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Official speeches and statements - February 1, 2019

Published on February 1, 2019

1. Syria - Return of jihadists to France - Reply by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly – excerpt (Paris - January 30, 2019)

The government has only one imperative: French people’s safety. This imperative led us to military action against Daesh [so-called ISIL], and the same imperative is leading us to fight Daesh’s fighters, whatever their nationality.

And when it comes to French fighters, they’re French but fighting France, so they’re our enemies. We must be clear about this.

If you went to Mosul in the spring of 2015 or in 2016, it wasn’t to go sightseeing. And so, in this particular case, the French government’s position has always been that those who commit crimes must atone for them wherever they were committed. And this is what’s happening in Iraq, since French people have been tried and sentenced in that country.

But in Syria the situation is more complicated, firstly because it concerns a part of the country still at war, north-east Syria, and secondly because the announcement of the US withdrawal risks leading to the dispersal of these terrorists. That’s where the danger lies, their dispersal, which would make things much worse. And so we’re preparing—as the Interior Minister said yesterday—for every scenario, in the north-east, because it’s our duty, including the scenario of an expulsion, because it’s our responsibility to anticipate all the risks to French people’s safety. (...) As regards the number of French terrorists in the area, and regarding children, let me say here too, special treatment is being looked at on a case-by-case basis, in liaison with the International Red Cross and under the control of the French judicial authorities.

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