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Official speeches and statements - October 30, 2019

Published on October 30, 2019

1. Situation in Lebanon - Reply by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris, October 29, 2019)

Lebanon has been going through a very serious crisis over the past couple of weeks with mass people’s rallies, incidents, tensions and a crisis of confidence in a country already vulnerable because of its regional environment and crises from which it is trying to remain separate, and vulnerable also because of an extremely fragile economy.

As you have just said, and I inform the National Assembly: Prime Minister Hariri resigned a few moments ago, which in a way makes the crisis even more serious.

In this situation, France has two firm beliefs: the first is that we must do our utmost and call on the Lebanese leaders to do their utmost to guarantee the stability of the institutions and the unity of Lebanon. This is essential, and is what has allowed us in the past to help with the rebuilding of the Lebanese state, in particular through the CEDRE conference you mentioned, which we convened a few months ago.

My second firm belief, France’s second firm belief is that stability depends on a willingness to listen to the voice of the people and their demands. Are Lebanon’s political authorities, its political leaders resolved to build Lebanon together? Are they putting the country’s collective interest ahead of their own individual interests? This is the question raised by Prime Minister Hariri’s decision to stand down.

What Lebanon needs is a commitment from all political leaders to reflect on themselves and ensure that there’s a bold response to reforms, a bold response to the people, and France is determined to help them achieve this.

2. Fight against terrorism / Death of the Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - Interview given by Ms. Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces, to the daily newspaper "Le Parisien" (Paris - October 28, 2019)

What’s your reaction to the news of Baghdadi’s death?

THE MINISTER - Anything that can help weaken Islamic State [Daesh] is bound to be good news. However, everyone is well aware that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s neutralization following the long hunt for him doesn’t mean the end of the fight against Daesh or against terrorism. Even the end, in February 2019, of the territorial caliphate created by Baghdadi in 2014 in no way signalled the end of Daesh, because since then Daesh has been rebuilding in different, clandestine forms. Baghdadi’s death is a step, not a conclusion.

It’s the death of a terrorist but not of the organization?

Islamic State is transforming but also rebuilding, and it’s ready to take action at any moment. We saw this a few days ago during Turkey’s attack in Syria, because, at the same moment, Islamic State claimed responsibility for one attack in Raqqa in Syria and several others afterwards. It’s clear proof that Daesh hasn’t been defeated and that we must continue the battle.

Continue the battle in Asia and Africa too?

The Islamic State organization has indeed proliferated, in South-East Asia for example. Many terrorist movements want to appropriate the Islamic State "brand". It’s a battle France is waging, among other places, in the Sahel - a battle against a terrorism with links to Daesh or al-Qaeda.

Is it also a battle against an ideology that is spreading?

Baghdadi was actually behind an effective Islamist ideological propaganda machine that has driven some Europeans and French people to join the organization in the Levant. Yes, propaganda has been a very strong method of recruitment and influence. And of course, Baghdadi’s death doesn’t signal a halt to that propaganda.

Can France nonetheless feel a bit safer today after Baghdadi’s death?

Our number one priority is still to combat terrorism and Daesh. That’s been the case for years. And we want to ensure that Daesh is permanently defeated and prevent its resurgence. That’s why we firmly condemned the Turkish offensive in Syria. As well as the tragic humanitarian consequences, as well as the fact that the attack serves as a stepping stone for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, above all it’s doing the work of Islamic State. France has always been very active vis-à-vis this crisis in the Levant. It is, and will remain, in the vanguard in the fight against Daesh.

What future might there be for the international coalition, in which the United States is playing an essential but not very transparent role?

France is shouldering all its responsibilities and asking its partners to remain fully engaged in fighting Daesh. We’re also doing our utmost to get the matter prioritized at the UN and the Security Council. But we need to reconfigure the coalition. This was the purpose of NATO’s ministerial meeting on Thursday and Friday and the many [other] meetings on that occasion, with my American, British, German and Turkish counterparts in particular. The coalition will meet soon, because it’s a matter of urgency. The role of the United States, which is the leading contributor, is crucial, but it absolutely must be clarified.

Is France still influential within the coalition?

France remains very much involved. Particularly in Iraq, where the French are training the Iraqi forces. This presence is all the more justified today in that terrorists are moving from Syria to Iraq and there’s no doubt that terrorist action is going to be stepped up in the Levant.

Donald Trump didn’t make any mention of France in welcoming Baghdadi’s death. Is this an affront?

France didn’t take part in the operation to neutralize Baghdadi. So your question doesn’t apply.

3. International trade / Taxation of French wines by the United States - Reply by Mr. Didier Guillaume, Minister of Agriculture and Food, to a question in the Senate - excerpts (Paris - October 24, 2019)

Amélie de Montchalin replied to Mr. Yung about the overall situation of all industries. So I’ll answer you more specifically regarding French wine. As the Minister of State said, the whole government is mobilized.

Bruno Le Maire was in Washington only a few hours ago to try and get the Americans’ position to shift, which will probably be difficult.

We wouldn’t like to wait six months and then impose other sanctions in turn - there would be nothing positive about such a tit-for-tat approach.

So we’re prioritizing compromise solutions, but we’re not totally confident they’ll arrive immediately.

We’ve therefore tried to mobilize the European Commission (...). At the Council of Agriculture Ministers on October 14, I spoke on behalf of Italy, Spain and France to request solidarity from the member states. I asked the Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, who is still in post for a few days, to ensure Europe takes some decisions.

We absolutely must take strong decisions:

Firstly, express European solidarity;

Secondly, establish economic maintenance assistance;

Thirdly, seek new markets; otherwise, the wine sector will experience major difficulties.

Every region is currently affected. For the entry-level and bulk wines being targeted, we’re talking about more than €300 million. If no compensation were forthcoming, I think the wine sector - which, as you rightly said, is already encountering a few difficulties - would have trouble recovering.

That’s why today I sent a new letter to the European Commissioner to ask him to ensure the Commission funds the swift implementation of promotion programs - it’s absolutely essential; that safeguards are provided to the operators implementing those same measures, because operators are currently having a tough time; and finally, that European solidarity is exercised with regard to the WTO’s decisions.

Yesterday I hosted a meeting of representatives of the wine sector. They have proposals to make. We’re currently studying them in order to make progress.