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Twenty-second Ambassadors’ Conference/Iraq

Published on August 29, 2014
Opening speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Paris, August 28, 2014

France is on the move. On every front.

First, in the Middle East.

Right here last year I expressed my conviction that an international intervention was necessary in Syria. Following the regime’s use of chemical weapons, further massacres had to be prevented. I said that inaction played into the hands of the extremists. Alas, we’ve now seen merciless evidence of this.

I regret the extent to which international mobilization to resolve the situation in Syria was lacking, particularly in the Security Council. Today we are seeing all the consequences: the Bashar al-Assad regime is relentlessly continuing its policy of repression; refugees, each day more numerous, are massing in neighbouring countries; and terrorist groups are gaining new footholds. Those are the results.

But the danger hasn’t merely grown, which already would be dangerous. It has become enormous. The conflict spilled over into Iraq, a country that – for reasons I won’t go into again – was already experiencing divisions, interreligious conflicts and instability. Islamic State, or so it calls itself, took full advantage of the situation, because terrorism always feeds on chaos.

This group has conquered large swathes of Iraqi territory, in addition to what it basically had in its possession in Syria. It is threatening both Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan. It is attacking minorities – Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and others as well. France therefore decided to shoulder its responsibilities. It provided assistance for refugee populations, notably in Iraqi Kurdistan. It also supplied weapons to forces engaged on the front lines against Islamic State. Since then – and thank goodness – other European countries have joined us, but that’s not enough. Our support must be amplified in order to preserve Iraq’s unity and allow each community to live in peace.

That is why I launched an initiative aimed at improving (when I say “improving,” I mean organizing) coordination of the international action against Islamic State on the humanitarian, security and also military fronts. That is the purpose of the international conference France proposes to hold right here in Paris as soon as the Iraqi government is formed.

Because in order to defeat Islamic State, to defeat terrorism, the first precondition is for the Iraqis themselves to come together.

In order to defeat Islamic State, to defeat terrorism, the international community must also apprehend the danger and mobilize accordingly, while abiding by international law.

In order to defeat Islamic State, to defeat terrorism, each country must also commit to fighting jihadist networks and international terrorist networks and keeping young jihadists from departing for combat zones. The Security Council will discuss this matter on 25 September. As for France, it has not waited. We are already implementing an anti-jihadist plan. It was adopted by the Council of Ministers in May.

A broad alliance is necessary, but I want things to be clear: Bashar al-Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism. He is the objective ally of the jihadists. There is no possible choice to be made between two barbarous entities, because they nurture one another.

France also offers its support to the countries of the region that welcome refugees. I am thinking of Jordan, but also of Turkey and, of course, Lebanon. Today one-third of the population living in Lebanon is by necessity from Syria. We are bound to Lebanon by a friendship pact and we intend to preserve the unity of that country – our friend – as much as possible. There too, we – in conjunction with Saudi Arabia – decided to provide its army with operational capabilities. They are essential to guaranteeing security in a region that is already in turmoil, not only because of what is happening in Syria and Iraq, but also because of the resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has gone through a tragic phase in recent weeks. (…)./.

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