Official speeches and statements - April 16, 2018
1. Syria - Press communiqué issued by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, on the intervention of the French armed forces in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria (Paris, 14/04/2018)
Dozens of men, women and children were massacred in Douma on Saturday 7 April using chemical weapons, in total violation of international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.
There is no doubt as to the facts and to the responsibility of the Syrian regime.
The red line declared by France in May 2017 has been crossed.
Tonight, I have therefore ordered the French armed forces to intervene, as part of an international operation conducted in coalition with the United States of America and the United Kingdom against the clandestine chemical weapons arsenal of the Syrian regime.
Our response has been limited to the Syrian regime’s facilities enabling the production and employment of chemical weapons.
We cannot tolerate the normalization of the employment of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger to the Syrian people and to our collective security. That is the meaning of the initiatives constantly promoted by France at the United Nations Security Council.
France and its partners will today resume their efforts at the United Nations to enable the creation of an international mechanism to establish responsibility, prevent impunity and obstruct any temptation on the part of the Syrian regime to repeat these acts.
Since May 2017, France’s priorities in Syria have been constant: finishing the fight against Daesh [so-called ISIL], enabling humanitarian assistance to civilian populations, and triggering collective momentum to bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict so that peace can return to Syria and to ensure the region’s stability.
I will pursue these priorities with determination in the coming days and weeks.
In accordance with Article 35, paragraph 2 of the French Constitution, Parliament will be informed and a parliamentary debate will be organized following this decision to order the intervention of our armed forces abroad./.
Did the air strikes conducted by the United States, France and the United Kingdom in Syria achieve the objective of neutralizing the remainder of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal?
THE MINISTER - These strikes were strictly limited, proportionate and legitimate. They aimed solely at the regime’s clandestine chemical weapons arsenal. The targets were chosen jointly. As for Russia, I would like to recall what Vladimir Putin said the day after meeting Emmanuel Macron at Versailles in May 2017, where the French President set down our red lines: Â“I agree. (...) No matter who uses chemical weapons, the international community must formulate a common policy and find a solution that would quite simply make the use of such weapons impossible for anyone." Those are Vladimir Putin’s words.
How do you analyse Russia’s hostility since Sunday to this response plan against the Syrian arsenal?
THE MINISTER - Russia’s protection and backing of Bashar al-Assad are unjustifiable. I cannot understand how they can reach this level, while the violence employed by Assad is limitless. It boils down to denial of reality, as already observed on several occasions. As early as 2013, then in 2017 at Khan Sheikhoun, the Russians denied the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. At the time, the mechanism established by the UN Security Council to verify and attribute responsibility for chemical weapons already determined the regime’s responsibility. It is therefore no accident that Russia voted against renewing the mechanism in autumn last year. And this week, when we proposed setting up a comparable mechanism, there were 12 votes for at the Security Council, and one veto: Russia’s.
So why seek to maintain dialogue with Russia, given this posture?
THE MINISTER - The President of the Republic has determined France’s position on the use of chemical weapons and on Syria. We now have to hope that Russia will understand that, after the military response against Syria’s arsenal, we need to join forces to promote a political process in Syria enabling an end to the crisis. France is ready to help achieve that. Except that what is blocking the process today is Bashar al-Assad himself. It is up to Russia to put pressure on him. The first step is a truce that is genuinely respected, this time, as required by Security Council resolutions.
How do you see this next sequence unfolding, following the air strikes?
THE MINISTER - On chemical weapons, the decommissioning of the Syrian arsenal has to continue first and foremost, and the absence of any residual armaments needs to be validated by the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). That is required to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 2118, which was adopted after the events in August 2013 and voted for by Russia. Next, a truce is needed that enables the resumption of humanitarian assistance, as provided for by Resolution 2410, also supported by Russia. Lastly, the political process set out in Resolution 2254, providing for the adoption of a new constitution and free elections, needs to resume.
Eastern Ghouta has been seized back totally by the regime, which has warned that the next stage in its war will take place in Idlib. Are we not going to see a repetition of the scenario of a siege and deadly assaults?
THE MINISTER - There are now two million inhabitants in Idlib, including hundreds of thousands of Syrians evacuated from rebel cities taken back by the regime. There is a risk of another humanitarian disaster. Idlib’s fate needs to be settled within a political process that involves disarming militias. We will also remain attentive as regards the situation in the north-east, which was freed from Daesh [so-called ISIL] control with our support. I would like to stress that our main enemy remains Daesh, along with the other terrorist groups taking advantage of this period to regroup in the east of the country.
Following Israel’s raid on an Iranian base in Syria on Monday, will Israel continue to be left to address the Iranian military presence in the country?
THE MINISTER - In our strategy, the resumption of the political process requires all Syrian and regional players to take part. We are going to discuss the matter with our partners in the Small Group (United States, United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), but everything possible must be done to avoid Iran’s military presence in Syria resulting in the conflict overflowing beyond Syria’s borders. On Monday, I will ask the EU Foreign Affairs Council ministerial meeting to stand alongside the Syrian people by providing the assistance they need.
The raids on Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal come as we await a decision from Donald Trump by 12 May on whether or not to uphold the Iranian nuclear agreement. Do you think that what has just happened could have an impact on the situation?
THE MINISTER - France considers the Vienna Agreement to be a major achievement in the fight against proliferation. It is essential to preserve it as a bulwark against Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and, consequently, the risk of regional proliferation. Whatever enables us to guarantee chemical or nuclear non-proliferation internationally must be respected with the greatest vigilance. That is why we need to continue our conversation with the United States to convince it of that. That does not mean we are not determined to prevent Iran continuing its ballistic activities, which are aggressive towards its neighbours, and to stifle its tendencies towards hegemony over the whole region, from Yemen to Lebanon.
