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Seventieth United Nations General Assembly/counter-terrorism summit/Daesh/Syria

Published on September 30, 2015
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

New York, September 29, 2015

Thank you, Mr President.

First of all, I’d like to thank President Obama for taking the initiative for this very important debate. I have four minutes; I’d like to set out four ideas.

The first, which was very well set out by the previous speakers, is the absolute necessity – we all agree on this – of combating Daesh [ISIL] in various forms.

There is of course the military battle, there is – we’ve just talked about it – the media battle and there is the battle aimed in particular at young people, to manage to show that this terrorist group consists, in short, of religious fakes and genuine criminals.

We have a big job to do on this, because it’s true that, among the public, it’s not always considered as such. That’s the first idea.

The second, quite simple idea – but sometimes the simple ideas are forgotten: if we want to show specifically that we’re against terrorism and against Daesh, we must engage practically in the fight against Daesh. In recent days I’ve heard a whole series of very well-conducted media initiatives, but we too are acting in the coalition. It’s not easy, but we’re playing an active role.

The best way of fighting Daesh, for those who say – so much the better – that they want to lead the battle against Daesh, is for them to conduct practical operations. We here are conducting them; that’s still not the case for everyone.

The third observation I’d like to make is very quick, because on the issue of Iraq, Prime Minister Abadi has said everything that has to be said. It’s necessary to have local military action on the ground, international action from the skies and a political and social contract respected by all.

I think everyone is convinced that only the continuation of our collective efforts on these three fronts will ultimately enable us – because it’s going to take time – to defeat Daesh in Iraq and stabilize those territories in the long term.

Finally, Syria is clearly the most difficult part today. As you’re no doubt aware,
France has recently decided to carry out reconnaissance flights over Syrian territory, increase our intelligence capability and carry out strikes if necessary.

We carried out a strike a few days ago and we’ll continue to do so in the self-defence framework of United Nations Charter Article 51. These military actions must be conducted; and I’ll say that from this viewpoint, a clear-sighted assessment of what each of us has been doing for several months now is undoubtedly leading to improvements.

But we also know military action isn’t sufficient. We must also – these discussions are under way – free up security zones for the Syrian people so they’re not forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries, which poses huge problems. And we must of course make progress towards a political transition.

Not all countries agree on the forms of this political transition. For our part, we say clearly that not only is there a moral obligation but that it’s very difficult to envisage Syria’s future continuing to be entrusted to someone the United Nations Secretary-General has described as a criminal against humanity.

Quite apart from this moral aspect, the aspect of effectiveness makes it very difficult to imagine we can have the Syria we would all like to have – i.e. a united, free Syria which respects communities – if it is written that its leader will be the person who has caused the chaos. We must – it’s complicated, but I think everyone here has goodwill – succeed in finding a political solution. A solution which I’ll call a transition out, which allows for a government which has not only elements of the regime – this must be clearly said – but also elements of the moderate opposition.

That’s what I wanted to say, in a few words.

There is no miracle formula that will save us the long effort needed to combat Daesh. But we must avoid false solutions that would actually only prolong the tragedy and worsen the situation. We need a political base to unite local forces against the terrorist threat, and if we don’t have this our necessary military action will remain insufficient.

That is why France, like many of you, is proposing that we continue the military engagement against Daesh, while continuing to work for a political transition in Syria. _ Thank you./.