Official speeches and statements - May 30, 2018
First of all, I want to thank President Putin for his welcome, and as he’s just explained, we’ve just had a private meeting, then a lengthier discussion, which was - as is always the case between us - extremely direct and frank but, I have to say, longer than our teams had initially planned because it was very fruitful and also provided us with an opportunity, I think I can say, to share in depth the visions we have of our histories and our contemporary duties. (...)
We have a historic partnership, it’s there and it’s strong, and France and Russia have both inherited from their forebears’ struggles a special place, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. And this special place in the times we’re living in imposes duties on us, and I talked to President Putin about this. It imposes duties on us because I believe that today we both have no choice but to believe [in] and uphold what, a few weeks ago, I called strong multilateralism, i.e. a philosophy of our international relations that believes in cooperation, that believes in the rules we’ve created and wants to abide by them. (...)
This responsibility we have implies structured, constant dialogue and independence. And as President Putin knows, France’s foreign policy under my leadership is fully independent. We never align ourselves with anyone, we take our decisions by ourselves and for ourselves, we believe in Europe in order to increase its strength, and we’d also like these decisions, when taken, to be respected, taking into account our partners’ interests. And our dialogue with Russia is an element of this independence, as is our membership of a democratic and sovereign Europe, as is the relationship we also have with our ally the United States of America, and this makes up that strong multilateralism I was talking about.
We talk to everyone, and that’s the mark of our independence. We do so directly and frankly; that’s the mark of our reliability. I’m very clear-sighted about any misunderstandings that may have existed and taken root between us. Some of those misunderstandings - I have to say even the bulk of them - can’t be attributed to us, but they exist and so we must be able to re-examine them. (...)
This strong multilateralism, this independence of French foreign policy, also goes together with a few principles I believe in. I believe that we must work - that it’s in our joint interest - to defend our collective security, that we must also defend our values everywhere, but we must also respect the sovereignty of peoples everywhere, and I clearly oppose any attempt to usurp their choices. And in this area, I’ve been clear from day one that France takes stances, builds alliances and can intervene when non-respect is clear in terms of certain rules that have been promulgated with genuine international legitimacy, but never in order to usurp a people’s sovereignty.
I also respect the stronger role Russia is creating for itself in its regional environment and in the world, particularly in the Middle East. And with this regained role comes more responsibility too, and I’m fully aware [of this] and I know President Putin has it in mind. At the same time - and the President knows it - I expect Russia also to respect our interests and our sovereignty, and those of our European partners, with whom our solidarity will always be unfailing, and we also talked about this. I think we can make progress collectively.
Ultimately, what we need today - given our history, given the period we’re in, the rules we’ve set and the interests we have - [is] to continue building mutual trust, and for my part I’d like Russia to understand that France is its European partner, credible, open and reliable when it comes to preparing the future. And I believe our discussion tended towards that. I suggested to President Putin that he engage with France in defining this same strong multilateralism which should enable us to lay the foundations for the contemporary global system, a multilateralism which is no longer the empty shell of ideological clashes but which produces results on clear bases and makes it possible to obtain concrete solutions. That’s in our countries’ interest, and I believe it’s also what drives us.
IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Armed with these principles and in this spirit, we discussed the major international issues President Putin has just returned to. On the Iran issue, the three European signatory countries, as well as High Representative Mogherini, have said very clearly, since the American decision, that we’re remaining in the agreement and that the July 14, 2015 agreement was, for us, an agreement we’d signed and had to abide by. And I expressed the wish that all the signatories would remain in the agreement and protect it. We thus decided in Sofia last week, at European level, to equip ourselves with instruments and safeguards in relation to businesses, to ensure the agreement’s full effectiveness in every respect, including economically. But I’d also like us to work with all those who have an interest in it, to ensure that this effectiveness is full and complete and that our businesses can also have pragmatic solutions with other countries and other businesses that have an interest - as certain businesses have also done in recent days - in protecting their interests when they’re very exposed to the United States, to the American market, but to ensure we can guarantee Iran the viability of the projects launched.
