Official speeches and statements - September 20, 2017
United Nations Secretary-General,
Heads of state and government,
It is a privilege to be speaking here before you today and I know who I owe that to. I owe it to all those who, a little over 70 years ago, rose up against a barbaric regime which seized my country, France. I owe it to the nations who heard the cry of these resistance fighters and who sent their children, from America, Africa, Oceania and Asia, to French shores to help. They did not all know what France was, but they knew that defeat for France also meant the defeat of the ideals that they shared, that they were proud of and for which they were willing to die. They knew that their freedom and their values depended on the freedom of other men and women living thousands of kilometres from them.
I owe it to those who, when the war was over, dared to reconcile and rebuild a new international order. To those who, like René Cassin, understood that human rights were at the heart of international legitimacy. To those who judged the guilty, picked up the victims, righted the wrongs, to those who wanted to believe that the values that the war violated needed to be restored, values of tolerance, freedom, humanity which are the foundations of the United Nations. Not because these values were good, but because they were fair and allowed the worst scenarios to be avoided.
I am not saying this because I merely want to talk to you about history, but because when I hear many of our colleagues talking about the world today, they they somewhat forget this history that we come from, which now seems exotic or so far from us, so far from our immediate interests, but maybe determines and will determine our lives more than anything.
Ladies and gentlemen, while my country holds a somewhat unique position within the order of nations, this gives it a debt, a debt to all those that have had their voices taken from them. And I know that France’s duty is to speak for those that we do not hear. Because to speak for them is also to speak for us, today and tomorrow. And today, it is these forgotten voices that I wish to bring to you.
I listened to Bana, a citizen of Aleppo, and it is her voice that I wish to bring to you here. She has lived in the terror of bombings, police and militias, she has known refugee camps. The Syrian people have suffered enough: it is time for the international community to take note of its collective failure and question its methods.
To establish a lasting and just peace, we must urgently concentrate on the political resolution of the crisis, through transition, as the Security Council unanimously decided in Resolution 2254 in 2015. France, together with its partners, has taken the initiative and is supporting the United Nations’ efforts to finally initiate an inclusive political road map in Syria. This is why I hope that we can launch a contact group with all permanent Security Council members and all stakeholders. Today, the «Astana» format may prove useful, but it will not suffice. And these last few days have highlighted many difficulties.
We need to equip ourselves with the real means to kick-start negotiations, because the long-term solution will be political and not military. It is in the interest of us all and, first and foremost of course, that of the Syrian people.
In this context, I have set out our two red lines. Firstly, absolute intransigence on the use of chemical weapons. Those responsible for the attack of 4 April this year must be brought before the international justice system, and it must never happen again.
Secondly, the absolute necessity to allow everyone access to treatment, to allow medical structures and protect the civilian populations. France decided to make this one of the priorities for its presidency of the Security Council next month.
Working for peace in Syria means taking action on behalf of the Syrian people but also protecting ourselves from Islamist terrorism, because in Syria and Iraq, our biggest battle is against terrorism. We are acting on behalf of all those who have died in the attacks over the last months - because jihadist terrorism has hit our fellow citizens on every continent, regardless of their religion. We must therefore all protect ourselves by joining forces, and our security becomes the first priority. This is what France is trying to achieve with its initiatives to tackle the use of the Internet by terrorists and fight all their sources of funding.
This is why I wanted to organize a conference in 2018 on this fight during which I will call upon you all to make a commitment. But this is also why France is taking military action within the coalition in Syria and Iraq, within the rule of international law. This fight against terrorism is a military fight, a diplomatic fight but also an educational, cultural and moral fight. We are fighting through our work in the Middle East and Africa, but also in Asia, and we should all unite behind it.
TERRORISM AND THE SAHEL
I listened to Ousmane, a schoolboy in Gao, and it is his voice that I wish to bring to you here. He is living his childhood in Mali in dread of indiscriminate attacks. And yet his only dream is to go to school without risking death. In the Sahel, we are all now committed: the United Nations, the countries of the region within MINUSMA and the G5 joint force, the European Union and its member states, and I would like to pay tribute here to all these players and underline that it is a particularly painful fight which has a high cost in human lives.
Our challenge today is to eradicate terrorism, and to achieve this, strengthen national capabilities so that states themselves can look after their own security. Regardless of the resources we use, we cannot succeed in our shared mission if the countries most concerned cannot assume their own responsibilities. This is why, since taking office, I have supported the deployment of the G5 Sahel joint force and I am now calling for your collective mobilization.
This is also why I want to dedicate myself to boosting support for African peace operations, because they hold the key to the future. We must collectively rethink the relationship between peacekeeping, regional organizations and host countries. And our ability to meet populations’ aspirations for peace depends on this.
Undoubtedly, a military response can never be the only response, and I would like today to insist on the necessity of a political response. I am thinking, of course, of the implementation of the Algiers Agreement and our development policy.
I also listened to Kouamé, and it is his voice that I wish to bring to you here. Forcefully displaced, he crossed Africa before putting his fate into the hands of traffickers in Libya. He crossed the Mediterranean, arrived safely while many others perished at sea. Refugees, displaced people, and those we sadly call «migrants» have in reality become a symbol of our times. The symbol of a world where no barrier can stop the march of despair, if we do not transform routes of necessity into routes of freedom.
