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Paris ministerial meeting/Syria/Libya/Iran/Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Published on March 23, 2016
Statements by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at his joint press conference with his British, German, Italian and US counterparts and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (excerpts)

Paris, March 13, 2016

THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen,

Today I brought together my German, British, Italian and American colleagues and the European Union’s High Representative to discuss several important crisis situations.

The first situation we discussed, of course, was the Syria crisis. On Tuesday the conflict will be entering its sixth bloody year. The inter-Syrian negotiations are due to resume tomorrow. They will – we mustn’t hide the fact – be tough negotiations, but together we want to reiterate our support for the moderate opposition, which has taken the brave decision to go to Geneva to sit down at the negotiation table.

To guarantee the credibility of the negotiations, we agreed that the truce must be fully honoured and that humanitarian access must be free and unfettered.
We noted progress on the ground, but this must be extended and continued. As for the monitoring mechanism, which is essential for verifying it, this too must be strengthened.

We recalled the urgent need to implement a genuine political transition within the timeframe set by United Nations Resolution 2254. That’s what will be central to the Geneva negotiations. We’ll be mindful of this, because it’s the only viable solution for Syria, the Syrian people and peace in the Middle East. (…)

Q. – As you’ve observed, it would seem that the Syrian Foreign Minister is trying to disrupt the preparations for peace talks. What can you do if Syria decides to abandon those talks or use the truce as an attempt to consolidate its position or advance its position on the ground?

THE MINISTER – France has a very clear position. There’s no solution to this war – which is entering its sixth year, as I said earlier – without a political process and solution. We must be clear: the political solution isn’t a return to the status quo ante. Things must change.

It’s clear there will be no political process unless the opposition is closely and trustfully involved. So signs must be given, particularly an effective ceasefire. The fighting is continuing against Daesh [so-called ISIL] and al-Nusra, it’s clear, but the attacks mustn’t also target the moderate opposition represented by Mr Riad Hijab, whom we met here last week, who has been brave, who has managed to bring the 104 groups he coordinates together to accept the ceasefire, and who would like to enter into negotiations.

So in recent hours we’ve seen provocations by the Syrian Foreign Minister, which is a bad sign and doesn’t reflect the spirit of the ceasefire. All the partners – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the countries in the region – must do everything to exert pressure to ensure that the peace process is sincere and that there’s genuine progress, but without forgetting the regime’s responsibility for the deaths of 270,000 Syrians, the destruction of cities and the humanitarian disaster.

The refugees have no choice but to flee their country, so a political solution is necessary and we must find it without delay. So we have this ceasefire; it must be effective and full. Regarding humanitarian aid, there are cities which should benefit from it but which can’t be approached today because the regime is preventing the convoys from getting through.

There must be proof of goodwill. So let’s be clear: we want the political solution, but at the same time there must be signs of trust, and whenever it’s necessary we’ll keep up the pressure to ensure these signs are genuine./.

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