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Official speeches and statements - August 17, 2018

Published on August 20, 2018

1. Turkey - Telephone conversation between M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, and Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey - Press communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic (Paris, 16/08/2018)

President Macron spoke on the phone this morning to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The discussion focused on the economic and financial situation in Turkey. President Macron reaffirmed the strong economic and trade ties between the EU and Turkey and stressed his commitment to a stable and prosperous Turkey. He assured President Erdoğan of France’s support in this respect.

President Macron also welcomed the announcement of the release of Taner Kɪlɪç, Chairman of Amnesty International in Turkey, as well as that of the Greek soldiers detained in Turkey.

The discussion focused extensively on Syria. President Macron expressed his concern about the situation in Idlib and the humanitarian, security and political consequences that would result from a military offensive by the regime in that region.

In this respect, he emphasized the importance of Turkey’s role and of discussions with all countries concerned, including Russia and the United States, in order to avoid an escalation, and called for strengthened bilateral exchanges between France and Turkey in the coming weeks.

The two presidents agreed on the need to step up joint efforts to promote a credible and inclusive political process, the only way to guarantee the stability and unity of Syria and to allow, in due course, the safe, dignified and voluntary return of the refugees, in accordance with UNHCR conditions. In this respect, France and Turkey will work together to ensure convergence between the work of the Small Group and that of the Astana format./.

2. Migration policy - Situation of the Aquarius - Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the daily newspaper Ouest France (Paris, 15/08/2018)

- Why didn’t France volunteer to take in that boat?

THE MINISTER - Because the law of the sea stipulates that the safest and nearest port should be chosen. International organizations are there to decide on this, and we’re keen to abide by that law. But that law also involves mutual commitments, i.e. that those ports which are approached first must be supported by European cooperation.

- Even so, Italy refused to open its Sicilian ports, the nearest ones for the Aquarius...

THE MINISTER - Yes. But Malta put itself forward thanks to European solidarity. I welcome that decision. It required discussions between different governments. French President Emmanuel Macron, Gérard Collomb (the Interior Minister) and I have been in contact with our European counterparts to arrive at a coordinated solution that is coherent. I’m delighted, above all, that there’s been a European response.

France is going to take in 60 people, but we’re not alone: Spain, Portugal, Germany and Luxembourg have united in this effort of solidarity. This solution of cooperation is enabling us to address the humanitarian challenge and save Europe’s honour.

- Despite that cooperation, isn’t it hard to conceal the rifts between European countries?

THE MINISTER - It’s a good lesson which shows that the migration issue can’t be handled by European countries pitted against one another. We’ve shown our ability to work together, between countries with goodwill that seek solutions rather than slogans.

- But it’s only an ad-hoc response. Hours of bargaining were required before an understanding was found to take in just 141 migrants...

THE MINISTER - Yes, but it was proven that it’s possible. We found a solution of responsibility allowing us to make a practical response. The Europeans showed their ability to work together. We must continue, beyond this crisis, in order to implement the guidelines set by the European Council at the end of June. That’s based on three fundamental pillars: the strengthening of cooperation with countries of origin and transit, the protection of European borders, and solidarity and cooperation in terms of taking in refugees. That’s what we’ve just implemented positively, and it means continuing in that direction in order to have long-term solutions, including when there are humanitarian tragedies.

- Will we have to renegotiate every time migrants arrive on an NGO boat?

THE MINISTER - No. The solution is to implement the principles approved at the Council in order to prevent those flows. The main goal is indeed to prevent fatal crossings of the Mediterranean, which are always a tragedy in humanitarian terms.

- The number of crossings has largely decreased, but people are still dying in the Mediterranean...

THE MINISTER - Trafficking in the Mediterranean has fallen considerably. That shows that we must act at the same time on the various fronts, with the departure countries and the transit countries. In Niger and Chad we’ve created OFPRA (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) units in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This has been a very important factor in limiting departures.

This work is continuing now in Libya. It’s making it possible to identify migrants early on who are likely to benefit from the right of asylum and those who are economic migrants. The latter, while they must of course be dealt with humanely, must be taken back to their countries of origin, in communication with the authorities concerned.

- At the risk of forcing migrants to take more dangerous routes? Migrants are dying in the Sahara...

THE MINISTER - Which clearly means it’s essential to deter them from leaving, and that’s what is being done in those centres. It also means we’ve got to fight the people-smugglers. They’re the criminals in all this.

- Isn’t it preposterous to think that Libya has safe places to take in migrants? Many abuses have been denounced in its centres in recent months.

THE MINISTER - This is no longer the case today, as far as I know. It mainly involved migrants who had come from the Sahara desert and were shut up in centres like slaves. A joint African Union/European Union/United Nations mission was organized to put this right. We helped these migrants return home, which many of them wanted to do.

- Are the centres which the migrants rescued at sea by the Libyan coastguard are being taken to better run, in your view?

THE MINISTER - Naturally, the Libyan coastguard - which depends on the authority of the state - is taking the migrants to centres run by the state and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. I’ve visited centres in Libya myself: they were being “managed", even though they can’t be considered adequate reception centres, but the authorities are continuing to make efforts./.

3. India - Death of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee - Communiqué issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris, 17/08/2018)

We were extremely saddened to learn of the death of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

France extends its condolences to his family and the Indian authorities and people.

A poet, politician and visionary, he had a major impact on India’s history. His name remains linked to Franco-Indian friendship, which he shaped by launching the strategic partnership which has united our two countries since 1998./.