These migrations are political, climatic, ethnic; these are all routes of necessity. Necessity now means escape, in the face of the persecution to which the Rohingya are falling victim. Over 400,000 refugees, of whom the majority are children. Military operations must stop, humanitarian access must be guaranteed, and law and order must be restored in the face of what is, we know, ethnic cleansing. France will take the lead in the Security Council on this subject.
Necessity means fleeing to save ones family when war is raging and international humanitarian law is no longer respected, but instrumentalized, as in the strategy of violence used in Syria; exile, when the defenders of freedom are the first targets of the powers that be. Protecting refugees is a moral and political obligation in which France has decided to play its part. By supporting the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees wherever it must intervene, by opening the legal means for resettlement as close as possible to the conflict zones, in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey but also in Niger and Chad, and by defending the right to asylum and absolute respect of the Geneva Convention.
In Paris, on 28 August this year, we brought together the African and European countries the most directly concerned by migration flows on the Central Mediterranean route. We adopted a road map with the priority of combating traffickers who trade in human misery. We must put an end to the unacceptable violations of fundamental rights by establishing a humanitarian infrastructure with the UNHCR and the IOM, helping countries of origin and transit to better control the flows.
But although in the face of terrorism and migration, short-term responses are needed to manage the crises, it is our political will to address the root causes of all of these instabilities that today comes into play. These migration problems, this terrorism, are political challenges above all, which are deeply rooted, for all of us, because it is through genuine development policy that we will be able to address moral and civilizational root causes.
That is why I have decided that France will fulfil its role in setting a goal of earmarking 0.55% of our national income to official development assistance within the next five years.
I thank you for your applause, but please let me put this into perspective. First because I know some people expect more and that it is never enough and that France today is not doing enough; but especially because the point is not so much the money. It is the efficacy of this money. It is what we decide to do with it. It is about making better assessments, being better responsible for this money that all of us are contributing.
So, yes, I would like to see France contribute sufficient amounts of official development assistance but I would above all like to see more innovation, more intelligence, different methods used and more responsibility on the ground when it comes to this assistance; that is what I would like, along with you. The challenge today is for this official development assistance to arrive on the ground simply, efficiently, having been assessed, and to the destination that was initially sought; that is what we wanted to do, for example, with the Alliance for the Sahel that we launched with the European Union, the World Bank and UNDP.
And then, it is important to have clear priorities, the first being to invest in education because it is with education that we will win this fight against obscurantism, into which countries, entire regions, both in Africa and the Middle East, are plunging. And here today, I am calling on the international community to do what needs to be done in Dakar in February 2018 to replenish the global partnership for education that France will co-chair with Senegal. It is a vital battle the we will fight there, it is about enabling young girls and boys not to fall victim to obscurantism, to be able to choose their future, not the future that is forced upon them by need or the one that we choose for them here in this hall.
The second priority is to invest in health, in the fight to eradicate major pandemics and malnutrition, because there is no hope when people cannot be trained or treated. In this fight for development we also need to support the role of women, culture and freedom of expression. Everywhere that the role of women is being challenged, flouted, development is being obstructed, which means the capacity of a society to become emancipated, to occupy its rightful place, is being obstructed; these are not trivial societal issues, it is a deep civilizational fight, it is our fight, they are our values and they are not relative, they are extremely universal on every continent, all over the world. Everywhere that culture is flouted, there again our collective ability to take up these challenges is limited.
That is why UNESCO is today a particularly vital institutions and in this regard has a key role to play, which is to conserve a human face in the world when so much obscurantism seeks to eliminate its incredible diversity. It is so that culture and the language of everyone can live and flourish that we are fighting to see progress of the human mind continue. And freedom of expression is a battle that is also extremely topical. The United Nations is tasked with protecting the freedom of those who think, reflect, express themselves and particularly the freedom of the press. That is why I am calling for the appointment of a special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the protection of journalists around the world, because under no circumstances can the fight against terrorism, the toughening of the world in which we live, justify the reduction of this freedom.
I would lastly like to speak on behalf of Jules, my fellow French citizen living on the island of St Martin; I am thinking of his destroyed house, of his fear that it will happen over and over again because climate change multiplies disasters. The future of the world is that of our planet, which is taking its revenge on the folly of men; nature is calling us back into line and is summoning us to take up our duty of humanity and solidarity. Nature will not negotiate, it is up to humanity to defend itself by protecting it. Climate disruptions destroy traditional opposition between the North and the South, the most vulnerable are always the first victims caught up in the whirlwind of injustices, and we are all affected by the terrible runaway climate episodes from China to the Caribbean and from Russia to the Horn of Africa.
My country promised before this Assembly a universal agreement in Paris, which was achieved and signed in this hall. This agreement will not be renegotiated, it unites us, it brings us together; to unravel it would be to destroy a pact that was made not only between states but also between generations. It can be improved with new contributions, but we will not go back. I profoundly respect the decision of the United States and the door will always be open to them, but we will continue with all governments, local governments, cities, companies, NGOs and citizens of the world to implement the Paris Agreement. On our side, we have the strength of pioneers, endurance, certitude and the energy of those who would like to build a better world and, yes, this better world will create innovation, jobs, whether the men and women whose vision of the future is based on looking back like it or not.
