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Published on August 22, 2014
Press briefing by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at Pierrefonds airport (Réunion)
Paris, August 21, 2014



THE PRESIDENT – So I deplore [James Foley’s murder], I share the grief, but at the same time I say to the world: “be aware of the group that’s in Iraq and Syria now”. It’s not just a terrorist group like those we’ve had the misfortune to see – dispersed, scattered, with several leaders. It’s a terrorist enterprise that has decided to subjugate, annihilate and destroy… If the world doesn’t organize to combat this group, there will be more, equally terrible images, and they won’t solely relate to journalists, because unfortunately there have been crucifixions, stoning and amputations.

I’ve made a proposal for an international conference to be held against Islamic State – as it wants to call itself – but above all for security in Iraq. I think that, along with the main heads of state and government of the countries concerned, we can make progress on preparing and holding that conference. (…)

Q. – Could France carry out strikes in Iraq, as Barack Obama is currently doing?

THE PRESIDENT – The Iraqis haven’t asked us to. What have been requested are weapons supplies, because there’s a lack of proportion. Paradoxically, the terrorists are better armed than the organized countries that are fighting them. There’s an apparent paradox because the terrorists have taken the weapons of the states fighting them.


I’ve been called on to take an important and grave decision: to supply French weapons to Iraqis – Kurds – so that they can fight Islamic State’s army. An initial convoy has already arrived. We were the first to supply this materiel. We’ve taken Europe along with us. Now a country like Germany has also agreed to make these deliveries, but we’re going to continue.

So France is first, and it believes it’s fulfilled its duty by taking a lot of other European countries along with it. It’s going to continue, with one guarantee, on one condition: that we know exactly who has those weapons, for what purpose, and that it’s solely against Islamic State. There’s no question of those weapons being used for other causes. I’ve repeated that we’re supplying the weapons with the full consent of the Baghdad authorities, because we mustn’t create some other, additional separatist movement. (…)


Q. – To return to Syria for a second, you also spoke yesterday about the supply of weapons to Syrian fighters. Can you give us a few details about those weapons that were supplied to Syrian fighters?

THE PRESIDENT – Yes – several months ago. When Syrian rebels were facing both the armed forces of the dictator Bashar al-Assad and the behaviour of this terrorist group, Islamic State, we couldn’t leave the only Syrians who were preparing democracy – who wanted to use legal means to achieve their ends – without weapons. So in line with the commitments I made, and in line with the European Union’s rules too, we were able to supply certain authorized materiel to those rebels.

As you know, what’s happening in Syria today is terrible, because on the one hand you have Bashar al-Assad’s state, which is continuing to bombard and massacre; you have Islamic State; and in the middle, you have those who were supposed to prepare the future, who are being held in a pincer, in a stranglehold. We mustn’t ease the support we gave those rebels, who are the only ones driven by the democratic spirit.
Again, so that we don’t do this alone, it’s being done in close agreement with Europe and the Americans./.

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