Official speeches and statements - January 3, 2017
1. Iraq - Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mr Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq (Baghdad - January 2, 2017)
THE PRESIDENT - Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to be here in Baghdad at the beginning of this year to express, first of all, my solidarity with the Iraqi people in the battle they’re fighting against terrorism. And also to welcome the progress that has been made in this war against Daesh [so-called ISIL].
I was actually here more than two and a half years ago, in September 2014, and you, Prime Minister, had just taken office.
The situation was especially serious and dangerous, because Daesh was in a position of strength, had captured towns and cities, particularly Mosul, and was at the gates of Baghdad.
Along with your government and the Iraqi forces, and with the support of the Peshmerga, you managed to recapture towns and cities and restore hope. And today, although there are still terrorist attacks—you’ve said there’s been an attack here in Baghdad as we’ve been speaking—, Daesh is in retreat, and Daesh will be beaten.
We’re seeing it in Mosul, where the battle under way is enabling us to recapture the city district by district. I wanted to tell the Prime Minister that we welcome this success, that we admire the fighters’ bravery and that we’re by their side.
France, in the framework of the coalition, is backing, advising, supporting and intervening. Intervening with its air force and intervening, too, with an artillery battery that is enabling Iraqi forces to penetrate Mosul.
But we’re doing it with one precaution, with one requirement, namely to protect civilians. You yourself are personally very committed to this. That’s the contract we’ve reached, because we want to liberate Mosul and eradicate terrorism, but at the same time respect human rights and ensure that civilians fully adhere to the goal we’re pursuing. And that’s the case.
This battle will be lengthy, as I said; it will be victorious, I repeat; and it will then have to be continued not only at political level, to enable unity and reconciliation, but it must [also] be continued to the end in Iraq to ensure that no part of the territory can be occupied by Daesh, but also in Syria. The next goal is Raqqa, because if Daesh is eradicated from Iraq but remains in Syria, we’re well aware that actions will still be carried out here in the Middle East but also on our own soil in Europe, in France. So we must see the operation through to the end, and France is taking part in the international coalition in both Iraq and Syria.
Hence the need also to work for Syria, for a political solution which itself enables us to combat Daesh and terrorism.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I came to express to the Prime Minister: our total solidarity, our actual, effective support, our participation in this action against Daesh and our confidence in victory, because we’re going to win the war against terrorism. Thank you.
Q. - (...)
THE PRESIDENT - It’s the Iraqis who are going to win the battle against Daesh. It’s the Iraqis who are fighting Daesh on the ground. France, in the framework of the international coalition, is lending air support—I’ve said this, too—by means of the advice and training we can give, but it’s the Iraqis, it’s the Iraqi authorities who are the fighting forces on the ground.
Ultimately that’s what we ourselves decided together: that it should be the Iraqis on the ground and the international coalition lending the necessary support.
That’s why I think there must be legitimate pride and great confidence in the Iraqi authorities’ ability to succeed in this fight against Daesh.
It’s true that our destinies are also bound together. What’s going to happen in Iraq and Syria is also the future in Europe, so for the sake of our security we must play an active role, and we’re doing so in this form.
I’m also answering your question in relation to Syria: we, France, would like there to be a political transition in Syria and a government that brings together all the components, and this will subsequently make it possible to fight terrorism much more effectively. But between now and then we’re also taking our responsibilities in Syria, and our planes are striking, and only yesterday they struck Daesh in Palmyra, because the only adversary for us is Daesh.
Q. - You said this morning that you hoped for a victory against terrorism here in Iraq this year; what can we expect in Mosul, in your opinion? In what time frame? Is it a matter of weeks, months? And also, what role does France want to play in reconstruction, and in which field exactly? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT - I think the battle being fought in Mosul, first of all, is being won. Only today we’ve had confirmation that a district has been recaptured, following others. So how long will the total recapture of Mosul take? Weeks! But we’re no longer saying years; I’m saying weeks. And the sooner the better.
When we’re in the position where the Iraqi forces are winning the offensive, we must further step up the effort. This is what we’re doing in the framework of the coalition.
Secondly, as regards the reconstruction, the Prime Minister and I talked about this. First of all, we want to expand intelligence cooperation because even after Mosul has been recaptured, there will be information to be exchanged about groups which still won’t have been entirely eradicated, about individuals and about the risk of things starting up again, so we absolutely must have very high-level intelligence cooperation between Iraq and France, but again, in the framework of the coalition.
We must have cooperation on logistical, humanitarian and economic reconstruction. Again, we mustn’t waste time—i.e. the post-Mosul period, or more precisely the post-victory period in Mosul, must be very quickly followed by reconciliation, political unity and then the implementation of a massive plan for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Mosul. And France will play its full part in this.
Q. - Is it possible to talk about an international conference for the reconstruction of Iraq and for organizing and channeling aid to Iraq after the liberation? Many areas have been liberated and we’ve almost reached the end of Mosul’s liberation; can such a conference be talked about?
THE PRESIDENT - In October 2016 there was a meeting in Paris on France’s initiative to lend full political and humanitarian support for the stabilization of Mosul, as soon as Mosul has been liberated.
What we’ve been able to do to prepare for the recapture of Mosul we must also do, on France’s initiative, for the reconstruction of Mosul. So we’re totally ready, when the victory has taken place and the political process has been established, with our partners to carry this initiative through and ensure that a conference can attract all the funding necessary for the reconstruction.
Q. - Among the jihadists under siege in Mosul are many foreign jihadists, including a few dozen French. What must be done with them?
THE PRESIDENT - There are French jihadists in Mosul. There are also some in Raqqa, and we’re fighting them as we are all the other jihadists, whatever their nationality, because they’re attacking us, they’re planning attacks on our soil and they’re waging war against us.
If these foreign fighters—who happen to be French—are captured by the Iraqi authorities, the matter will be dealt with by the Iraqi authorities and they will be brought before the Iraqi courts. If they try to return to France—some with their families—we’ll be compelled at that point to arrest, apprehend, try and sentence them under the French judicial system, since they would have returned to France.
As for children—I’ve already talked about this—there are very young children, some have been press-ganged, conscripted in an appalling way, and we had confirmation of this only today: children are being used in Mosul. So again, if these children return to France they will absolutely have to be dealt with, supported, supervised and deradicalized, and we’ve already prepared for their return and they will—as you can imagine—have to be given this very special treatment.
That’s our responsibility. We’re waging a war against terrorism, there are French people who, sadly, are siding with the terrorists, and we’ve got to ensure that they can’t do any harm and, when they’re arrested, that they’re sentenced by the Iraqi or—if they return—French courts.