Skip to main content

Meeting of the Security Council/terrorism/Iraq/Syria

Published on October 1, 2015
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

New York, September 30, 2015

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am going to focus my comments on the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Syria.

In the face of the barbarity of Daesh [ISIL], which knows no bounds, the Security Council has unfortunately, more often than not, been a council of impotence. What the victims of this tragedy and international public opinion are now asking us can be summed up in two words: act quickly. This is also France’s position. And I would add: if possible, act together.

France is an independent power. We are seeking peace and security all over the world. And in Iraq and Syria, it’s this demand that has influenced and will influence our choices.

In Iraq, in August 2014, when Daesh took control of Mosul, an international coalition was formed. From the outset, France committed itself to acting within this framework. Our military action, supported on the ground by the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga, went hand in hand with a political process aimed at national reconciliation. A year after we started our efforts, Daesh has only begun to retreat. It remains a strong threat. We all know here that defeating terrorism will require long-term action.

In Syria, the situation is even more complex. Indeed, the Daesh terrorist group has thrived, with, in reality, the complicity of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Its hold on Syrian territory has expanded over the last few months, with the city of Raqqa at its centre. The influx of foreign fighters has increased and with it the terrorist threat well beyond the Levant region. The regime’s scorched-earth policy has alienated it from a large part of the population. A military response by the coalition has been prepared. We believe that it should be strengthened. But it cannot in itself constitute an adequate response, because the solution – and I think that we all agree on this at least – must be a political solution.

Some people are now suggesting that we join forces in order to form a grand coalition against Daesh in Syria. Russia has just presented the principles of a resolution at the Security Council.

What is France’s position? It comprises a few principles that I would like to set out:

First of all, we need to strike Daesh everywhere that we can. For our part, that’s what we’re doing. In Iraq, for more than a year, within the framework of the coalition and at the request of the Iraqi government. In Syria, the coalition’s air forces have been engaged for several months and on Sunday, on the basis of a decision by the French President, French planes intervened against a training camp where attacks, notably against our country, were being prepared.

I say this to all of the partners who would like to join our action: they are welcome to do so, on three conditions:

The first condition is that there can be no ambiguity about who we’re fighting. It’s the Daesh terrorists and the other radical groups who want to impose their barbaric laws that we have to fight and defeat. It’s obviously not civilians and the moderate opposition forces, who have, for years now, been courageously defending their vision, which we also share, of a united, democratic Syria that respects all communities in the face of another form of terror – the regime’s brutal crackdown. That’s the first condition. Daesh, and not the civilian population or the moderate opposition.

The second condition is, at the same time, to end the other forms of violence against civilians that actually serve to fuel extremism and increase the dramatic flood of refugees. It is said that 80% of the 250,000 victims of the Syrian tragedy, 80% of the millions of refugees forced to take to the road during the past three years, are the result of the regime’s indiscriminate airstrikes. These strikes must be ended. The Security Council must ban the use of barrel bombs and chlorine gas in Syria once and for all.

The third condition is acknowledging that the root causes of the problem must be dealt with: the fight against Daesh requires a political transition that restores hope to the Syrian people. Their fate cannot simply be a choice between two horrors: a criminal regime versus barbarous terrorism. Our aim is spelled out in black and white in the Geneva Communiqué of June 2012: a governing body with full executive powers that brings together elements from the regime – yes, elements from the regime – and elements from the opposition who reject terrorism. The time has come to implement this transition out, guaranteeing that the Syrian people’s executioner will not be their future. We are familiar with the major goals, parameters and actors in this transition. We must now implement the process. In our opinion this requires broad-based negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, under the control of a contact group whose core could, in our opinion, be the P5, expanded to key regional partners.

I want to add that in order for these commitments to be credible, we’ll have to examine the mechanisms that could effectively protect civilians, beyond mere words. In Syria, broad swaths of territory are being indiscriminately bombarded, without the justification of the fight against terrorism. Thousands of Syrians must flee these towns and villages. This must stop. Several of our partners have advanced concrete proposals to create security zones, no-fly zones – there are different names for them – in which the security of civilians would be guaranteed. We must study these proposals closely and swiftly, with the aim, if possible, of implementing them wherever they would serve the cause of peace.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

In the face of Daesh, there is no miracle formula that can spare us the long effort needed to combat terrorism. But there are false solutions that will only prolong the tragedy, and these we must avoid. A coalition whose very underpinnings would in fact prevent Syrians from uniting against the terrorists would fuel Daesh propaganda and end up making it more attractive. That would be a moral and political mistake for which the Syrian people, the entire Middle East, Europe and the world would pay for decades to come.

France stands ready to act with its traditional partners. With Russia and others, based on the three principles I’ve just articulated, as long as their actions respect three conditions: an effective military commitment against Daesh and other terrorist groups, and not against Syrian opposition fighters or the civilian population; a halt to the use of barrel bombs and chlorine gas bombs against the civilian population; and broad-based negotiations aimed at achieving a political transition that does not keep Syria’s executioner in power but makes it possible to bring the Syrian people together at last. These are the three conditions for the effective action that is vital for Syria./.

      top of the page