At the same time, I’d like Iran to remain fully engaged in the nuclear agreement and not resume any activity. In this regard, I believe that the latest information passed on by the IAEA is a step in the right direction and is reassuring. I expressed this wish to President Putin, I believe we share it, and we both endorsed this shared desire to protect this framework, which seems to us to be a useful framework for regional security. I also told President Putin what our other concerns are, and there too I believe I can say we share them: post-2025 nuclear activity, ballistic activity and Iran’s regional activity. I’d like us to begin dialogue with Iran on these issues - I had the opportunity to say this twice to President Rouhani. But it’s clear this dialogue is possible only if we can collectively organize this credible framework of the 2015 agreement, which we’re in the process of doing.
And so I believe it’s coherent for us to work together with regard to Iran, to embark now on dialogue which is frank and sincere but essential for regional security and enables us to move forward on every issue. A few days ago you hosted a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister; I think he talked to you about it too. We both know all the friendly, allied powers in the region that we respect. They don’t necessarily have the same interpretation of the situation as we do, but we can’t underestimate their concerns and interests. And so, to prevent any escalation, we’re determined to build this broader agreement in the region with Iran and work together to do so.
In Syria, too, the heightening of tensions between Israel and Iran demonstrates the risk of a large-scale escalation. The time has clearly come to put all the powers concerned by the Syria crisis around the table to achieve a political settlement to the conflict. President Putin has said there are currently two existing formats: the Astana format and the so-called Small Group format, which we created a few months ago now. Those two formats are complementary, and on the Syria issue I’ve always been clear: our priority, our desire, is to eradicate terrorism and combat Islamist terrorism. And even though we’ve taken very clear decisions and have always had clear stances in relation to Bashar al-Assad and his policy, French policy isn’t to proceed from outside with any regime change whatsoever or any transition. Our policy hasn’t been this since May 2017: it’s been to build an inclusive political solution that will enable the constitutional framework to be drawn up which will allow the whole Syrian people - including Syrians who have had to flee - to vote and choose their rulers.
That’s the end point of our political process, and I think I can say our discussion on this was extremely instructive, at any rate for me. And so we expressed the wish, as President Putin said, to establish a coordination mechanism between the Astana group and the Small Group. For me, this is a very important step forward in terms of dealing with the Syria issue. We may have different views, of course, but we have the same desire for stabilization, the same respect for peoples’ sovereignty, the same desire to bring the issue to a conclusion whilst being inclusive and building long-term stability. And so our teams are going to build this coordination mechanism in the coming weeks, but its ultimate goal will be to have an agenda for parallel but common discussions for both groups and to build together - and this will be our responsibility too - the convergences that will, I hope, make this political solution possible. In any case, I very much believe in this option, which I’ve sincerely wanted to see for several months, and in this regard I must say that I’m extremely satisfied with the progress in our discussion.
I also suggested to President Putin that we could work together practically on the ground at humanitarian level. Indeed, I decided a few weeks ago now, at the end of April, to reinvest in terms of humanitarian commitment, and in particular reinvest €50 million to fund non-governmental organizations present on the ground in Syria. On this issue, we’re going to work with those organizations in the north-west and north-east, and I said I’d like us to do so in close coordination, including in the area under the Syrian regime’s control, and do so closely with Russia. I think that this is also what you’ve wanted to see for several months and that this step forward is also likely to make us useful collectively on the ground and enable those non-governmental organizations to work better and gain access to the people in the greatest need.
On the fight against terrorism in Syria, the coalition is completing its elimination of the last bastions of Daesh [so-called ISIL], and we agree that, in the decisions we take on Syria, the need to prevent any resurgence of that organization should be fully taken into account. On the chemical [weapons] issue we have disagreements, we’re aware of them, we shared them, but I’d like us to work internationally to establish a new, independent, impartial and permanent mechanism enabling us to attribute responsibility for the use of chemical weapons, and I’d like useful contributions to be made to this in the coming months.
