Official speeches and statements - October 11, 2019
1. Foreign policy - Syria/Turkish offensive in north-east Syria - European Union - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 2 - excerpt (Paris - October 10, 2019)
First of all, because we’ve just mentioned jihadist prisoners, and in particular the most dangerous ones who have been displaced, removed by the Americans, have we also displaced the most dangerous ones?
No, we believe that prisoners, foreign fighters - of whom there are large numbers from many countries, not only from France: far from it - must be prisoners on the territory where they were taken prisoner and must be tried on the territories where they committed their terrorist actions. We haven’t changed our position, because it’s the position shared by all Europeans, and this obviously means guaranteeing the security conditions of those prisons and camps. That’s why the Turkish intrusion and offensive of the past two days is extremely serious. It’s extremely serious and we totally condemn it; the French President spoke about this earlier. It’s extremely serious because it undermines five years of fighting against Daesh [so-called ISIL]. Because the enemy is Daesh. Contrary to what some people think, Daesh isn’t dead. Daesh fighters are currently in the camps or prisons or have gone underground and are waiting for only one thing: for people to turn their eyes to other issues so that they can reorganize and restart the caliphate. So we have to be extremely vigilant on this. That’s why the Turkish offensive is extremely serious. It’s also serious because, as you’ve said, a lot of displaced people and refugees are going to add to the displaced people and refugees who are currently living in extremely difficult conditions.
But to get back to the Daesh soldiers, who are therefore in danger of escaping...
We haven’t reached that point.
We haven’t reached that point. But some worries are being expressed - and the President expressed them too - about the restoration of the caliphate...
We haven’t reached that point. It’s a concern we must take into consideration. But we haven’t reached that point.
But shouldn’t those Daesh soldiers have been repatriated, at least the French ones, to be tried in France so we can at least be sure they’re imprisoned?
Our point of view is that terrorists must be tried where they committed their crimes. The people who have been victims of the jihadist fighters’ attacks, bombings, threats and torture should be able to see them tried locally. That’s what we want, as do many Europeans.
Even if we risk them being released one day...
At the same time, we must totally ensure the security of those places; but we’ll come back to this, I imagine. It’s also a prerequisite we’re especially mindful of.
Are there currently any French forces in Syria?
I won’t answer that question. I was defence minister for a long time, I’m [now] Foreign Minister and I’ve never commented on the operation of special forces.
So there are special forces. What can we do today to stop the Turks?
We must reclaim history. We created a coalition against Daesh five years ago. In that coalition against Daesh, which is an international coalition, France has played its full role. The coalition has not only been able to remove Daesh from certain territories in Iraq, it’s also managed to ensure that north-east Syria, thanks to the alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces, is stabilized - in a fragile way, but stabilized - pending the peace process that will clearly have to come one day, somehow or other. So that coalition bears responsibility for what happens afterwards. I must tell you today that France would like that international coalition, which has been mutually supportive until now, to meet very urgently to ensure everyone faces up to their responsibilities - not only the Turks but also every member of the coalition. There are about 30...
Because the Turks are part of the coalition.
There are about 30 countries in the coalition - [which includes] the Australians, the Canadians, the Gulf countries, the Turks and a lot of Europeans - which share our feeling and expressed it at the Security Council earlier in New York. The international coalition must meet, because we’re in a new situation and because the fight against Daesh is in danger of resuming, because Daesh is waiting only for this opportunity to get out. So France is asking for this international coalition, which has met several times, to meet today...
When was the last time?
Oh, back at the start of 2019! [France is asking] for it to say today, right: what’s the situation? What do we do? What do you, the Turks, want to do? What do you, the Americans, want to do? How do we ensure the security of places where there are currently jihadists and fighters in prison? In short, put everything on the table, clearly, so that everyone shoulders their responsibilities and also put everyone on the spot: Â“What are you doing? What are you doing? How are we going to manage our security tomorrow?" Because what’s at stake is our security, your security, which is today being undermined by the Turkish offensive as it’s unfolding at the moment.
There’s our security. There’s also the threat brandished by Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan that he’ll let these Syrian refugees go - there are currently 3.6 million of them in Turkey...
Yes, yes, it isn’t the first time...
Yes, it isn’t the first time, but before an agreement was concluded with Turkey in 2016 to close the Balkan route, a million refugees entered Europe. If he opens the floodgates again, it isn’t easy to see how those refugees would be prevented from coming again!
Today, first of all, the European Union has never operated in response to blackmail, I don’t think that’s a good approach. But, rather, let’s bring the international coalition together to raise these questions as well. President Erdoğan must also know that in the zone where we said 450,000 people were living, today you’ve got 60,000 who have already been displaced. So his intervention is going to increase the number of refugees going to Turkey. Moreover...
But he wants to get rid of a million refugees and put them in that zone.
...Turkey also knows perfectly well that resurrecting Daesh or helping resurrect Daesh, as they’re doing today, may also have repercussions on Turkish territory, because there have been attacks by Daesh on Turkish soil, especially in Istanbul, but elsewhere too. That fear must be shared to some extent by the Turkish public.
