Official speeches and statements - October 21, 2016
1. Syria - Situation in Aleppo - Press briefing given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, with Mr Raed Saleh, Head of the White Helmets, and a Syrian delegation from Aleppo - excerpts (Paris - October 19, 2016)
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wanted to have a meeting here at the Élysée with the head of the Syrian White Helmets, who, every day with his organization, fights not to destroy but save lives. And who, with at least 3.000 volunteers, manages - despite the merciless barbarism against Aleppo in particular - to find people alive in the rubble.
The White Helmets organization has also been able to supply some of the population with water and make it possible to live.
I also wanted to welcome Aleppo’s democratically elected local committee chairman, who, too, is working to ensure, with the services he can mobilize, that life goes on in Aleppo, once again by providing water, medical care and schools which can give people the means to survive.
I again want to alert - even beyond France and Europe - the international community. What’s happening in Aleppo - but also more broadly in Syria - because of continual bombing by the regime and its supporters is unacceptable, inadmissible, intolerable.
Since the start of the revolution and war, 300.000 people have been killed. There are also millions of displaced people and refugees. We know these figures, they’re repeated. But bombing is still going on as we speak.
So a truce has been declared, that’s true. It has been going on for just over 24 hours now. I’ll do my utmost this evening, with Chancellor Merkel - since I’ll be in Berlin for a meeting, which is on Ukraine admittedly, but will also towards the end of the evening or night be devoted to Syria -, I’ll do my utmost to ensure this truce can be extended and can help get humanitarian aid delivered, i.e. assist the White Helmets, the population, those representing it, so there can still be a city that continues to function.
There’s no question of the people of Aleppo being made to leave. There’s no question of putting them on a path leading to exile or camps. There quite simply needs to be the truce, humanitarian workers need access to the city and then there needs to be a process of negotiation and political transition.
What it comes down to in the end is the international community’s honor or shame. You know what France’s position has been since 2012 and particularly since 2013, when there were many crucial developments. Today, we’re not just talking about what could have been done. We have to shoulder our own responsibility: what must we do?
France, and Europe - because I’ll also have to speak to the European Council - will not only provide an account of what the White Helmets and Aleppo’s local committee chairman tell us, it will also exert every bit of pressure it can, particularly on the regime’s supporters - I’m thinking of the Russians - so that the truce can be extended, humanitarian aid can be delivered and a there can be a political solution.
The foreign ministers of the countries most involved will be having a meeting with Jean-Marc Ayrault this week, and next week there will be a meeting of the defense ministers.
But today’s meeting is to talk about what is most essential, i.e. humanity: what remains of humanity in Aleppo? Humanity in Aleppo, if I may say, is represented here in France by you.
They’re going to continue discussions with the Foreign Minister. (...)
I’m not forgetting, either, what the terrorists are doing, what crimes they’ve committed in Syria and what they’re doing in France too. But in Aleppo, there are people who want to live. They aren’t terrorists, they’re Syrians who want peace and democracy and quite simply freedom.
I condemn in the strongest possible terms the airstrikes against two White Helmet centers in Idlib Province. These attacks killed one and injured several Syrian Civil Defense members.
My thoughts go out to the victims’ loved ones, to whom I offer my condolences, and to all the civilians who are risking their lives to help those affected by this conflict. The White Helmets’ commitment is extraordinary in this regard. They can count on France’s support.
The perpetrators and sponsors of these targeted attacks must be held accountable.
It is urgently necessary to end the bombing carried out by the regime and its backers, in Aleppo and in the rest of Syria.
3. European Union - Syria - Russia - Iraq - Brexit - Statements to the press made by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, on his arrival at the European Council - excerpts (Brussels - October 20, 2016)
SYRIA/ALEPPO/SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA
Q. - Are you in favor of sanctions against Russia for its role in Syria and Aleppo?
THE PRESIDENT - The priority today is to extend the truce. Yesterday evening, the whole night, Chancellor Merkel and I were putting pressure on Vladimir Putin to do his duty, namely observe the truce and stop the bombing, rather than continue to act in support of the Syrian regime.