Finally, on the situation in Ukraine, peacefully resolving the crisis in the Donbass region is key to the return of calm relations between Europe and Russia; this is in all our interests. I told President Putin that the coming months would be decisive if we want to end that conflict. As the President has just said, there’s no solution other than all parties implementing the Minsk agreements on the basis of the very concrete proposals we made with Germany. There will be a technical groups’ meeting in the next few weeks, then a meeting of the foreign ministers in the Normandy format, and I’d like us to be able to find practical ways of moving forward on this too.
As regards the bilateral relationship, we discussed - and President Putin also mentioned this - what is always a sensitive issue, that of activities in cyberspace and cyber-attacks, and we were each keen to initiate a process - which hasn’t existed up to now, but which we’re going to implement - to exchange information and address situations in a very concrete way to build a common framework which allows us to start regulating cyberspace between our two countries, with the aim of trying to work with our partners on this absolutely decisive issue.
ST PETERSBURG INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC FORUM
We have an extremely robust economic relationship, as the President said, making France one of the leading economic partners in terms of jobs and investment, and probably the most reliable economic partner over the long term, including at the toughest times. Tomorrow, at the St Petersburg [International Economic] Forum, there will be a very large French delegation, proof that our companies are here and would like to support Russia’s economic and social modernization, the diversification of its economy and its scientific and technological development, and go on playing the role of the country’s leading foreign employer. And despite the sanctions, despite the difficulties, our companies are present, as are our researchers, artists and thinkers, and I think it’s essential that they’re here.
We also noted the very good headway made on the work we began a year ago. We’ve made important progress. The Trianon Dialogue, which is the forum in which we wanted to bring together representatives of civil society, academia and the world of culture. Intellectuals and scientists have worked actively. It has renewed exchanges between our civil societies. (...)
Today and tomorrow, we’re enacting several agreements, around 50 framework agreements in total. And beyond the business agreements signed in front of us, agreements between our major players in the research field, regardless of the sector - space, civilian nuclear power, and energy are being given pride of place at the same time as science, research, culture, heritage and higher education, with the creation of new double-degree programs for our students right here in St Petersburg. 2018 is also the Year of Language and Literature, a hallmark of which was the Paris Book Fair, which follows the Year of Cultural Tourism in 2017, with the huge success too of several exhibitions devoted to the Shchukin Collection in Paris, and St Louis and the Relics of the Sainte-Chappelle at the Kremlin museum in Moscow. (...)
On all these subjects, we’d like to continue working together, talking and making progress. (...) French children have learned about the vastness of Russia’s territory by reading Michael Strogoff, they’ve occasionally been frightened by listening to Peter and the Wolf and of course they’ve dreamed thanks to Marius Petipa’s ballets. (...)
All this cultural history places an obligation on us, because our imaginations are shared - they’re European. (...) And so I’d like the France and Russia of tomorrow to be equal to their histories so they can build their destiny, in this uncertain world. (...)
The Israeli territory was targeted by rockets launched from the Gaza Strip on May 29. France condemns these unacceptable attacks, targeted against civilians, which fortunately did not result in any casualties. France’s commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering.
France condemns the use of violence, which is incompatible with the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The relaunching of a credible political process requires all parties to renounce violence. (...)
France expresses its deep concern regarding the situation of the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar (West Bank), against which demolition orders have been issued by the Israeli authorities.
These demolition orders pose an imminent threat to a Palestinian community that is already extremely vulnerable and which finds itself in an area of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. The European Union heads of mission to the Palestinian Authority came to signal their support to it on May 14.
The demolition of infrastructures in the West Bank, resulting in the evacuation and forced displacement of populations, is contrary to international humanitarian law and in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In this context, France calls on the Israeli authorities not to implement the demolition orders issued against the community of Khan al-Ahmar and to refrain from any measure aimed at extending or perpetuating settlement activity. (...)