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Official speeches and statements - December 4, 2019

Published on December 4, 2019

1. Sahel - National tribute to the 13 soldiers who died for France during an operation in Mali - Speech by Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at the Hôtel national des Invalides (excerpts) (Paris - December 2, 2019)


Freedom, alas, often carries the taste of spilled blood.
Our country’s history shows this. And last Monday’s dramatic events served as a tragic reminder of it.

Far from France, on November 25, 13 of our soldiers were killed.

The wind whipped the arid, ochre Sahel plain as commandos called for air back-up.
The enemy, pursued for several days in Liptako, had been spotted and fighting had begun. But in the treacherous steppe of southern Mali, dotted with prostrate acacia trees, impending nightfall would have made progress on the ground difficult.
Swift action had to be taken to deal the final death-blow.
In this theater as vast as Europe, dazzling speed must come from the sky.

Five helicopters - two Gazelles, one Cougar and two Tigres - took off from Ménaka and Gao, supported by a Mirage 2000 patrol from Niamey.
The manoeuvre was carried out: the Tigres and Gazelles went in search of the terrorists. The Cougar was ready to rescue ground forces.

Complete darkness.
Silence, broken only by the mechanical sound of the rotor blades.
Swirls of sand.

Suddenly, the deceptive tranquility of a moonless and starless night was shattered by two muffled explosions.
The Cougar and one of the two Tigres had just crashed into the ground.

Their crew, 13 of our bravest soldiers, 13 children of France, were killed outright.
They died on an operation for France.
They died to protect the people of the Sahel, for the security of their compatriots and for the freedom of the world.

For all of us here, gathered in this courtyard.
On behalf of the nation, I bow down before their sacrifice.
I bow down before the pain of the families.
Before the parents who are mourning a son.
The wives and partners who have lost a loved one.
Before the children who have been left orphaned by this tragedy, before unborn children whom this war has robbed of a father.

Let me assure our 13 soldiers’ brothers in arms of the entire country’s support.
Some are among us. All the others are continuing the fighting in the Sahel. Let me reiterate my confidence to them all, and their leaders.

We think of them at this time, as the mission continues unremittingly.

They lost 13 brothers in arms. Yet in Niamey, in Gao, in Ménaka, they stand tall alongside their comrades in the Sahel armed forces, which are also paying the price in blood. Committed as ever. United as ever. With no goal other than to fulfil their duty, as they have been doing in the Sahel for five years.

We are at their side, just as we are at the side of the army and the whole military and defense community.

Our 13 soldiers were killed.
Thirteen names.
Thirteen families.
Thirteen destinies.

Yes, 13 French destinies.
Thirteen faces, 13 lives given.
Thirteen men brought together by the fraternity of combat and training, on snowy peaks and beneath starry skies, and united forever in death.
Thirteen names that will be engraved tomorrow on the monument to those who have died for France on external operations. (...)

See your communes of Pau, Gap, Varces-Allières-et-Risset and Saint-Christol d’Albion, their elected representatives in this courtyard at Les Invalides, not only weighed down by the sorrow of your loss but also proud of your commitment, your courage, your sacrifice. See the mayors of the towns where you were born bearing the grief of a whole people. (...)

But those tears of sadness are mixed with hope and determination.
Hope in our young people, in our army.
Determination to ensure our Republic’s values prevail.

See these children of France who have come from the four corners of the country, from your towns and villages. Sometimes you may have crossed their paths.

So young, but so grateful for everything you accomplished.
So conscious, too, of what they owe you: their future, their security.
So conscious of the dreams you could not all fulfil and which they will pursue for you.

See before you these veterans and all the standard-bearers from our regions. Through their commitment and their example, through their presence, they remind us of what we owe our elders.
And they include you in a history, the nation’s history, whose threads intertwine with the history of our armed forces. (...)

Yes, soldiers, see the nation unite in the diversity of opinions and beliefs, goals and differences, around you, around the blue, white and red flags draped over your coffins.
Your colors. Our colors.
The colors of a free nation, always.
And united around the sacrifice of its children so that it may live free, strong and proud.

You were 13 soldiers, 13 who enlisted voluntarily.
Enlisted for an idea of France that deserves to be served wherever human freedom must be defended and wherever the nation decides.
A strong, modest, discreet commitment made public only by the ultimate sacrifice.
Far from the din of unnecessary words.
Voluntarily, because each one had chosen - alone, exercising his free will - to tread the whole path of the strength and honor of being a man.

So what we are paying tribute to today is not only the duty of each of those who, in their place, served in France’s armed forces, but also the clear-sighted and profound acceptance of that duty which makes French soldiers especially admirable citizens.

Soldiers! We shall stand together for our lives as a free people, achieved thanks to our armed forces, thanks to you.

Major [formerly Captain] Nicolas Mégard,
Major [formerly Captain] Benjamin Gireud,
Major [formerly Captain] Clément Frison-roche,
Major [formerly Captain] Romain Chomel de Jarnieu,
Captain [formerly Lieutenant] Pierre Bockel,
Captain [formerly Lieutenant] Alex Morisse,
Sergeant-Major [formerly Warrant Officer First Class] Julien Carette,
Warrant Officer Second Class [formerly Staff Sergeant] Jérémy Leusie,
Warrant Officer Second Class [formerly Staff Sergeant] Andreï Jouk,
Warrant Officer Second Class [formerly Staff Sergeant] Alexandre Protin,
Staff Sergeant [formerly Sergeant] Valentin Duval,
Staff Sergeant [formerly Sergeant] Antoine Serre,
Sergeant [formerly Corporal] Romain Salles de Saint Paul,

As head of the armed forces, I have decided to promote you each today to the next rank above.
In the name of the French Republic, I make you Chevaliers in the Ordre de la Légion d’honneur.