We will build it immediately by implementing our contributions, as France has done by adopting its climate plan, which places it on the road to carbon neutrality, by convening in Paris on 12 December all those who have decided to advance on the basis of concrete solutions, by mobilizing public and private financing, and I confirm here that France will do its part by allocating euro5 billion a year to climate action from now until 2020. We will increase our ambitions by presenting this afternoon a Global Pact for the Environment whose aim will be to forge international law for the century to come with the support of UN bodies. When some would like to stop, we must continue to move forward, to go further, because climate change is not stopping, because our disruptions are not stopping and because our duty of solidarity and humanity is not stopping.
Ladies and gentlemen, behind each of our decisions there are voices and lives, there is the invisible parade of those we must defend, because one day we were defended ourselves. Why do we not hear these voices more, these voices that call out? Why are we no longer capable of doing what, 70 years ago, restored all mankind’s ability to believe in itself, global responsibility, the taste for mutual assistance and faith in progress? And yes, when I talk about Bana, Ousmane, Kouamé or Jules, I am speaking about my fellow citizens, your fellow citizens, every single one of them, for our interests and our security are also theirs! We are inextricably bound together in a community of destinies, for today and tomorrow. So global balances have, of course, profoundly changed in recent years. The world has once again become multipolar, meaning that we need to relearn both the complexity of dialogue and its fruitfulness.
LIBYA / VENEZUELA / UKRAINE
Our collective action is confronted with the instability of states, such as in Libya. Six years on now from its armed intervention, before this assembly I hereby accept France’s particular responsibility to ensure the country’s stability is restored. The meeting at La Celle-Saint-Cloud on 25 July enabled progress on the reconciliation which is essential for the success of the political process under the auspices of the United Nations. Alongside the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, we need to achieve, in 2018, the organization of elections that will mark the beginning of an effective restoration of the state, and I’ll put all my energy into this. In Venezuela too, collective action needs to uphold respect for democracy and respect for all political forces, and cede no ground to the dictatorial tendencies that are currently at work. And in Ukraine, we need to work tirelessly to enforce the commitments that have been made and enable an effective ceasefire, and gradually, as we are doing with German in particular, enable the parties present to comply with international law and bring an end to this conflict.
Multilateralism is struggling to address the challenges of nuclear proliferation, isn’t managing to banish threats that we thought were a thing of the past and that have erupted suddenly once more in our present. Pyongyang, for example, has breached - and assumed - a major threshold in military escalation. The threat concerns us all, immediately, existentially and collectively. To date, North Korea has shown no sign of a will to negotiate. Its leaders have locked themselves into determined one-upmanship, and it is our responsibility, along with all our partners including China and Russia, to firmly bring them back to the table to negotiate a political settlement to the crisis. France will refuse any escalation and will close no door to dialogue, so long as the conditions are there for this dialogue to further peace.
That same objective is why I am defending the nuclear agreement with Iran. Our commitment to nuclear non-proliferation enabled us to achieve a solid, robust and verifiable agreement on 14 July 2015, which will enable us to ensure Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. Terminating it today, without anything to replace it, would be a grave mistake. Not respecting it would be irresponsible, because it is a useful agreement that is essential to peace, at a time when the risk of an infernal spiral cannot be ruled out. That is what I said yesterday to the United States and to Iran.
For my part, I would like us to supplement this agreement with work that will help control Iran’s ballistic activities, and to govern the situation after 2025 which is not covered by the 2015 agreement. We need to be more demanding, but we should in no way unpick what previous agreements have secured. Look at the situation we are in today. Have we, through a lack of dialogue, better contained the situation in North Korea? Not for a single second. Wherever there is dialogue and control, multilateralism has powerful weapons and is useful. That is what I want for us all.
So, I don’t know if my distant successor, in 70 years, will have the privilege of speaking before you. Will multilateralism survive the period of doubts and dangers that we are experiencing? In truth, we need to remember the state of the world, 70 years ago, broken by war and stunned by genocides. We need to rediscover today the optimism, ambition and courage that we raised against these reasons to doubt. We need to rediscover faith in what unites us. That means that we need to rediscover confidence in these founding values of the UN, which are universal and protect individuals across the planet, guaranteeing their dignity.
But, ladies and gentlemen, how did this happen? Because we allowed the notion to descend, that multilateralism is, in a way, a comfortable sport, a game for sitting diplomats; that it is the instrument of the weak. That is what has happened over so many years. Because we let ourselves believe that we were more credible, stronger, when we acted unilaterally. But that is wrong. Because we let ourselves believe, sometimes cynically, that not everything could be achieved through multilateralism.
So we let global disruption gain the upper hand. We have dragged our feet on addressing climate change and on tackling today’s inequalities that dysfunctional capitalism has begun producing. We have allowed discordant voices to speak out. But it is always the loudest voice that wins at that game, every time. In our complacency, forgetting the lessons of our history, we have allowed the idea that we are stronger outside multilateralism to gain a foothold.
But the challenge today, for our generation, is to rebuild that multilateralism. It is to explain that today, in the current state of the world, there is nothing more effective than multilateralism. Why? Because all our challenges are global, such as terrorism, migration, global warming and regulation of the digital sector. All these issues can only be addressed globally, and multilaterally. Each time we consent to circumvent multilateralism, we hand victory to the law of the strongest.
