Official speeches and statements - September 30, 2019
My dear compatriots,
It is with great sorrow and sadness that I speak to you this evening.
Jacques Chirac passed away this morning.
We, the French people, have lost a statesman whom we loved as much as he loved us.
A life in politics spanning over 40 years made Jacques Chirac a familiar face.
And regardless of whether we shared his ideas, his struggles, we all saw ourselves in this man who looked like us and brought us together.
In this grandson of primary school teachers who, as a top-ranking civil servant, member of parliament, minister, Chairman of Corrèze General Council, Prime Minister, Mayor of Paris and President of the Republic, held the highest offices in our country without ever forgetting his roots.
In this leader, who represented the nation in all its diversity and complexity.
In this child of Corrèze who was happy in France, in Paris and the provinces, in mainland France and Overseas France.
President Chirac embodied a certain idea of France.
A France whose unity and cohesion he continuously sought to ensure, and which he courageously protected from excesses and hatred.
A France that looks history in the face and whose responsibility during the darkest hours of World War II he acknowledged during his speech at the Vel d’Hiv site. Just as he honoured the “righteous" 12 years later.
An independent and proud France, capable of protesting against an unjustified military intervention when he refused to take part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without a UN mandate, when pledged to put an end to the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and when he sought to re-establish peace and security in Lebanon.
A France that fulfils its historic role of universal conscience.
President Chirac embodied a certain idea of the world.
By committing to a Europe of the people rather than a market-driven Europe, a stronger and more protective Europe, founded on an unfailing French-German friendship.
By committing early to climate. Because Jacques Chirac always took a long-term view, a view that teaches us about the infinite fragility of life. "Our house is on fire": the alarm he sounded to urge leaders to take action to protect the environment and combat global warming was not just the call of a head of state rising up to meet the challenge of history, but of a man among others, refusing with his entire being to allow the survival of our planet to be threatened.
He devoted his life to ensuring respect for differences and promoting dialogue between cultures. In his view, no art was superior to others. But the art and sensitive expressions of man, his soul, should be evaluated equally, promoted equally. That’s what he did when he launched the museum that now bears his name, where the treasures of the civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas reach out to us across the centuries.
Yes, a certain idea of France, a certain idea of the world, exchanges, cooperation. This evening, President Chirac will not just be mourned in France. He will be mourned throughout Europe, he will also, I know, be mourned in the beautiful continent of Africa that he loved so much, and around the world.
Jacques Chirac was a great Frenchman.
Free, passionate about our country, steeped in our history and a discreet lover of our culture.
He - who farmers and captains of industry alike were drawn towards, who took the time to talk at length to the factory worker as he did to the greatest artists - deeply loved people in all their diversity, whatever their beliefs, profession or position in society.
He loved to greet French people, talk to them, smile at them... embrace them.
Those from the most humble backgrounds, the most vulnerable, the weakest, were his great cause. He didn’t stop working for those who, struck down by AIDS, suffering from cancer, affected by disability, had had their lives turned upside down.
For Jacques Chirac, no personal journey or story was of greater or lesser value than any other. Only women and men, lives which all deserve equal attention, equal affection.
Jacques Chirac was the mirror of France’s destiny. Initially getting involved in his Corrèze homeland, driven by an ambition that led him to conquer Paris, over the course of several decades he learned everything about our country’s political life. Those were years of victory, energy, appetite and enthusiasm. Successes and a few failures. Loyalties and disappointments. For so long we dared not love him, until finally we formed an affectionate, almost filial attachment to him.
Jacques Chirac also experienced personal tragedies which, in his modesty, he kept shrouded in silence - the silence in which he took refuge over recent months. For there are also wounds from which a man cannot recover.
His gaze, his facial features still conveyed something of him to the family and friends who visited him. But always - and I want to testify very personally to this - he carried within him a love of France and the French people.
Nearly a quarter of a century ago, through your choice, Jacques Chirac’s destiny joined that of the men who have led our country. He followed in the footsteps of his beloved General de Gaulle and President Pompidou, and he respected every one of his predecessors: President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and President François Mitterrand, to whom he paid glowing tribute on his passing.
Our country is shaped by these traditions, which are steeped in mystery and are greater than ourselves.
