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Official speeches and statements - July 28, 2016

Published on July 28, 2016

1-United Kingdom - Bilateral relations - Fight against terrorism - European Union - Statements by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at his joint press conference with his British counterpart (Paris, 28/07/2016)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for being here. Following this lunch we’ve just shared, I’d like to say once again how happy I am today to be welcoming the British Foreign Secretary, Mr Boris Johnson, for his first working visit to Paris, just a few days after he took office. I’m pleased to welcome him to the Quai d’Orsay, to the Clock Room.

We’ve finally had the opportunity to see one another quite often in the space of just a few days, as we’ve been so actively focused on the latest international events.

Boris Johnson has come to Paris, and I thank him for his visit. He’s someone who is well known in France, not only for his excellent biography of Winston Churchill but also as Mayor of London. He also knows France well and speaks French very well. I’ve also taken the liberty of saying, cher Boris, that your mother’s family is said to have originated in the area of Nantes, my city. We talked about Nantes earlier, because we first had the opportunity to meet in Copenhagen when you were Mayor of London and I was Mayor of Nantes.


This meeting provided me, first of all, with an opportunity to thank the Foreign Secretary for the messages of solidarity and support he sent me on 15 July, the day after the terrible massacre in Nice, then again at the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 July and again this very morning, mentioning the barbaric murder of a Catholic priest the day before yesterday in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

We, the UK and France, share the same battle; we’re engaged in this implacable fight against the terrorism of Daesh [so-called ISIL]. In these difficult circumstances you know how much you can count on your friends, and after the attacks of 13 November [2015], the UK was at France’s side, acting in Syria against terrorist groups. This engagement continues today, and indeed we want to strengthen it. We discussed these issues, as we’d done in Washington last week at the meeting of the anti-Daesh coalition.

This battle calls for joint mobilization, and it provides an opportunity to assert our commitment to our common values. Only respect for public freedoms and the rule of law can give us the strength necessary to confront the challenge we face, not only in the Middle East but in our respective societies. And it’s about protecting our societies from division, from break-up, from confrontation between religious communities or social groups. We must do everything not to give in to the aim of our enemies, Daesh. We must defend the rule of law, defend democracy and defend our principles; it’s not incompatible with the need to do everything to guarantee the safety of our fellow citizens.

To this end, we have an already considerable arsenal which we must - and this in itself means a lot - put into effect and operate to the full. Our police and our intelligence services are already cooperating a great deal, and we’ve stepped up this same cooperation with the UK, and we’re going to continue doing so. In any case, we shared this determination, this same worry, this same concern, but also this same insistence.


And of course, we also discussed the referendum of 23 June and its consequences, building on the visit to Paris a week ago by the Prime Minister, Mrs May, which confirmed that the British people’s decision will be put into practice and will have to be respected.

France respects the people’s vote. It’s now a question of acting accordingly and organizing - in a coordinated, efficient, professional, sincere and fair manner - the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, while also allowing the EU to maintain its ideas and its operation.

In the immediate future - and once again, I’m repeating it here, because it was said by the French President during the visit by the Prime Minister - we fully understand that the British government needs to define its negotiation position clearly.

That’s understandable. The negotiations will then begin. As you know, Mr Juncker, the European Commission President, has appointed Michel Barnier to lead that negotiation and implement Article 50. I have every confidence in the European institutions to ensure this work is done under the best possible conditions.


The bulk of our discussions were devoted to cooperation between our countries and international issues.

Indeed, we’re united with the UK by historic ties of friendship and in-depth cooperation projects. Bilateral cooperation in the security field, with unique and exemplary Franco-British cooperation against terrorism; in the defence field - since the Lancaster House treaties in 2010, there’s been a lot of very concrete progress, with the creation of a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force and the deepening of our procurement cooperation; and in the migration field on our common border, to guarantee security and combat illegal migration.

In this regard, I want to say that the French and British services, in coordination with the operators, have been working together tirelessly in recent days and recent hours to enable swift passage across the border at Dover and prevent a recurrence of the delays, particularly at weekends in this holiday period, while fulfilling the security measures which our fellow citizens, French and British, clearly expect. We’ll be very mindful of this.

