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Published on January 23, 2014
Press conference by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the Geneva II conference

Montreux, January 22, 2014

THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen,

The first day of this Geneva conference is coming to a close and I think we can draw some lessons from it.

The goal of the Geneva conference as indicated in the UN Secretary-General’s invitation is to build, by mutual consent between the parties, a transitional government with full executive powers.

All speakers shared this view, with the exception, it must be noted, of Mr Bashar al-Assad’s representative, who engaged in a wild diatribe that was both long and aggressive, in sharp contrast to the responsible and democratic position adopted by the President of the Syrian National Coalition.

France, through me, has advocated peace. Peace through the formation of this transitional government, peace through an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian measures.

The position we’ve adopted is just and it will therefore be maintained.
At the end of today’s meeting, the question of what view we should take will certainly be raised. Is there any hope? There is hope but it is fragile. We must therefore continue because everyone or almost everyone has reiterated that the solution to the appalling Syrian conflict is a political one and it therefore requires further discussion.

That will be France’s position.

Q. – (inaudible)

THE MINISTER – No, you shouldn’t draw those conclusions from my comments. The conference meeting itself was already very difficult to arrange. First of all because this is a very long, very hard conflict. And secondly, because a very long time has passed since the Geneva I conference, which shows how difficult it was to organize this meeting, but also because there are very conflicting positions. But the fact that the conference is taking place – we should commend the UN Secretary-General – is a positive sign.

Obviously, when we hear Mr Bashar al-Assad’s envoy, whose tone was radically different, as you probably heard, from all the others, we think that it will be difficult. But there can be no other solution than a political one. And so France’s position, and that of many others with us here, is to support the continuation of the discussions.

Q. – (inaudible)

THE MINISTER – Thank you. If I understand your question, the solution is obviously a political solution. In saying that, I reflect the point of view of almost all my colleagues. We believe that a solution should not be sought through military means, which would mean different groups being killed, but through political means. And that means discussions and therefore negotiations.

Now, as regards terrorism, I think that some people – and I’m not in any way singling out Sergei Lavrov – but some people have dangerously twisted people’s words.

What happened? When the Geneva I conference took place – I was there, it was even I who wielded the pen – there weren’t any terrorists in Syria. On the one hand, there was Bashar al-Assad’s government, which was in a very fragile position, and on the other hand, the population. And unfortunately the opportunity wasn’t grasped, even though France was pushing in that direction, and it’s now several months later, and we have Mr Bashar al-Assad and his deadly regime on the one hand, and on the other hand the terrorists that we have to fight, and in the middle, if I can put it that way, the moderate opposition which we support.

Some people are misrepresenting the facts by saying, “All those who are against Bashar al-Assad are terrorists,” but this is false, and my Turkish colleague stated very emphatically, “Are the millions of children and women who have been driven out terrorists? No. Are all those who are fighting the regime terrorists? No.”

And I would even go further. I believe that there’s an objective alliance between Mr Bashar al-Assad and the terrorists. An objective alliance? Why? Because they’re two sides of the same coin.

What’s Mr Bashar al-Assad’s argument? He says, “I may have faults” – although according to his representative he’s not responsible for anything – “but you must support me because otherwise it’s the extremists, the terrorists.” The terrorists, the extremists say, “If you’re against Bashar al-Assad, you must support us.” The reality is that we shouldn’t support any of them. We should support those who are reasonable, those who are democratic, those who want a free Syria, who guarantee respect for human rights and respect for the communities and a united Syria.
Despite the difficulties, these people can be found in what we call the moderate opposition, the Syrian National Coalition.

So we have to conduct this detailed analysis, combat the real terrorists, refuse to accept Bashar al-Assad’s regime and support those who want a solution based on a transitional government.

Q. – In the context of this dialogue in which no one is listening, will Friday’s meeting take place and does it make sense?

THE MINISTER – A dialogue in which no one is listening? No. Everyone was listening except for one delegation. The deafness and blindness of one delegation doesn’t mean that the others, who represent the whole of the international community, have been afflicted by the same deafness and blindness. The contrast is striking between the colleagues – irrespective of the range of opinions – who respected the agenda, respected their time limits, respected a democratic approach, and one representative, one delegation, that felt that it wasn’t bound by any sense of responsibility and engaged in what I called a wild diatribe, which coming from me isn’t a compliment, which was, in addition, aggressive and long. And so I hope that their deafness and blindness aren’t infectious.

Moreover, the situation is very difficult. No one could have expected the sessions this morning and this afternoon to be a bed of roses and we – who are in favour of peace, in favour of a political solution – must therefore, despite everything and despite the pitfalls, continue to advocate that.

Furthermore, I notably had the opportunity to meet a number of my colleagues: my Chinese colleague, my Algerian colleague, my Indian colleague, and I also met the mission of Syrian women, who are very courageously getting involved in efforts to resolve this crisis, and irrespective of their differing positions, they are all calling for a peaceful and political solution. That’s also France’s position.

Thank you very much./.

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