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Syria - Humanitarian emergency in Aleppo

Syria - Humanitarian emergency in Aleppo

Published on December 13, 2016

Statement by Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris - December 13, 2016

While the terrible suffering in Aleppo continues, we are receiving allegations of widespread abuse perpetrated by the forces that support Bashar al-Assad’s regime: the cold-blooded murder of entire families on the grounds that they are reportedly considered to be pro-opposition; summary executions, notably of women and children; people burned alive in their homes; the continued systematic targeting of hospitals, their staff and their patients…

Such atrocities are an affront to the human conscience. There is, more than ever, an urgent need to put an end to the hostilities in Aleppo. The regime’s supporters, starting with Russia, cannot let this happen and accept a strategy based on revenge and systematic terror without running the risk of becoming accomplices to the crimes.

Full light must be shed on the suffering inflicted on the civilian population of Aleppo. I call on the UN to immediately use all mechanisms available to establish the truth about what is happening in Aleppo and on the international community to ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished.

High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition – Statement by Mr. François Hollande

Paris - December 12, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wanted to have a meeting today with Mr. Hijab, Chief Coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition, and his delegation, amid the tragic situation we’re seeing in Syria, particularly Aleppo.

What we know of the nonstop bombing under way there shocks everyone today but above all arouses feelings of revulsion, as do the recurrent massacres in Aleppo, whose targets are the civilian population. Hospitals have been destroyed; schools too. Today, much of the population is being held hostage, with the fear of being massacred if they want to flee.

Our first duty is humanitarian. What we want to do—both France and the international community, which is mobilizing—is have humanitarian corridors that can be opened, so that people can be evacuated and those remaining in Aleppo can also be fed.

The regime believes it has won a round, when it has merely notched up an additional horror, after so many others that have been committed. There can be no solution without a ceasefire, without access by international organizations to the people who are currently victims and without, ultimately, a political solution.

I also wanted to lend my full support to the Syrian opposition, the opposition which we call democratic, and it is, and which we say is moderate, but it’s not moderately democratic. I wanted to tell this opposition it has France’s support. It has nothing to do with terrorist organizations. That’s the language of the regime and its Russian and Iranian supporters, who want to create this confusion. The opposition is also fighting the terrorist organizations, be they Daesh [so-called ISIL] or al-Nusra. We must enable this opposition to play its role, at military and political level.

We also have a duty to fight Islamic State, Daesh, which we see is retreating but can also carry out offensives—notably in Palmyra—against the regime. We must ensure that Raqqa can be captured, recaptured. There too, we must coordinate our efforts to ensure that the forces on the ground, supported by our air forces, can capture that city, which, along with Mosul, is Daesh’s stronghold. Finally, I wanted to emphasize what France is doing at diplomatic level. On France’s initiative there was a resolution at the Security Council, and we’re working incessantly to ensure the negotiations can resume at any moment, because the reconstruction of Syria must be prepared.

Today it appears remote, with so many horrific images reaching us. But it is possible. This was the purpose of the meeting which took place a few days ago, chaired by Jean-Marc Ayrault: so we can also support all the efforts, even pending [the arrival of] the new American administration, so that a political solution can be found and the international community can condemn, as far as possible, the force which is being used today—force which in fact constitutes war crimes and will be a matter, when the time comes, for the international courts. We must also warn that there will be no impunity with regard to what is happening today in Syria and Aleppo.

That’s the message I wanted to deliver. For over four and a half years now, I’ve been focusing, as President of the Republic, on the Syria tragedy.

France has never wavered; it has always been on the side of the democrats. It has never wavered; it has always fought against terrorism. It has never wavered; it has always condemned the regime and its atrocities, including when it used chemical weapons. It has never wavered; it has shouldered its responsibilities as much on the military front in fighting Daesh [so-called ISIL] and the terrorist organizations as by supporting, as far as possible, the moderate opposition.

