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Official speeches and statements - December 13, 2016

Published on December 13, 2016

1. Benin - Bilateral relations and fight against terrorism - Meeting between M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, and Mr Patrice Talon, his Beninese counterpart - Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic (Paris - December 12, 2016)

The French President had a meeting with Mr Patrice Talon, his Beninese counterpart.

François Hollande confirmed France’s technical and financial support for Benin in the areas of renewable energy production, access to electricity and water, transport and the social sectors.

The two heads of state confirmed their wish to develop economic and human exchanges between the two countries and agreed to put the major issues of innovation, support for young people and job creation at the heart of the conclusions of the forthcoming Africa-France summit in Bamako.

As regards the fight against the terrorist sect Boko Haram, they welcomed the military progress observed and signaled their willingness to continue ongoing efforts, particularly to secure and reinvigorate the liberated areas. François Hollande confirmed his desire for France and the European Union to maintain their support in 2017 for the mixed multinational force, which is combating Boko Haram.

2. Syria - Situation in Aleppo - Fight against terrorism - Press conference given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, following the meeting of the group of like-minded countries - excerpts (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.

3. Syria - United Nations - Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Paris - December 9, 2016)

I welcome the adoption by the UN General Assembly by a large majority of a resolution denouncing the disastrous humanitarian crisis hitting Aleppo.

In addition, this important text reaffirms the primacy of a political solution over a military approach in the Syrian crisis, which has gone on for almost six years now.

I warmly congratulate Canada on proposing this initiative, which offers the international community an opportunity to send a strong message at a critical time in the Syrian conflict. France actively supported this initiative by taking several measures.

It is never too late to save lives and help the people who are suffering. It is up to the regime and its supporters, especially Russia, to respond without delay to the demands put forward by the General Assembly today.

France is not giving up. Together with its partners from the like-minded countries, it is hosting a ministerial meeting tomorrow in Paris in order to continue the joint efforts to put an end to the terrible ordeal being endured by the Syrian people.

4. Council of Ministers’ meeting - State of emergency (Paris - December 10, 2016)

The Prime Minister and the Interior Minister presented a bill to extend the application of Act no. 55-385 of 3 April 1955 on the state of emergency.

Given that the terrorist threat remains at a very high level, the bill proposes to extend the state of emergency until 15 July 2017, in metropolitan France and the overseas departments.

Since it came into force on the mainland on 14 November 2015 and in the overseas departments on 19 November 2015, the state of emergency has proven its effectiveness by enabling measures to be used which have a real destabilizing effect on individuals directly implicated in the jihadist movement and on the criminal rings that fuel terrorism.

Since the last extension of the state of emergency, the police and gendarmerie services have carried out 500 searches. The effectiveness of these measures was reinforced by the act of 21 July 2016, which provided an updated legal framework with all the safeguards necessary for seizing, during the searches, computer data that is used following authorization by a judge. Moreover, more than 110 house arrests have been ordered since the last extension of the state of emergency.

Because the succession of state-of-emergency extensions may lead to house arrests whose duration is significant in terms of freedom to come and go, the bill sets a maximum 15-month duration for uninterrupted house arrest for the same person. However, it stipulates that, in the event of new events or information, house arrest is a measure that can be resumed when there are serious reasons for believing a person’s behavior is a threat to security and public order.

Furthermore, the bill takes into account the distinctive features of the incipient electoral period and aims to prevent the extension law expiring, in accordance with the provisions of Article 4 of the 3 April 1955 law on the state of emergency, because of the government resignations that traditionally follow the elections of the French President and National Assembly deputies.

Al the measures implemented under the state of emergency will obviously continue to be subject to dual controls, from the administrative justice system on the one hand and Parliament on the other.

The state of emergency is one of the responses the rule of law provides to terrorism. It is part of a more comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism which the government has been conducting for nearly five years.