This evening Jacques Chirac has our gratitude. He did so much for our nation, our values, fraternity and tolerance.
Our Republic was deeply ingrained in him throughout his life.
We remember with sadness and affection his free spirit, his personality, and the talent he had for combining modesty and greatness, approachability and dignity, love of the nation and openness to the universal.
On your behalf I want to express to Mme Chirac our friendship and respect, and offer our condolences to his daughter, his grandson, his family and all his friends and loved ones. They shared so many of his struggles and did so much to protect him.
From this evening, the Elysée Palace will remain open so that everyone may come and put their condolences in writing and pay their respects.
Monday 30 September will be a day of national mourning, and a ceremony in honour of President Jacques Chirac will be held at midday.
My dear compatriots,
Let us now carry within us his share of our history, conscious of our debt to him and strengthened by what he has bequeathed us.
He has entered history, and every one of us will now miss him.
Check against delivery)
This UN General Assembly was an opportunity first of all to make several commitments at the Secretary-General’s climate summit, whilst confirming France’s commitment to the Green Climate Fund and preparing for the October meeting on the subject. It was also to set out clearly France’s desire to focus the forthcoming European discussions on the plan, precisely, for an increase in the carbon price, taxation at the border, and also the inclusion of climate targets in our trade agenda, with the aim of zero carbon, zero deforestation. (...)
France is itself shouldering all its responsibilities by doubling its contribution to the Green Climate Fund. A few moments before this climate summit, with Columbia and Chile we held the summit on primary forests - rainforest mainly in the Amazon Basin but which also includes the Congo Basin - which was the direct consequence of the initiative taken at Biarritz and the G7 summit. As you’ve seen, this summit was an opportunity for us, first of all, to bring together the donors for the first time: Norway and Germany - which have been very much involved in this, before France was -, the major international organizations, with big pledges made by the World Bank, but also, for the first time, the countries of the region which, following the France-Chile initiative in Biarritz, had a meeting first in Leticia for the [Leticia] Pact, and then sat round the table - so in particular you had the Bolivian President, the Colombian President was there, the Vice-President of Suriname and, with them, many representatives of the indigenous peoples and of several regions. (...)
We also obviously, during this general assembly, pursued the initiative which was carried out in Biarritz, and prior to the Biarritz summit, on the Iran issue. This obviously took place in the specific context and the wake of the 14 September strikes. Firstly, a desire for European coordination, which we had yesterday afternoon with Prime Minister Johnson and Chancellor Merkel, which led us to communicate together vis-à-vis the facts of 14 September and the need to resume negotiations. I’ve also had several discussions with President Trump and President Rouhani over the past two days - and I had a very long meeting yesterday with President Rouhani. I think, in this context, that the conditions have been created for a swift resumption of the negotiations. In a way, I explained the terms of this earlier in my speech to the General Assembly: to begin with - and this is the first requirement - a reaffirmation that it is completely certain Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons, i.e. not just a full return to the JCPOA’s obligations but the building of a more long-term agenda on the subject. Secondly, I spoke at length to President Rouhani yesterday about the elements for finding a way out of the crisis in Yemen - which, in my view, is key to regional de-escalation. Thirdly, the building of a regional security plan which includes the other crises and the security of maritime traffic flows. This means embarking obviously on a discussion also about the situation in Syria and Iraq, about other regional issues, about the Strait of Hormuz. In this respect, I had another long discussion with President Rouhani and there’s a genuine desire, including on the American side, to make progress on these issues. The fourth element of this negotiation obviously, in this context, concerns the lifting of economic sanctions. So the terms have been laid down and form a coherent whole, which would enable de-escalation and an agenda of trust in the long term, not just on the nuclear issue but on ballistic issues as well.
It’s now up to Iran and the United States of America to look at these conditions and work together to reactivate a process. I also told each of them that France stands ready, and I think this debate has to be initiated between the United States of America and Iran and must be able subsequently, as part of a process, to fully involve all the JCPOA’s signatories and the powers in the region, because I think that if in 2015 there was anything missing in the equation, it was the full involvement of all the powers in the region. Those are the points on which we’ve made headway over these past two days. I say this very humbly and cautiously because all this is still fragile, but I think the discussions we’ve had and the initiatives taken have created the conditions for a swift return to dialogue and the negotiations, while allowing us to build an agenda of long-term security and stability for the region. (...)
