Official speeches and statements - March 28, 2018
1. Israel - Palestinian Territories - Statements by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, during his joint press conference with his Palestinian counterpart, Mr Riyad al-Maliki (Ramallah, 26/03/2018)
THE MINISTER - I’m very pleased to be in Palestine today. I’m paying my first visit here as Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. I’d like to say to my friend Riyad al-Maliki that I very much appreciated the solidarity you showed following the recent terrorist attacks in Carcassonne and Trèbes. President Abbas himself talked about the tragedy, which also forms part of our discussions on the joint battle we’re fighting against terrorism. Since it’s a long battle, it must be resolute, it must be shared. And this battle is shared with the Palestinian authorities.
This first visit is also an opportunity for me to reaffirm France’s commitment to peace in the Middle East. As you know, our goal remains the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian State living in peace and security alongside Israel within safe, recognized borders, and with Jerusalem as capital of the two states.
Recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel and Palestine will come in due course as part of this process. We believe that the two-state solution is the only one likely to ensure a fair, lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and to achieve it there is a single path, that of negotiation between the parties, with the international community’s support. In this framework, we’re willing to support any credible initiative to restart negotiations and President Abbas told me earlier about his initiative. You immediately drew attention to it, Minister.
President Abbas and I discussed in depth the situation on the ground, particularly the threats hanging over the two-state solution today. We considered that the faster pace of settlement activity compromised peace. We also talked about the increasingly worrying humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. We of course talked about ways of promoting peace, the principles we’re committed to, and the issues raised by the preparation of the American plan.
I also came here to send a message of solidarity to the Palestinian people. I’m aware of the difficulties and suffering they’re facing. And France will continue to stand alongside them, just as it will continue to support the Palestinian Authority on the path to establishing a future Palestinian State, and through the cooperation projects which we maintain in many fields and would like to strengthen through our humanitarian assistance, our economic assistance, through the support we lend Palestine multilaterally and our increased contribution in Rome a few days ago at the UNRWA donors’ conference. All this helps strengthen our solidarity and show France’s interest, France’s support for the Palestinian Authority.
In the coming months, other visits will testify to how much attention France gives to Palestine. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will come here at the end of May. I’ll have the honour of accompanying him for the second Franco-Palestinian intergovernmental seminar, a meeting that will provide an opportunity for us to review our trade and cooperation. It will be a highlight of this commitment. And then, as you know, in the autumn President Macron will also be travelling here to signal, at the highest level, France’s concrete commitment in support of peace and alongside the Palestinians.
Q. - (Question on the Middle East peace conference in Paris)
THE MINISTER - The meeting you’re referring to was organized in Paris in January 2017. It was a useful meeting. Since then, there’s been the announcement of an American peace plan, which, as we speak, still isn’t on the table. And there’s also the initiative my colleague talked about a moment ago, initiated by President Abbas at the Security Council on the one hand, and at the meeting of European Union foreign ministers on the other. This initiative deserves attention. And as I said in my initial remarks, France is ready to lend its support to any initiative. That’s the process we’re in. We’re going to study very closely the initiative proposed by President Abbas. (...)./.
The escalation is continuing in Syria; Turkish troops took Afrin on 18 March, President Erdogan has raised fears that the Turkish intervention will continue, particularly in the Tal Rifaat area, where 75,000 people are believed to have taken refuge. We have expressed our very deep concern publicly and in our contacts with the Turkish authorities.
France’s position is very clear: while Turkey’s concern for ensuring the security of its border is understandable, nothing can justify it remaining deep inside Syrian territory over the long term.
There are our humanitarian concerns, of course, because 100,000 people have fled Afrin. There are legal ones, since United Nations Security Council Resolution 2401 has imposed a cessation of hostilities over the whole of Syrian territory, and this resolution is violated day after day. There are also operational and security concerns. As you pointed out, France is fully aware that the Kurdish forces are lending decisive support to the fight against Daesh [so-called ISIL]. The international community’s absolute priority must be to continue this battle. The Carcassonne and Trèbes attacks painfully reminded us of this.
The President spoke once again to President Erdogan on 24 March to reiterate the need for Turkey to allow full access for humanitarian aid and to repeat the absolute priority of the fight against Daesh. He also reiterated this priority to President Trump, with whom he has just spoken on the telephone.
We need the Kurds in order to fight Daesh, and ultimately only a political solution which includes the Kurds in particular is able to ensure Syria’s stability and the security of its neighbours and ourselves./.