It will not waver. Until the end, it will continue to uphold this position. It will make sure it can always take initiatives. I want you to know that we won’t abandon you.

Press conference given by Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, following the meeting of the group of like-minded countries

Paris - December 10, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

Aleppo is going through dark times. The total-war mentality which France has continually denounced continues to prevail on the part of the regime and its supporters, Russia and Iran. Despite its succession of massacres and refugees, despite the international community’s very widespread condemnation, illustrated again yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly with the passing of a resolution by an overwhelming majority, despite even the use of chemical weapons on several occasions, this war mentality continues to prevail. This is why Sheikh Mohammed [bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani], Frank-Walter Steinmeier and I were keen to convene a meeting today with our close partners, those who from the outset have genuinely supported the goal of a political solution to the Syria crisis.

At this morning’s meeting, we reiterated in a dramatic atmosphere that the most urgent matter is the humanitarian emergency. We’re determined to relieve the suffering of a people who for more than five years have faced a barbaric war, and we repeat this forcefully: the matter of urgency, the priority in Aleppo and the rest of the country is to end the fighting, end the bombing and deliver humanitarian aid to every person who needs it. We’ll go on providing support to all those involved on the ground who are going to the assistance of those suffering, and we’re thinking in particular of the White Helmets.

The international community is duty-bound to be vigilant and strict vis-à-vis the regime and its supporters. What is happening to the people being forced out of their destroyed city? What are these camp round-ups leading to, and what’s the purpose of them? When will there be an end to the policy which is akin to sectarian cleansing, where inhabitants are moved away and others brought in, at the risk of fueling even more tensions in the future? What refugee or displaced person would willingly return without any assurance that in doing so they wouldn’t be endangering their lives? What is peace if it’s the silence of cemeteries? These are questions not only being asked by all Syria’s friends in particular, but also by all the millions of refugees in neighboring countries—Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon—and also in Europe.

The second matter of urgency—and this is essential for us—involves specifying the conditions for a genuine political transition capable of guaranteeing a future Syria which is at peace and united in its diversity. So the negotiations must be resumed on clear foundations, in the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, and we noted in particular through the voice of Riad Hijab, coordinator of the Syrian opposition’s High [Negotiations] Committee, that all the stakeholders must publicly state their willingness to negotiate in the framework validated by the Security Council and the international community, and Mr. Hijab told us that the opposition he represented this morning is prepared to resume negotiations unconditionally. So there’s an offer of negotiation, a significant offer of peace which must be taken into account.

And the third matter of urgency involves continuing the fight against terrorism, starting with the fight against [so-called] Islamic State, against Daesh. The battle of Aleppo and its litany of horrors isn’t so much aimed at destroying terrorism as attempting to eradicate any political protest. Above all, it aims to bolster a despised dictator through violence. Its goal is to liquidate opponents, much more than fighting al-Nusra, as we are doing. The real battle against terrorism is being played out elsewhere, not in Aleppo, but particularly at the moment in Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are paying a heavy price. And it must also be played out in Raqqa, as France has long been demanding. Those carrying out the massacres in Aleppo aren’t the ones waging the battles that are key to everyone’s security, and ours in particular; we’re the ones, as part of the international coalition.

Finally, the time will come for the essential reconstruction of Syria. We would like to see this happen as soon as possible, after years of war, after the almost total destruction of a country by the will of one man, for the needs of a regime. This reconstruction will require the participation of the whole international community and particularly Europe. But I say this solemnly today: this intervention, this support—particularly financial support—won’t be possible if a credible political transition isn’t begun which adheres to the principles of Security Council Resolution 2254.

I repeat that the European Union will play its full part in this, when the time comes, but France will accept no commitment which might simply result in saving the regime. We want to rebuild Syria to allow all those who have left it because of war to be able to go back there and live in peace, freedom and security.

Thank you.

Ministerial meeting of the group of like-minded countries. Photo: Bruno Chapiron/MAEDI
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