Because yes, my friends, if we are to enshrine our vision of the world, we can only do that through multilateralism. Because this vision is universal. It is not regional. Because every time we have given in to those who say that the role of women was a matter for the few, in a certain part of the world, but not for others, or that equality between citizens was a matter for one civilization, but not another, we have abandoned what has brought us here together in this place and the universality of these values. There too, in certain countries, we have given in to the law of the strongest.
Because every time the great powers, sitting around the table at the Security Council, have given in to the law of the strongest, to unilateralism, or denounced agreements they had themselves signed, they have not respected the cement of multilateralism: the rule of law. That is what made us, and builds peace over time.
So yes, today more than ever, we need multilateralism. Not because this is a comfortable word, or because it is a sort of refuge for smart people. No, because multilateralism is the rule of law. It is exchange between peoples, the equality between us all. It is what allows us to build peace and address each of the challenges we face.
So yes, to do this, the United Nations has total legitimacy to act and preserve the world’s stability. That is why I want a more accountable, effective and agile UN, and I fully support the UN Secretary-General’s plan, his ambition and determination to lead an organization equal to the world’s challenges. We need to step out of our offices, of meetings between states and governments, to seek other energies and to represent differently the world as it is, taking a second look at the dogmas in which we sometimes allow ourselves to be trapped.
We need a Security Council capable of making effective decisions and that is not locked up through the veto, when mass atrocities are committed. We need a better representation of all forces present on all continents. We need coordination in the management of crises, with the European Union, the African Union, and sub-regional organizations that are key players. That is why France will be there, alongside the United Nations, for the ongoing reform.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say that the forgotten voices that I have mentioned today resonate only in a forum like this one: a forum where everyone has their place, where everyone can be heard, even by those who do not want to listen. For the latter, I have a message: not listening to the voices of the oppressed, of victims, means allowing their misfortune to grow and develop until the day it strikes us all. It means forgetting that we have all, at a moment in our history, been the oppressed, and that others have heard our voices. It means forgetting that our security is their security, that their lives affect ours and that we have no chance of coming out unscathed when the world is in flames.
Not listening to those who appeal for our help means believing that we are protected by walls and borders. But it is not our walls that protect us. It is our will to act, and to influence the course of history. It is our refusal to accept that history will be written without us, while we believe we are safe. What protects us is our sovereignty and the sovereign exercise of our strength in support of progress. That is the independence of nations in the context of our interdependence.
Not listening to these voices means believing that their misery is not our own. That we will forever possess the goods that they can only dream of. But when that good is the planet, when it is peace, justice or freedom, do you think we can enjoy it alone, and apart?
If we do not stand up for these common goods, we will all be wiped out. We are allowing fires to break out into which, tomorrow, history will throw our own children.
Yes, today even more than before, our common goods are also our interests and our security, and their security too. There cannot be, on the one hand, the irenicism of those who believe in the rule of law and multilateralism and, on the other, the pragmatism of certain unilateralists. That is false.
Our real effectiveness is at play in this conflict, here. So, with you, I believe today in a strong and responsible multilateralism. That is the responsibility of our generation, if we are not to give in to fatalism. We need only one form of courage, ladies and gentlemen: that of hearing these voices, that of not deviating from the trace we need to leave in history, and that, at all times, of considering that we have to reconcile our interests and values, our security and the planet’s common goods. Our generation has no choice, for it has to speak for today and for tomorrow.
2. 72nd United Nations General Assembly - Multilateralism - Syria - Libya - Sahel - Iraq - CAR - Burma (Myanmar) - Climate - Iran - North Korea - Press conference given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (New York - September 18, 2017)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. PROLIFERATION OF CRISES AND INSUFFICIENT INTERNATIONAL CRISIS CONTROL
I am delighted to see you here as I attend my first United Nations General Assembly. I am pleased to present you with France’s priorities and to tell you how we intend to address them during this highlight of the international calendar.
This is a critical moment. It is marked by a troubling deterioration in the international environment. Never since the end of the Cold War have differences, tensions, and the level of conflict been so high, in a world that nevertheless is more interdependent than ever. Even worse, despite globalization, cooperation has become less evident, with the rules of the multilateral game increasingly called into question and the growing temptation to withdraw or go one’s own way.
Amid a growing number of crises, striving for concrete solutions is France’s priority, for two reasons: first, because these crises concern us, they affect our security and that of Europe; and second, because these crises compromise the international order by weakening the norms that govern it and the balances that underpin it.
In the face of this decaying situation, France has a special responsibility – because it has the means, because its voice carries weight, because it is seen as a balancing power. For all these reasons, France must be proactive, it must be creative, agile, and pragmatic, and at the same time a guarantor of such key principles as the respect for international law, and in particular, the UN Charter. It must also be vigilant when it comes to protecting vulnerable populations, or in the fight against impunity for the most serious international crimes.
It is in this frame of mind that the President, who will be arriving shortly in New York, and I will attend numerous meetings devoted to every sort of crisis – military and humanitarian, as well as the promotion of human rights and development. We will have the opportunity to meet with our partners to discuss the situation in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, and the Sahel, among others.