Proliferation is also central to the North Korea issue, 12 days ahead of the summit between the leaders of the two Koreas.
The thaw in relations between leaders Kim and Moon appears positive. It shows that sanctions and international pressure have eventually paid off. The aim is to achieve the denuclearization of the peninsula. However, in Syria, North Korea and Iran, it is clear that collective security requires compliance with non-proliferation agreements./.
A - Let me just say one word about what is happening in New York with our draft resolution.
Our priority now is to open a new phase in engaging all members of the Security Council on our draft resolution. As you know, the draft has been circulated to the 15 members of the Council on Saturday night. So we didn’t waste time. We will start the discussion later today in good faith and in a good spirit with the 15 members.
The goal of this resolution is clear: it is for the Security Council to restart a collective action to deal with the chemical dossier, to protect the civilian populations and to work toward a political settlement of the Syrian crisis.
As you know, there is already a set of Security Council resolutions covering the key aspects of the crisis (chemical, humanitarian, political), that have not been implemented. Our draft resolution covers these three dimensions of the crisis: chemical, humanitarian and political. This is the first time that this is the case and that a draft resolution covers the three pillars. In our views, this integrated approach is essential to get out of the Syrian stalemate.
So this is our roadmap, and we will work very hard, in good faith, in good spirit to listen to everybody in order to try to move ahead with our draft resolution and move forward toward an inclusive political settlement of the crisis.
Ambassador, are the expert levels of negotiations today and how quickly do you want to move toward a vote?
A - Yes they are today.
There is no artificial timeframe for the discussions. What we want to do is to engage into a real, serious, productive negotiation. We want a genuine and constructive negotiation process with all the Security Council members. It cannot happen overnight and we will engage with each and every one of them and collectively to have hopefully thorough, in-depth serious discussions.
Do you have already a reaction from Russia?
A - We will see in in the coming hours and certainly with the first meeting that we will have today what the Russian attitude is. But of course we want to engage with Russia, seriously in good faith and in a good spirit./.
Today, Europe is facing challenges in every field. From climate change to terrorism, and from the digital revolution to migration, no national response in isolation can suffice to address issues that defy borders. On the world map, the European Union forms a unique, envied space: unique, because it alone defends all the values of individual freedom, enterprising spirit and social justice; and envied, because several countries want to join and because hundreds of thousands of men and women aspire to enter.
And yet, in one year’s time, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. And for several years, from election to election, referendum to referendum, many Europeans have expressed their questions and doubts in the face of this great common project; or else, quite simply, their indifference. Italians showed during their latest vote their disappointment in what they have seen as an abandonment by the European Union: not enough Europe. In the United Kingdom, Brexiters rejected a European Union accused of denying them control over their destiny: too much Europe, they said. Everywhere, turnout in European elections is low. "What’s the point of Europe?", wonder those who do not turn out.
So how can we know what Europeans want and what they propose, when they ignore the ballot box, or when a referendum asks a simplistic question about a subject worthy of a thousand possible answers: what Europe do we want? What is your Europe?
We have decided to ask you that question, widely, freely and in a way that has never before been tried. From now until the end of October, across the European Union, we are offering you the opportunity to take part in citizens’ consultations for Europe. Better still, we are encouraging you to organize them. What does that mean? Everywhere, in town halls, universities, chambers of commerce, cultural venues, businesses, trade unions and voluntary organizations that so wish, Europe will be up for debate. You will be able to say what you want, what you hope, what you regret and what you propose. We want to reach the widest diversity of audiences possible, in all age ranges and from all geographical origins and socio-professional backgrounds. There will be convinced Europeans, definitely; and critics of Europe, quite probably. But both of those groups speak out often. And then there will be all those who do not boil down to a mere label or slogan, and they are listened to far less often.
This initiative is determinedly pluralistic, non-partisan and transparent. To take part, anyone who wishes to organize a consultation simply has to write to the address firstname.lastname@example.org and make a threefold commitment: pluralism of opinions expressed, transparency on the conditions for the debate’s organization, and publication of the conclusions, on the website quelleestvotreeurope.fr, which will open on 18 April. In return, we can offer methodological advice, propose speakers or moderators to lead the debate and, if necessary, provide support for the organization of the event. In a few days, I will set up a monitoring committee at my side, to which all the political parties present in Parliament have been invited to appoint a representative, in order to be kept fully informed of the progress of the initiative.
On 17 April, the President of the French Republic will take part himself in a citizens’ consultation for Europe that will take place in Epinal, in the Vosges. The initiative of the citizens’ consultations on Europe was his idea, but it has now been emulated in all countries. Last week, I opened the first consultation at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. Croatia is the EU’s youngest member, having joined in 2013, and has proved the most enthusiastic; the debates were very stimulating. I will soon be visiting the Czech Republic, Malta and Spain to set in motion their consultations. In France, the first projects are popping up all over the place, from Saint-Omer to Brignoles and Quimper. Initiatives are also emerging in our overseas communities, as Europe is present in three oceans thanks to our overseas territories.
In a few weeks, the European Commission will top up these consultations through an online questionnaire, which will also be accessible across Europe. The questions will be chosen not by officials in Brussels or political leaders in member states, but by a panel of European citizens who, together, will decide on what you - we - will be asked about. The whole initiative will end in late October, so as not to interfere with the campaign for the European elections. Then it will be time to publish the results of the consultations, to be used by European leaders to decide the shape of a new European Union. So, let us know what your Europe is, so that tomorrow’s Europe has a new face: yours./.