Long live the Republic!
Long live France!

2. Foreign policy - Fight against terrorism / NATO / Turkey - Excerpts from the interview given by Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1 (Paris - December 2, 2019)


Q - This afternoon at Les Invalides, the tribute was held to the 13 soldiers who died in Mali last week. Emmanuel Macron said a few days ago that he’s ready to review the conditions of our intervention in the Sahel. What does that mean in practical terms?

THE MINISTER - I’d like [to share] my great sadness and the great sadness of the large audience who attended this national tribute. The President said it: freedom, alas, often carries the taste of spilled blood. Because those men died to defend our values, to fight against Islamist terrorism, and today we realize clearly that the Europeans must have a greater presence in the Sahel, by our side, than they do now. Some are already there - the British, for example - with a number of crews and helicopters too. The [German] Chancellor and the President have launched the Alliance for the Sahel to help in terms of development, alongside the G5 Sahel, whose remit is to give resources to the armed forces in the Sahel. And we’re going to provide a boost along with other Europeans, particularly when it comes to special forces. So this is the appeal we’re going to continue making to the Europeans, because we, Europeans and Africans, are neighbors. A few dozen kilometers separate us in the Strait of Gibraltar, and either we succeed together or we’ll fail together, and failure isn’t an option.

The Europeans must help us, that’s what you’re saying, through the Takouba mission that will be deployed in the coming weeks and months. Do you hope it will be significant that, after the tragic deaths of our soldiers last week, this may provide a boost, in that it says, "Help us genuinely now. We need you"?

We can sense this realization, this mobilization. And I also want to say that the countries in the sub-region are making active efforts. The heads of state and government of ECOWAS, a West African grouping, have decided to spend €1 billion to get better equipment, more effectively train the various armed forces and face up to this persistent terrorist threat.

A persistent threat. When Jean-Luc Mélenchon says, "We must find ways to bring the soldiers home quickly", what’s your reply to him?

I think this is a time when we must avoid arguments. What matters is the security of French and European people. Those men were there to contribute to that security by combating terrorism, and once again I fear we’ll still be in those theaters of operation for some time, because not all those disruptive elements have been neutralized yet.

NATO / Turkey

So Emmanuel Macron needs allies. He’s likely to come across some allies at the NATO summit in London tomorrow. In London he’s also going to meet Turkish President Erdoğan, who, let’s be frank, said some very vicious words last week, which I’m going to quote so that everyone can be aware of them. He said, aiming at Emmanuel Macron: "First of all, have your own brain death checked." Does France still regard Turkey as an ally?

We’re all allies within the NATO alliance. We do realize, with the latest events in north-east Syria...

Turkey’s offensive against the Kurds.

Of course, and also the announcement of an American withdrawal of a number of forces, that not all the elements were necessarily discussed between allies. So what the President wanted to point out was the fact that while it’s working well in terms of interoperability of equipment and work between military personnel, there’s a political problem, the strategic discussion. A few days ago we commemorated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And the Warsaw Pact also crumbled. In the face of this [new scenario], NATO must update its software. We’re celebrating the alliance’s 70th anniversary. The geostrategic context has changed.

Beyond the overall issue of NATO, with Turkey, what are you expecting tomorrow from the meeting between the French President and the Turkish President? Following those remarks, the Turkish Ambassador was summoned. Do you know anything about how things went at the Quai d’Orsay?

Our secretary-general at the Quai d’Orsay, François Delattre, rightly said that insults have no place in international relations, between governments, that we’re expecting substantive answers above all, and I think the Turkish Ambassador agreed that the occasion and the words were probably not the right ones.

The Turkish Ambassador agreed. Is that what you’re telling us this evening?


And do you therefore think we can make progress on the Syria issue with Recep [Tayyip] Erdoğan? Because in any case, that’s the issue: there’s a meeting to be held tomorrow, with Mrs Merkel, Mr Johnson—the Germans and the British—, the Turkish President and the French President. Is there still any hope of progress since that offensive against the Kurds?

We were talking earlier about Islamist terrorism in the Sahel; likewise in Syria, we don’t have the right to allow that Islamist terrorism to grow again. Daesh [so-called ISIL] has been defeated, but certain men may clearly be tempted to create new cells. That’s why it’s important to remain mobilized against the threat.

Let’s not forget that a number of attacks on European, including French, soil have been ordered from the Levant. So it’s imperative to be in combat mode against those extremist elements. (...)

3. Iran - Reply by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris - December 3, 2019)

Indeed, since mid-November, for several days, Iran has experienced an extremely violent, large-scale protest movement which followed the decision to increase the price of fuel in what we know is a much deteriorated economic situation, linked to geopolitical events on which, as you know, France is extremely committed to finding a way to de-escalate things.

Many people have indeed died. The authorities cracked down on the demonstrations by firing live shots, arrested thousands and cut access to the Internet.

Because Internet networks in the country have been cut, because information is being controlled by the authorities, we don’t, to date, have a clear casualty toll of the crackdown. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated at the end of last week that reports of more than 100 victims were credible, and the NGO Amnesty International is talking about at least 143 deaths.

Through me here, through Jean-Yves Le Drian today in London, and I believe in complete solidarity with all our European partners and the whole government, we obviously strongly condemn the violence and disproportionate use of force used against the demonstrators.

Given the scale of the crackdown, given the credible reports referring to the deaths of many demonstrators, we urge the Iranian authorities—and I do so here very solemnly—to respect the right to peaceful protest, to respect freedom of expression and free access to communication. France urges Iran to abide by its international human rights obligations, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We aren’t giving up. We’re engaging in firm, demanding dialogue with Iran on geopolitical issues. It’s just as firm and demanding—it’s uncompromising—on human rights issues. Thank you.