport… We’re going to sign a number of agreements. We’ll be talking about innovation and research…


But I want to come to the essential issues and firstly that of peace and security – Israel’s security but also that of the whole region. Because when I go to the Arab countries, the Gulf countries, or when I welcome their leaders, what do they talk to me about? Peace and security, in terms which are no different…

We’re duty-bound to resolve a problem which has been under discussion for too many years, because Iran, for too long, has been taking part in negotiations without ever advancing. We must move on from this. But we won’t move on from it unless there are guarantees. Is an agreement necessary or not? There has to be a diplomatic solution. Negotiation is always preferable to the use of force.

Moreover, a good agreement is better than a bad one. We can agree on that. The best thing would be to go straight to a final agreement.
The goal is for Iran to give up nuclear weapons for good. I say this with regard to Iran as I do for other countries. But it happens that it’s Iran in this case and that we’re against nuclear proliferation, and that in Iran there’s a desire to enrich uranium enough to move to the military stage.

So we’re talking, we’re negotiating. Over the past few days, there have been advances. They’re indisputable, but they’ve proved inadequate. This is why France played a full role in the negotiation for an interim agreement, which must move towards a final agreement. We laid down requirements. These requirements will remain for all the participants. At any rate, for France, this will be its position.

We don’t want to prevent anything, in the sense of being obstructive; but we don’t want to authorize anything where Iran’s intentions are in doubt. So France wants a serious, solid, credible agreement providing every guarantee. And we’ll keep up the pressure. Yes, the pressure! Because if there hadn’t been the sanctions, if the sanctions hadn’t been stepped up, it’s clear Iran wouldn’t have uttered the words – I’m talking only about words, not yet deeds – that have been uttered in recent weeks.

That’s why I’m arguing, not simply as a friend of Israel – that wouldn’t be sufficient reason… I’m arguing first of all because France must ensure peace in the region and combat nuclear proliferation.


France has also acted – we talked about this – in relation to chemical weapons. There too, we had to exert pressure, including militarily.
It’s been said a lot: France was the first – not the only one – to make this threat to the Syrian regime. But it’s lucky we did! Otherwise we wouldn’t be destroying the chemical stockpiles. Is it enough? No. We must now move to the political transition: again, prevent extremes and terrorists from gaining a foothold in Syria and prevent the flow of refugees from ending up destabilizing the whole region.


I said it to President Peres and I’ll repeat it here: the fight against terrorism knows no borders. We must fight everywhere, wherever the terrorists are. We did so in Africa, in Mali, not to pursue any particular interest but because we were called – and the international community had given us a mandate – to do so.

But there too, we haven’t finished with this fight against terrorism, which has gained a foothold in a whole part of Africa, using all kinds of trafficking: arms trafficking, drug trafficking and even people trafficking…

Today we’ve had some good news; I talked about it as soon as I arrived here, because I heard the news in the plane that brought me to Israel. Laurent Fabius has gone there [to Nigeria]; he must have arrived. Francis Collomp is in the Nigerian capital and will be returning to Paris tomorrow, or at any rate as soon as possible. But I haven’t forgotten the other hostages: four hostages in Syria, not far from here, and hostages in the Sahel…


I want to end – I’ll talk about it again to the Prime Minister – by talking about the peace negotiations, because they’ve started and because efforts have been made, particularly in terms of prisoner releases. I can imagine the difficulty of taking those kinds of decisions. On settlement activity, I also recalled what France and Europe’s position is. I’m going to meet the President of the Palestinian Authority tomorrow: gestures must also be made, because negotiation means each party should make gestures.

There too, a peace agreement must be reached, but a definitive agreement that exhausts the claims and enables Israel to be secure and a Palestinian state to be viable, because it would be on the basis of the two-state solution.

That’s the purpose of my visit: friendship, history, economic relations, peace and security. Wanting peace doesn’t simply mean calling for it; wanting peace doesn’t simply mean mentioning it. Wanting peace means a struggle, it’s a fight. I hope this fight will be a victory. Thank you. (…)


There’s the interim agreement, which isn’t the final agreement. Let’s not ask the interim agreement to contain what we’d like to write in the final agreement. Otherwise let’s stop talking about an interim agreement! France is in favour of an interim agreement on four points which I think are the four requirements we set at the P5+1.

First requirement: to put all the Iranian nuclear facilities under international control from now on. Second point: to suspend 20% enrichment. Third requirement: to reduce the existing stockpile. And finally, to halt the construction of Arak. Those are the points that are essential to us for guaranteeing an agreement. (…)


Q. – You called on Israel to make a gesture on settlement activity. Would you be ready to go as far as the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, who has spoken of illegitimate settlement activity?

THE PRESIDENT – I have my own words and I express what I think is not only France’s position but in the interests of a peace agreement. Settlement activity can’t make an agreement any easier. Settlement activity complicates what could be a definitive agreement.

That’s why I think it’s fortunate that the decisions which were announced at one point and seemed to be preventing any discussion were cancelled. I’d like this spirit to prevail over all other considerations in the coming weeks and months. We want peace; we must have gestures for peace.


Q. – You said earlier, when you were with Shimon Peres, that Francis Collomp had freed himself. Can you explain to us under what circumstances and conditions?

THE PRESIDENT – I’m in Israel, not Nigeria – that hasn’t escaped you. I haven’t met Francis Collomp; I spoke to him on the telephone. He told me about a number of conditions that enabled him to escape. I think it’ll be preferable to hear him and also understand properly what happened, because the Nigerian authorities also played their role.

But I am going to say one thing: this man showed exceptional courage, not simply because he was held in captivity for a year but because, at the risk of his own life, he was able to seize an opportunity. In circumstances resembling those of an adventure book, he was able to regain his freedom and, now, safety.

I’m proud of him, because he’s a man who was able to hold out. In the words we exchanged – I was airborne between France and Israel and he’d just arrived, now protected by our own units, our own forces – he was able to speak clearly about both what he’d lived through and what he’d just experienced. There you are: there are French people who are a credit to the French. Thank you./.

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