So all options are open if no truce is observed and if there’s this desire to crush a city, Aleppo, a martyred city. That’s why I’ve come to this Council, to persuade the Europeans that we must exert all necessary pressure to get the truce extended, to get humanitarian aid delivered to those people who are suffering, and so that subsequently a political discussion can take place on Syria.
Q. - Daesh [so-called ISIL] fighters are leaving Mosul for Raqqa. Is Raqqa going to become a second front in the war against Daesh?
THE PRESIDENT - First of all, Mosul hasn’t been recaptured yet. It’s the Iraqis, supported by the coalition - France is playing its part in this - who must, with the Kurdish Peshmerga, recapture Mosul. Let me remind you that Mosul is Daesh’s capital. It’s there that its leaders masterminded the attacks which took place in France and everywhere else. So capturing Mosul is very important, but if we let Daesh’s leaders leave for Raqqa, which is a risk, then certainly the next objective will be Raqqa in Syria. But for the moment, we’ve got to make sure Mosul is captured. (...)
Q. - Theresa May is participating in the European Council today. What are you expecting?
THE PRESIDENT - Theresa May is coming today as a member of the European Council. She hasn’t triggered Article 50 yet, so is party to all the discussions on Europe. Until the UK has left the EU, it is still in it.
Q. - Are you expecting clarifications from Mrs May?
THE PRESIDENT - I’ve said this very firmly: Mrs May wants a hard Brexit? The negotiation will be hard.
France and Iraq co-chaired a ministerial meeting for the stabilization of Mosul in Paris, on 20 October 2016, bringing together Bahrain, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the United Nations, the European Union and the League of Arab States.
The Paris meeting came at a decisive moment in the campaign of the Iraqi and Global Coalition forces to bring down the terrorist organization Daesh [so-called ISIL], as operations to free the city of Mosul and the surrounding area begun.
The meeting’s participants welcomed the courage of the Republic of Iraq’s armed forces and the Peshmergas, as well as of the members of the Coalition’s various armed forces supporting them. They also remembered the fighters who have fallen in the fight against Daesh (Iraqi police and armed forces, peoples’ and tribes’ mobilization and the Peshmergas), and the considerable sacrifices endured by the Iraqi people.
The participants highlighted the remarkable progress made by Iraq in the face of Daesh since summer 2014 and the creation of the Global Coalition: the stop brought to the offensives of the terrorist group, then the counter-offensives by the Coalition forces and successive victories achieved over the adversary in the last year. They reaffirmed their commitment to the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq, and expressed their solidarity and determination to continue supporting Iraq, at its request and with full respect for its sovereignty, in the fight against Daesh and for the liberation of Mosul.
Convinced that destroying Daesh in Iraq will help rid the world of this threat, they stressed their determination to ensure that the operations to free Mosul, planned and carried out by Iraq with the support of the international community, guarantee the most effective neutralization possible of the terrorists.
The meeting helped emphasize the absolute need to do everything possible to ensure, with respect for human rights and in accordance with international humanitarian law, protection of civilian populations which are currently victims of Daesh’s barbaric actions and which remain trapped in Mosul or exposed in combat areas.
The participants expressed their solidarity and mobilization vis-à-vis the Iraqis given the scale of humanitarian needs, and agreed to continue the efforts deployed in the area of emergency humanitarian aid and immediate stabilization, in support of the Iraqi government and local authorities, including under the coordination of the United Nations. Iraq’s partners declared their availability to assist Iraq in its reconstruction efforts, in particular by providing expertise, know-how and appropriate financial support.
The participants highlighted the strategic and humanitarian stakes of stabilizing Mosul and the surrounding area, as well as all areas freed from Daesh control, in order to allow the voluntary, sustainable and safe return of the millions of internally displaced persons to their homes.
In order to defeat Daesh in the long term, the participants called for a comprehensive political agreement between Iraqi national authorities and local players, so as to guarantee strengthened governance of Mosul and the surrounding area that is inclusive, respects the diversity of the population, and guarantees peaceful coexistence.
The participants commended the Iraqi government’s determination to implement governance reforms and a national reconciliation process, which are essential to address the aspirations of the Iraqi people as a whole and to respect the unity of Iraq.
(1) Source of English text: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.