In this regard, allow me to expand upon a few of our priorities.
First, the crises.
Because the UN’s first mission is to ensure international security, the President and I will be working especially hard in the days to come to move forward on the resolution of major international crises.
I will begin with the Levant.
That is our top priority.
As you know, Daesh is experiencing one military defeat after another. We can now anticipate a time when Daesh will no longer hold any territory. And we must be sure that in the future we will be prepared to deal with a more diffuse but still real threat from Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
Terrorism often draws its strength from a breeding ground. I’m thinking of Syria. You are familiar with the reality of the war that is raging there. We have seen more than 300,000 dead, half the population displaced, murders, torture, unspeakable suffering, chaos. After six years of deadlock, we need a realistic, pragmatic approach commensurate with a conflict that has grown increasingly international. Let me say once again: fighting Daesh and identifying the political conditions for ending the civil war are two faces of the same commitment to serve international security. This requires working together with all regional actors and the members of the Security Council. That is why the President proposed to establish a contact group bringing together representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council, given their particular responsibility, along with the main actors involved in Syria. The establishment of this group should make it possible to pool initiatives in order to move forward, reduce contradictions within the international community, and effectively support the efforts of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, whom I met with yesterday. That is how we can help the Syrians themselves find the way to an agreement that thus far has proven impossible. The creation of this group will be on the agenda of the meeting of P5 ministers with the UN secretary-general Thursday morning.
France’s priorities are clear: First, the fight against terrorism. Second, the need for humanitarian access everywhere. Even where progress has been observed, more must be done. Third, the need for a political process taking into account the different components of Syrian society and the fate of these various communities, leading to a new Constitution. And fourth, France will remain committed to fighting impunity for the perpetrators of chemical attacks. The same holds true for the future of our whole system of collective security: one cannot violate the most fundamental norms without someday facing the consequences. As I said a few days ago at the Ambassadors Conference, France will soon be taking initiatives in this area.
On the subject of crises, I want to turn to France’s immediate neighborhood. We cannot allow the instability prevailing in Libya to continue, with the threats it represents for Libya’s neighbors but also for Europe. That’s why we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Libyan people in the face of the challenges they are confronting: to eradicate the terrorist threat on their territory; to control migratory flows; to curb all kinds of trafficking, which also threaten us; and in order to do these things, to restore the country’s political unity, a prerequisite for its security and stability.
It was with this in mind que that on July 25, the President hosted Prime Minister Sarraj and Field Marshal Haftar at Le Celle-Saint-Cloud. It was an important step, because they pledged in a joint declaration to unite against terrorism and lay the groundwork for an electoral process. We must continue these efforts in order to expand the consensus between all the Libyan parties. And the presidents of the two chambers –the State Council and the House of Representatives – have a major role to play. A few days ago, I myself visited Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata and Tobruk. I observed great fatigue among the people, confronted with the country’s fragmentation. We will therefore continue our efforts to achieve an inclusive political solution. Ghassan Salamé, the secretary-general’s special representative, is leading this effort. I saw him yesterday evening. We support his efforts and have full faith that this mission will be accomplished. That is what the President will say on behalf of France at Wednesday’s meeting on Libya chaired by Secretary-General Guterres.
- The Sahel
To continue on the subject of crises, terrorism still represents a threat in the Sahel, as recent attacks have shown. Terrorist groups know no borders and are fueled by trafficking, particularly drug trafficking and human trafficking. In the face of this challenge, France supports a collective, coordinated, global response.
First, we fully support the efforts of the UN and MINUSMA. We support the effective implementation of the Algiers Agreement; that is the key to stabilizing this region. Much remains to be done. And I will attend an event on the implementation of the Malian Peace and Reconciliation Agreement with Mr. Guterres and President Keïta. The unanimous adoption of a resolution establishing a sanctions regime against all those who hinder the implementation of the peace agreement is specifically aimed at strengthening our collective action in this area.
France is also in favor of strengthening the G5 Sahel Joint Force. This regional initiative endorsed by the African Union, unanimously supported by the Security Council, and supported by the European Union offers a coordinated response with respect to security. With this force, Africa strengthens its commitment to the fight against terrorism. The G5 Sahel Joint Force may serve as a positive model for future African peace operations. In this connection, on Monday – today - the President will take part in a meeting attended by the heads of state of the Sahel, the UN secretary-general, and the EU High Representative.
France itself, as you know, is engaged on the ground with Operation Barkhane. But apart from the military and political dimensions of our efforts, we are also engaged in the region’s development. It is the combination of these three dimensions – defense, diplomacy, and development – that may guarantee an end to the crisis. And that’s why France has adopted the Alliance for the Sahel initiative, which we launched in July and on which we are working with the G5 countries.
When it comes to our commitment to the Sahel, France is in it for the long haul. We will host a ministerial meeting on this topic during our Security Council presidency a month from now.
This week, I will also attend a meeting on the Central African Republic with President Touadera. But I want to express my concern over the surge in violence by armed groups in recent months, particularly in the center and southeast of the country. It has resulted in numerous victims. It is therefore urgent to implement the joint roadmap for peace and reconciliation in the CAR, adopted on July 17 in Libreville by the Central African authorities, the African Union, and the countries of the region.