(...) President Rohani had a proposal for a Gulf security plan. Is it compatible with the vision you may propose? Will the Iranians be part of this deal on the Gulf? And the second question is about sanctions. With the Americans, with Donald Trump, did you sense that the position has shifted, because for the time being it’s a case of "absolutely no chance"? Did you sense any opening-up in that regard? Because it’s the key to the issue.
THE PRESIDENT - I think the big difficulty on this issue lies in the fact that I’ve just mentioned all the terms, and they’re on the table. The issue now is proper de-escalation, as it were, or the proper scheduling of each of those terms. I think if trust is rebuilt on both sides, we can move forward on this agenda. I don’t think it’s possible for the Americans to lift sanctions without any clear idea of the way ahead on the other issues; likewise, clear commitments by Iran on the points I’ve mentioned can’t be envisaged without American commitments. And so what we’ve tried to do is make this agenda explicit on both sides, because what I’ve seen and observed is that there’s a shared intention to move forward and not only arrive at the terms of a de-escalation but build a long-term agreement. President Trump is extremely concerned about the region’s security and stability. He doesn’t want any escalation or conflict. And because he’s worried about the region’s stability, he doesn’t want any weakness or ambiguity either. And so he wants to make sure in the long term that there’s no chance of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and that ballistic activities are more regulated. For their part, the Iranians are ready to commit to this agenda of security and stability. But what they’re asking is for sanctions to be lifted. And so the conditions exist. Now it’s about the ability, in particular of those two countries first and foremost, to take steps, either gradually or through a meeting, that enable sanctions to be formally lifted. I’ve told them both, through the back-and-forth meetings we’ve been holding over the past two days, that the conditions seem to me to exist. Now, France is neither Iran nor the United States of America. We’ve helped to create the conditions. It’s now up to each side to shoulder its responsibilities and also take its share of the necessary positive and proactive steps. But I believe the lifting of sanctions is possible if it’s accompanied by clear security commitments such as those I’ve just recalled, on both the nuclear programme and regional security.
As for the security of maritime traffic flows, several initiatives have been taken in recent weeks, in an increasingly tense situation. They’re extremely different in nature. The United States has taken some initiatives. We ourselves have organized and have a presence, as you know, and it’s also Iran’s wish to propose a security plan. If these initiatives continue to run parallel to each other, they’ll ultimately risk coming into conflict. As part of this comprehensive approach, what I’ve told all the parties is that the security of maritime traffic flows must feature on the agenda, and so the Iranian proposals must in fact be taken into account, but as part of a broader agenda; in any case, in no case would it be acceptable for others to delegate the security of the Strait of Hormuz to Iran. But it’s clear that if we want effective security, Iran must be involved. If we manage to build this agenda of security and stability, we’ll be combining these initiatives, which are currently uncoordinated. (...)
Donald Trump said there was no need for a mediator on this Iran issue. Has he budged a little on this, thanks to your intervention. And shortly after you, the Pakistani Prime Minister said at the UN General Assembly: "Trump has asked us to be the mediators on this Iran issue". What should we understand by this?
THE PRESIDENT - That the world is full of possibilities and that I have only one desire, namely for the best possible thing to happen. We’ve done our best. And I believe this was France’s role. We’ve received no mandate and haven’t set ourselves up in any particular role. We’re a power that carries weight. We’re signatories to the JCPOA and a permanent member of the Security Council. And I think that, as I reminded the ambassadors a few weeks ago, France’s natural role is to be this mediating power. So there you are: we’ve tried, we’re trying to play a useful role. I’m not claiming any exclusivity, and I say this very humbly, because I believe the initiatives we’ve taken, the dialogue we’ve conducted, have removed ambiguities, created momentum, and, in the end, exist only if the two main protagonists decide it should be that way. And I think subsequently it’s a very good thing for there to be a plethora of initiatives. Prime Minister Abe paid a visit several weeks ago. The Pakistani Prime Minister has made this proposal. I think it’s also very good for there to be Russian and Chinese involvement in the issue and very important for Russia and China also to play their full role in this crisis. So that’s what having a committed international community means. I think all this is useful. (...)./.