Can we say that the Americans have betrayed the Kurds?
President Trump doesn’t seem to have opposed the operation the Turks are carrying out today, even though much firmer positions are being asserted today. All the more reason for talking about this around a table and for the international coalition - of which we’re members, of which the United States is a member and which is responsible for taking military action in the area - to meet and clarify things. So we want this to happen as soon as possible. (...)
I would like to make the following statement today on behalf of the five EU Member States on the Security Council (Belgium, France, Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom), joined today by Estonia as incoming EU Member State on the Security Council:
"We are deeply concerned by the Turkish military operation in north-east Syria. We call upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action as we do not believe it will address Turkey’s underlying security concerns. Renewed armed hostilities in the north-east will further undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements, which will further increase the number of refugees and IDPs in Syria and in the region.
Unilateral military action on Turkey’s part threatens the progress achieved by the Global Coalition against Da’esh. It will undermine the security of the Coalition’s local partners, including the Syrian Democratic Forces, and risks protracted instability in north-east Syria, providing fertile ground for the resurgence of Da’esh, which remains a significant threat to regional, international and European security.
It is unlikely that a so-called ’safe zone’ in north-east Syria, as envisaged by Turkey, would satisfy international criteria for refugee return as laid down by UNHCR. We maintain our position that refugee and IDP returns to their places of origin must be safe, voluntary and dignified when conditions allow. Any attempt at demographic change would be unacceptable. We want to be clear that the EU will not provide stabilization or development assistance in areas where the rights of local populations are ignored.
Turkey is a key partner of the European Union, a NATO ally and a member in the Global Coalition against Da’esh. It is a critically important actor in the Syrian crisis and the region, and we recognize Turkey’s important role as a host country of Syrian refugees.
We continue to urge all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access throughout Syria.
We remain committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. We reaffirm that a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict cannot be achieved militarily but only through a genuine political transition in line with UNSCR 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communique, negotiated by the Syrian parties within the UN-led Geneva process. This process should not be undermined by any party".
3. Sanctions against Iran - Reply by Ms. Sibeth Ndiaye, Minister of State attached to the Prime Minister, Government Spokesperson, to a question in the National Assembly - excerpt (Paris - October 8, 2019)
Regarding Iran, the country you asked the [Foreign] Minister about, I’d like to remind you first of all of the twofold aim agreed by the G7 heads of state in Biarritz in August: to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, because this would exacerbate the instability of a region in the grip of serious tensions, but also to prevent the escalation we’re currently witnessing from leading to an armed conflict.
Following the United Nations General Assembly, where the Iran issue was the subject of numerous discussions, the Minister noted that there is currently still a political space for continuing the efforts begun at the G7 summit in Biarritz in support of de-escalation. But let’s not blind ourselves to the fact that this space is obviously constrained by the announcements the Iranians made in September of a new reduction in their obligations under the Vienna agreement, but also by the attacks carried out against Saudi Arabia on September 14. France wanted to establish who was responsible, and that’s what it did on September 23 in New York, together with the United Kingdom and Germany, on the basis of independent analysis by its experts.
We believe that there are no other possible explanations and that Iran does indeed bear responsibility for the attack.
But the Minister has noted that all the parties - the United States as much as Iran - are interested in building a foundation for work on the basis of a number of parameters which the French President echoed at the UN General Assembly: Iran must not be able to acquire nuclear weapons; a settlement of the Yemen crisis is necessary; a regional security plan must be built; finally, the economic sanctions against Iran must be lifted. Now that these parameters have been set out, the space exists and we must grasp it now.
4. Brexit - Launch of the online residence permit application service for British nationals and their family members living in France, in the event of a no-deal Brexit - Press release issued by the Ministry of the Interior (Paris - October 9, 2019)
The French government has taken measures to ensure that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU does not infringe the rights of British citizens already living in France, and their families.
In accordance with the ordinance of February 6, 2019, they will be granted a period of one year from the UK’s departure from the European Union before they are required to hold a residence permit. During this period, the continuation of their rights in terms of residence, professional activity and the social rights resulting from these will be guaranteed.
In the event of a no-deal exit on October 31, the continuation of those rights will begin on November 1, 2019 and end on October 31, 2020.
Before the end of this one-year period, they will be able to be issued with residence permits, which will be granted under facilitated conditions.
They will have to apply for these within six months of the date of the no-deal exit.
In accordance with the announcements made by the Prime Minister, in order to facilitate their applications British nationals and their family members will be able to apply for residence permits online via this website:
contacts-demarches.interieur.gouv.fr, clicking on the "BREXIT" icon.
Following their online application, they will receive confirmation of its submission and their application will be forwarded to the prefecture in their place of residence.
After the application has been validated, they will be asked to attend the prefecture to finalize their documentation (photos, fingerprints, tax notice).
Once the documentation is complete and validated, the residence permit will be produced and sent by post to the applicant’s home.
For further details, please visit the government information website www.brexit.gouv.fr.