In this enumeration of the main crises we are facing today, there is the tragedy of the Rohingya. The crisis that has been going on since August 25 is unprecedented in its severity and can leave no one indifferent. Along with longstanding discrimination against this population, a third of the community has now been forced into exile. 60% of the refugees are reportedly children. This situation calls for a collective response by the international community. We reiterate our call for a halt to the violence against civilians forced to flee in massive numbers and demand that the Burmese security forces guarantee their protection and reestablish safe humanitarian access. We expect Madam San Suu Kyi to make a strong statement tomorrow to this effect, and we hope an effective dialogue can be established based on the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Kofi Annan.
The urgency of crisis management should not divert attention from the need to ensure our actions are based on a long-term approach.
We must adopt a comprehensive approach, as I stated just now, combining security, political legitimacy and economic and human development. This will ensure stability and lasting peace. This is the reason for France’s commitment, a commitment made by President Macron, to increase our ODA to 0.55% of GDP by 2022, with priority given to climate, education, gender issues and fragility in Africa.
With respect to climate, we want to guarantee and preserve the results of the Paris Agreement. This agreement must be implemented and it is irreversible. There is no alternative solution to achieving the goal of 2°C, just as there can be no solitary or unilateral action in this area. Those who avert their gaze now will also suffer the consequences of climate change.
That’s why the Conference of the Parties in Bonn from November 6 to 17 is also important. I will be there. The goal of this COP23, under Fijian presidency, is to prepare for the Facilitative Dialogue which is the main instrument for implementing the Paris Agreement, with a view toward ensuring that the states maintain a strong and ambitious commitment. In perfect synergy with the COP23 discussions, we will again address the implementation of the agreement and notably its funding during the Paris Summit on December 12; an anniversary date. Furthermore, as you know, we intend to hold the next IPCC meeting in France during the first half of 2018 in order to support international climate commitment. But we must go further on the environmental front. This is the goal of the Global Pact for the Environment that President Macron hopes to launch; the first summit focusing on this pact will take place on Tuesday. We will address, together with an inclusive Group of Friends, the challenges posed by such a pact. As Laurent Fabius rightly noted, environmental law is fragmented and incomplete: The goal of this pact is to combine in a single text international environmental rights and principles, in order to further advance them through a process of multilateral negotiations, which we will launch after the summit.
4. REVITALIZING MULTILATERALISM
- UN reform and multilateral initiatives
In all of the crises that I’ve mentioned we are paying the price for a lack of international cooperation. We are paying this price due to the duration of these crises and as a result of their intensification. This is notably true with respect to the division that is undermining the Security Council. Yet the collaboration between the P5 members, their unity, is key to resolving many crises. This is the purpose of the contact group on Syria, as I mentioned. France wants to be a unifier, it wants to unify the Security Council, which has too often been divided over the last few years to fully play its role.
The UN must be better able to respond to the crises in a concrete and effective way. Like all institutions, its functioning could be improved: We are all convinced of that. That’s why France fully supports the secretary-general in his determination to reform the organization to make it more effective, more transparent, more responsive. We share his global vision of the three pillars of the UN – peace and security, humanitarian affairs and sustainable development – an indivisible whole. This global view is essential.
In general, the UN must decompartmentalize its action because experience has shown the extent to which security issues, emergency issues and development issues are intertwined. President Macron will take part in the high-level debate on peacekeeping hosted on Wednesday by the Ethiopian presidency of the Security Council and France also supports the secretary-general’s commitment to ensuring that the UN lead by example in the fight against sexual abuse in peacekeeping operations.
Ladies and gentlemen, the crises of the last decade – whether humanitarian, security, health or environmental – have clearly shown that the fates of states were linked and that the response to international challenges called for closer cooperation. In this context, we have a responsibility to defend the frameworks for action and the collectively determined rules of law, while making a commitment to strengthening the UN system, and having the capacity to support new forms of global governance, especially those that respond to the social and technological transformations of our time. This is what we have done with respect to climate change, through the method adopted for the Paris Agreement, bringing together states, NGOs, and civil society actors, and it’s a method we want to pursue and strengthen. That’s why President Macron will host a dialogue on Wednesday with a panel of NGOs, which I and Nicolas Hulot, Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, will attend, in order to explain our priorities as well as to involve civil society as closely as possible in our initiatives.
In addition, the uncertain strategic context that I described in my introduction justifies ensuring that our multilateral approach to key international challenges is rigorous and credible. In the area of non-proliferation, France refused to take part in the negotiations on a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons because such an approach can only weaken the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; however, in the current context, it is clearly the most balanced instrument and consequently the most robust in terms of limiting the risks. In this respect, resorting to catchphrases would be irresponsible. We can create a safer environment through concrete actions. That’s why I will take part in the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: indeed, this is concrete, credible and realistic progress in the area of non-proliferation.
That’s why we will also ensure that the Iranian nuclear deal is strictly enforced, while some important deadlines are looming with respect to the timeline for its implementation. It is in this context that we intend to pursue our discussions on this issue. A meeting involving all countries that negotiated the agreement – the Six + Iran – will take place on Wednesday.
