Official speeches and statements - December 14, 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.
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.
3. United States - Ceremony to award the insignia of Grand Officier in the Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur to Mr John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States - Speech by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts) (Paris - December 10, 2016)
Cher John Kerry,
You often say France is America’s oldest friend and its first ally. This was true when the French fought alongside the American people for the independence of the United States. It was also true when American soldiers crossed the Atlantic twice in the last century to liberate France and Europe. And it’s still true today, as our countries stand side by side to defend freedom, peace and democracy around the world.
You’re a lover of Paris, a regular and loyal visitor, well thought of by those who come into contact with you.
A French speaker and Francophile, you’re certainly the most French of senior American officials. This fondness for our country was also held against you—at any rate by some people—during the 2004 campaign, when there was a craze for attempting the impossible: to replace «French fries» with «freedom fries». But it didn’t work.
This great closeness to France has facilitated our discussions in recent years about handling crises in the Middle East and on Europe’s borders. Those who have got to know you in the course of their foreign ministerial duties have thought particularly highly of you, and I’m one of them.
Your commitment to the climate agreement was crucial. The Paris Agreement, ratified by our two countries, came into force on 4 November. It’s a major, historic success, an essential success for mankind’s future which must be protected. Our two countries can be proud to have contributed to it.
Your personal contribution has also been decisive in strengthening the cooperation between France and the United States in very many areas, such as the fight against terrorism, particularly in the Sahel. Over the past four years, you have worked to make this world safer by leading, with the Europeans, the nuclear negotiations on Iran, which have been a success for diplomacy too.
On other issues, people are struck by your sincere commitment. In many conversations about the Middle East, I’ve always appreciated your clear-sighted analysis on the eroding of the solution of two states, Israel and Palestine, which we would so like to see finally living side by side permanently in peace and security. In Syria and Iraq we worked together to combat Daesh [so-called ISIL] as part of the coalition.
We shall never resign ourselves to the tragedy the people of that region have been experiencing for five years now, as we showed this morning during the meeting which was held here at the Quai d’Orsay.
In Europe and at its borders, coordinated action between Europeans and Americans is essential if we want to avoid drifting back towards the tensions of another era, which no longer reflect either the modern world or our interests.