SYRIA/ISIL/FRENCH MILITARY ACTION
Q. – A year after the formation of a global coalition to counter Daesh [ISIL] in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group still seems just as active on the ground. How can we fight more effectively?
THE MINISTER – To eradicate these terrorists, among other things the Syrians must be given back the prospect of a political future. So speeding up the negotiations to set up a transitional government in Damascus made up of both regime elements and those from the moderate opposition, without Bashar holding sway, is a matter of priority. Daesh is being fuelled by chaos and despair, responsibility for which lies with Bashar al-Assad in Syria. As long as the transition isn’t under way, the coalition’s necessary efforts won’t suffice.
Q. – François Hollande has announced that France could now carry out strikes in Syria…
THE MINISTER – Yes, because at the same time, we have to be militarily active, since Daesh poses a serious threat to us. For months, we’ve been mobilizing to fight radicalization, trace the terrorist networks which threaten us, and identify and monitor the individuals who, from Syria or on our territory, would like to perpetrate attacks in France. We must broaden this effort. This is the thrust of the decisions the President announced yesterday: we’re strengthening our intelligence capability through reconnaissance flights, to make us able to carry out strikes if the situation justifies it.
Q. – According to our poll published on Sunday, 61% of French people are in favour of a military intervention on the ground. Isn’t this the only solution to get rid of IS?
THE MINISTER – To carry out such an operation, several tens of thousands of troops would be needed, with probably heavy losses. And for what outcome?
Let’s think about the precedents of Iraq and Afghanistan! Did military deployments on the ground in these two cases allow terrorism to be wiped out? In these two countries, operations started producing results, belatedly, only once the political process had got under way. It’s this objective that we have to pursue as a priority. So it’s the Syrians themselves – with our support, if they ask for it – who will be able to defeat Daesh. At any rate, it will be a long-term effort.
Q. – Some people are criticizing Paris for refusing all dialogue with Bashar al-Assad…
THE MINISTER – Don’t forget that the family of little Aylan, found dead on the coast of Turkey, were fleeing the threat not only of Daesh but also of Assad. What can we expect of a man who is at the very origin of Syria’s chaos, whom the United Nations Secretary-General has described as a criminal against humanity and who is continuing to bomb his own people? Let me add that the complicity and underground links existing between Bashar al-Assad and Daesh are known.
At the same time, we know we’ll most probably need stable elements in the Syrian regime to combat Daesh and restore – if it’s still possible – a Syria where each community’s rights can be respected. That’s why we must work internationally for a political transition in which Bashar won’t hold power.
Otherwise, Daesh will continue to prosper.
Q. – France is going to take in an additional 24,000 Syrian migrants. Is that enough?
THE MINISTER – Four million refugees, 30 million people displaced by war: France and the European Union have a duty to assist, given the scale of the Syria tragedy. Since the beginning of the conflict, 6,268 Syrians have obtained refugee status in France. The President has pledged to do more. But France and Germany can’t act alone. All the European Union countries must play their part, fairly. In the face of this unprecedented tragedy, Europe must be true to its values.
Solidarity also means supporting Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, which are shouldering the refugee burden on a much bigger scale than we are. There are currently two million Syrians in Turkey, and more than a million in Lebanon – i.e. between a fifth and a quarter of the population. France has devoted nearly €100 million to this. Today I’ll be announcing a new financial effort to this effect./.