I spoke of multilateral creativity. This is what we must also do today with respect to the digital world and cybersecurity. We will address this challenge this morning during an event devoted to this new challenge which requires greater diplomatic commitment. It will provide an opportunity for me to promote a vision of governance involving state and private actors; indeed, firms have a responsibility and a role to play in protecting and ensuring the stability of the digital space. Here again, France will take the lead in promoting the regulations needed to ensure an international order that is just and beneficial to all. Furthermore, the mobilization of the international community to combat online radicalization and the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes is essential. The Security Council resolutions, notably resolution 2178, as well as the secretary-general’s plan of action to prevent violent extremism, provide a particularly appropriate framework for action and cooperation, in which we will participate.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the agenda for President Macron, for myself, for Ministre d’Etat Nicolas Hulot during this ministerial week. As you can see, French diplomacy is active working on all fronts with respect to resolving the crises and promoting multilateralism in order to continually try to achieve concrete results.
I am available to respond to your questions.
Q&A session with the Press
A topical question about the Kurdish referendum. There’s currently huge pressure from the international community on the Kurds to abandon or suspend the referendum. I wanted to know if France has joined in initiatives to propose alternatives to the Kurds. You met Mr. Barzani recently. I wanted to know if, in your view, he might be flexible about abandoning or suspending the referendum?
THE MINISTER – Thank you for that question, which is very important and highly topical. We’re already preparing for the post-Daesh era in Iraq. And as far as we’re concerned, the post-Daesh era requires inclusive political governance, which respects Iraq’s constitution and thus its federalist dimension, respects the communities making it up and respects Iraq’s territorial integrity.
This is the message I conveyed to Prime Minister Abadi at the end of August when I went to Baghdad. It’s also what I very clearly told President Barzani. In Iraq’s constitution, there are very important elements relating to Kurdistan’s constitutional autonomy. These must be respected, validated and secured, and this can be done through the dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil. I think any other initiative would be inappropriate.
Thank you. President Trump has been cautioned by your country and many others against pulling out of the Paris climate accord, against decertifying the Iran deal. Do you see any evidence that his administration is being persuaded by any of this? For instance, the Secretary of State suggested that the United States might stay in the Paris deal under the right conditions.
THE MINISTER – The Paris Agreement was a huge step forward by the whole international community. It’s unprecedented in its scope, its commitments and the speed with which it has been adopted, since a year later it had been sufficiently ratified for it to be implemented. Today the ratifications are being confirmed: There are already more than 145. So we believe the agreement is going to be implemented. It will be.
We note President Trump’s statements about his intention not to respect it. For the time being, no concrete action has been taken and we can still hope to persuade him. At any rate, in order to persuade, international pressure must be strong and, moreover, we mustn’t stop implementing the Paris Agreement. This is why President Macron called for the climate summit of 12 December, to continue the irreversible implementation of the commitments made.
I also have a topical question about the [North] Korea crisis. Yesterday the US and South Korea carried out maneuvers to simulate the bombing of North Korea. My question is this: in your view, is this posturing or a war-based approach? And an additional question: can we at last say, at this stage in the crisis, that we can’t prevent North Korea from having the nuclear bomb?
THE MINISTER – The nuclear and ballistic tests North Korea has carried out recently – and you’re aware of how this has been speeded up – are actions carried out in breach of the Security Council resolutions. These actions threaten international security and, firstly, regional security. So France very firmly condemned those tests. We think that this initiative has to be continued with a great deal of firmness within the Security Council and that the adoption of sanctions must be genuinely effective. That takes time. The sanctions decided in 2016 are being adopted today. The sanctions decided in 2017 will be adopted gradually.
France is determined for the international community to exert maximum pressure to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. It’s the only initiative possible: exerting extremely strong pressure through sanctions and bringing North Korea to the negotiating table. It’s an initiative which, obviously, certain countries could join in with. I think that China’s shift in this respect is interesting. But it’s an initiative which doesn’t require significant military action. I’ll leave President Trump to provide the necessary explanations for the rest.
Mr. Minister, a question about the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA. Will other signatories like France use this occasion at the UN to try and persuade President Trump not to withdraw his certification and, if he does not certify and at least the US leaving by imposing huge sanctions, can the JCPOA survive if all the other signatories remain committed?
THE MINISTER – We’ve reaffirmed on many occasions – and the President will be sure to do so – the importance of the Vienna agreement and the fact it is being adhered to. We note that checks are being carried out, very strict ones, and so we’ll be keeping an eye on the very strict implementation of the agreement. We remain vigilant but today nothing has happened which makes us think the agreement isn’t being implemented. We think it’s essential to maintain it in order to prevent any spiral of proliferation, not least to deter indirectly the hardest parties in Iran’s government from getting involved in acquiring atomic weapons.
Furthermore, at a time when we’re experiencing the risks you’ve just mentioned concerning North Korea, it’s really important to maintain this policy. At any rate, that’s the position France will defend and we’ll try to persuade President Trump of the pertinence of that choice.
The question is whether it can survive if the United States stays, or it can survive if the other signatories remain?
THE MINISTER – This will be a great responsibility, and it could lead to a process of proliferation which, at that point, it would be difficult to curtail. If one country can have access to nuclear weapons, its neighbors could move in the same direction. So the Iran agreement is absolutely essential.