Lastly, France and the UK are united by strong economic and industrial cooperation projects. We discussed these different projects; as you know, the level of economic exchanges between Britain and France is very high, and this very heavily influences our foreign trade results. Indeed, it’s a very positive point that we want to pursue.

France and the United Kingdom are also united through cooperation in the international arena: both are permanent members of the Security Council, which means we find ourselves very often side by side. I mention the Security Council, but this is equally true at the G7, the G20 and NATO.


This convergence is above all based on a common understanding of the challenges on the main crisis theatres, and we talked in particular about Syria. We devoted a good part of our working lunch to it, sharing four priorities: restoring the truce, delivering humanitarian aid wherever it’s needed, resuming the negotiations in order to finally organize a credible political transition, and continuing and intensifying our fight against Daesh and Jabat al-Nusra. We devoted the greatest attention and a significant part of our discussions to this. A communiqué is being published on this subject.


In Libya, we’re making the same efforts to support the Government of National Accord and encourage dialogue. Our support is also reflected in our commitment to establishing an arms embargo, thanks in particular to Operation EUNAVFOR MED Sophia. We reaffirmed our support for Mr Sarraj’s Government of National Accord.


We also talked about [the rest of] Africa, where our two countries are especially close. We’re partners for the development of that continent, we’re partners for the security of that continent, we’re partners for the fight against terrorism, AQIM [Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] and Boko Haram. We think - and admittedly our shared history leads us to this - that Africa is the continent which is going to present the most opportunities, the continent which is seeing its population increase with the problems it entails, but also the capacities it allows. So we mustn’t walk away from Africa, we must help the African countries which are doing their utmost to modernize themselves, their utmost to strengthen their democracy and also their utmost to settle regional conflicts. So we must get involved, at their side. I actually think France and Britain have a special role to play. On all these issues, we share the same concern: to increase Europeans’ security.

Indeed, we’ve got to confront the same challenges and the same threats together. And this is why we’re going to work side by side with this end in view, whatever our vision of Europe’s future - which everyone knows; it doesn’t mean we won’t have joint battles to fight and common values to share, and this is what we noted today. France and Britain have and will continue to have many things in common and many things to do together.

Thank you./.

2-Syria - Joint Franco-British communiqué (Paris, 28/07/2016)

During their meeting today, Jean-Marc Ayrault and Boris Johnson discussed the tragic situation in Syria.

They condemned in the strongest terms the continued siege of Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its allies. The siege of this city, where about 300,000 people are trapped, makes it impossible for peace negotiations to resume. Its consequences, including the bombardment of civilians and medical facilities, are already disastrous and could generate further refugees.

The ministers solemnly called upon the Syrian regime’s allies to bring an immediate end to these operations, which violate the truce agreed in Munich and international humanitarian law. They called for the agreement on cessation of hostilities to be fully and immediately restored, and for progress towards the establishment of a transitional authority with full executive powers.

In this respect, they commended the spirit of responsibility of the opposition united within the High Negotiations Committee which needs endlessly to confirm its readiness to fully participate to the inter-Syrian negotiations. They also reiterated their support for the Special Envoy of the United Nations, Staffan de Mistura.

The ministers recalled the commitment of all members of the International Syria Support Group backed by Security Council Resolution 2254 – to reaching agreement on a political transition process by 1 August, underpinned by a cessation of hostilities and improved humanitarian access. The ministers welcomed the continued efforts by the United States to work with Russia to reach an agreement by this time, in coordination with the United Nations. The ministers stressed that Russia in particular has a unique ability to persuade the Assad regime to end the war and return to the negotiating table

The ministers emphasized the need to increase efforts to combat terrorist groups in Syria, be they Daesh [so-called ISIL] or Jabhat al-Nusra. They stressed that there can be no lasting political solution or return to stability in Syria so long as Syrian civilians continue to be massacred./.

3-European Union - Appointment of Michel Barnier as Chief Negotiator in charge of the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (Paris, 27/07/2016)

Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, welcomes the appointment of Michel Barnier by the President of the European Commission to the important position of Chief Negotiator in charge of the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

The Minister sent Michel Barnier a message of congratulations./.

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