Mr. Minister, a couple of questions, if you permit me, on what you said regarding Syria: You said you were looking for main players besides the current members of the Security Council for the contact group. Are those main players the same as the guarantors, and I have in mind Iran and Turkey? And another clarification on your very important point on impunity. You connected it to chemical weapons; I don’t know if you meant to expand it. However, is it possible and reconcilable with your position as France to say that Bashar al-Assad would have to be part of the transition - so what if he is guilty? And lastly, how relevant is your initiative when the Russians are really running the show on the ground?
THE MINISTER – The situation is developing very fast in Syria. New information arrives every day that suggests that Daesh [so-called ISIL] is losing ground. The greatest risk is that Syria’s future is determined by the military positions of the various parties at a given time. That would have two inevitable consequences: firstly a fragmentation of the state, which would then foster other forms of fundamentalism and radicalism that would take Daesh’s place.
Syria’s current situation leads us to think that it is important to initiate a political process immediately, as only a political process can avoid these deadlocks and this fragmentation and this indirect call for other forms of terrorism to emerge. That is why we need to move beyond the lines that have failed to produce solutions since 2011. And that is why France wants a contact group to be set up, based on the foundation of the permanent members of the Security Council and regional states concerned by this situation. That is the subject of our discussions on Thursday. I can’t give the answer before the meeting.
And that is also why it is important for there to be at the same time a de-escalation process, humanitarian access for all and an attempt to reunify Syria’s opposition. And that is why, too, we believe that we now need to show realism in two respects. Realism means not making Bashar al-Assad’s departure a prerequisite for negotiations. That is why President Macron has taken this initiative. Realism also means not leading people to believe that he can represent Syria’s future. I don’t see how millions of refugees who have fled the violence he is responsible for can return if he remains in power.
So we need to initiate a political process with all those capable of conducting it. That is today’s necessity, independent of prosecution on the chemical weapons and threats issue. We have already stated our views on this subject. We await the end of the inquiry by the UN joint investigative mechanism (JIM), which should present its conclusions soon. For our part, we are convinced that sarin gas was used.
You mean that you want to replace the Astana process? Are you suggesting that the Astana process is over and you need to replace it?
THE MINISTER – No, Astana isn’t a political process. Astana is a process of resolving de-escalation zones over four individualized areas. The political process is necessary, and the process must be given every chance by supporting the representative, [Staffan] de Mistura, in his action. That’s what we proposed on Thursday morning.
A question on the Central African Republic. With the worsening violence in the CAR, would France be ready to send troops to Bangui again to support MINUSCA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic]? How will the Alliance for the Sahel be able to boost the creation of the G5 Sahel joint force?
THE MINISTER – On the Central African Republic, first of all, why did we intervene at the beginning of 2014? Because at the time, if there hadn’t been a buffer force we would have witnessed large-scale massacres between different communities, ethnicities and religions. France fulfilled its mission and Operation Sangaris stopped as soon as there was a presidential election, which wasn’t disputed by Mr. Touadera, an uncontested general election, a United Nations mission established in the Central African Republic to guarantee the peace process and, fourthly, a European Union mission aimed at strengthening the FACA, the Central African Armed Forces. From that moment on, France’s mission, mandated by the United Nations, was over and it was important for the Central Africans to take control of their destiny with the tools in place.
Like you, I note an upsurge in criminal acts of which civilians are the victims. There was an agreement in Libreville. I mentioned it in my initial remarks, and this agreement must be honored, as well as the tools enabling the agreement to be honored. They’re the tools the United Nations put in place. There’s a force called MINUSCA, which is a robust force and which must fulfil its mission. And there’s another force, namely the European Union force that is due to train the FACA for its mission. The message we’ll be giving President Touadera is, first of all, to strengthen him – he was chosen by universal suffrage – and ensure that the neighbors can put pressure on the groups they have influence over, so that the country finally experiences a bit of calm. So the return of a French operation isn’t on the agenda.
But on the G5 Sahel force, there is a small link; I imagine you were also drawing it in your question. What’s the big new thing about the G5 Sahel force? In terms of forces – because it depends what you include under the term G5 Sahel force – I’m talking about the joint military force, the determination to activate a tool shared by the five countries to protect their borders and combat terrorism. It’s not necessarily jihadist terrorism, as you well know: it’s often organized crime. But sometimes the two combine: that’s gangsterism. To combat this, the five countries have decided to pool their forces. For months, for years we’ve been talking about an African peace force, and today it’s a reality. It’s such a reality that the joint force’s headquarters have been established, they have a commander-in-chief, they’ve decided on the various forces – three groups of 1,500 troops – and, in the central area of the combat zone in Liptako-Gourma, it’s at a very advanced stage of technical preparation. So for us, it’s a considerable step forward for ensuring that gradually, in this zone, Africans themselves take responsibility for Africans’ security.
The Alliance for the Sahel, it’s true, will be implemented, presented, only when we meet at the end of this month, and I’ll be chairing a meeting on this. The distinctive feature of the Alliance for the Sahel is that it’s a very responsive development tool, which is rarely the case. Alongside the military operation to provide security, there’s an effective and visible development tool, especially in the same zones. That’s a great challenge and I think we’ll succeed at it.