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Official speeches and statements - December 12, 2019

Published on December 12, 2019

1. Sahel - In the Sahel, "we must clear up misunderstandings and remobilize" - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the daily newspaper Le Monde (Paris - December 11, 2019)

Emmanuel Macron has invited the Sahel’s heads of state to Pau. What’s his goal?

THE MINISTER - It isn’t unjustified that after tragic events, such as the deaths of our 13 soldiers, there’s a need to discuss and clarify things with the parties concerned, at a time when the Barkhane force is engaged in fierce fighting against the radical groups in the region. We also sounded out our interlocutors beforehand about their future availability. We must clear up misunderstandings and remobilize together in three areas.

The first is political. Are we in clear agreement about continuing together this fight against the jihadists? We’ve got to repeat this and the authorities concerned have got to repeat this to their public. Secondly, it’s important that everyone’s intended commitments are highlighted - for example, for Mali, implementing the Algiers agreement (signed in 2015, providing for ex-rebels to be integrated into the defense forces and greater regional autonomy). Their goals must be reaffirmed and the agenda clarified.

Finally, there’s the military remobilization. What appraisal can we make of the (G5 Sahel) Joint Force’s action? How can better coordination between the various players be envisaged? We’ve got to put all this on the table and come out of the meeting with clarified areas for action. This also concerns the European Union, which, on those three points, has to step up its action.

Is a short-term withdrawal conceivable?

The President said that if those three conditions aren’t met he’ll act accordingly. I hope all the conditions for the remobilization are met. Otherwise we’ll have to look again at our postures, while bearing in mind the fact that this concerns our security...

The threat is spreading, the action of the French forces is disputed, no terrorist action targeting Europe has been launched from the Sahel...

Nor can we say it [the French forces’ action] isn’t working. You’ve got to remember that since the beginning of 2013, the area’s politico-military situation has changed. At the start, there was a joint operation by three jihadist groups which wanted to make Mali a haven. It failed because of France’s intervention. Since then, we’ve witnessed significant changes. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the Islam and Muslims’ Support Group (IMSG) are engaged in terrorist fighting to destabilize, not to gain territorial control. It’s a tool with quasi-insurgency aspects, with an enlargement of the area of action.

These groups are fuelling ethnic hatred, in particular by exploiting conflicts between groups, as with the Fulani. This new scenario requires full mobilization. The purpose of Barkhane and its partners being there is to eliminate the most violent terrorists and ensure that the Sahel countries are capable of ensuring their own security. To that end, a united idea of joint action is needed.

The Barkhane force has had a lot of success, but the battle will be very long. The challenge is considerable. It’s about our security. Our common border as French people and Europeans is the Sahel. The leaders of the terrorist groupings are mostly neither Malians nor Burkinabés. They’re Algerians or Moroccans who take their orders from elsewhere, particularly from the al-Qaeda leadership.

How can the cycle of insurrection be broken?

States must give themselves the means to restore their presence everywhere, particularly in northern and eastern Burkina Faso and a whole part of Mali. The fact that the joint force is being put in place isn’t insignificant. It’s made up of six battalions with a unified command, and they must enable the authorities to deploy a joint force over such a large area. That’s significant and unprecedented.

But what are the roots of anti-French feeling?

I note it with sadness and a little indignation, given the strength of our commitment, our 41 dead, and the fact that it was done at the request of the political authorities in the Sahel. I don’t want to overestimate that feeling, either. It’s widely shared on social media, through fake news, which must be combated, but in a situation of crisis and insecurity people seek a scapegoat.

Some of the anti-French resentment is linked to the fact that people don’t feel sufficiently protected. So things must be very clear regarding our presence. We have no interests in the region except defending the law and our own security. If that doesn’t involve agreements and a clarification of the commitments, we’ll have to ask ourselves questions and rethink our military stance.

Governments regularly declare that funding promises for the G5 Sahel force aren’t being kept...

I challenge that. France and the European Union are delivering. We’ve released 75% of our financial pledges.

Isn’t Operation Barkhane undersized, and what’s become of European mobilization?

In proportion to its mission, no. It will be even less so when the Takuba force (due to bring together European special forces) is put in place to intervene on the ground and support the G5 Sahel units... Europe is already taking action, even though it will have to take more. In the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM), everyone is present. It’s an important tool, which I put on the table even before Operation Serval.

It’s trained 10,000 Malian soldiers. It comprises nearly 700 European personnel, 12 of them French. In the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the Germans have a significant presence. The Dutch have had one. For Barkhane, the British, Estonians and Danes are with us in the combat force. The Takuba concept seems to bring everyone together, and I think we’ll be capable of developing this force quite quickly. The Czechs confirmed it to me on Friday, for example. Having said that, we’ll have to do more at European level.

2. Lebanon - International Support Group for Lebanon - Final statement (Paris - December 11, 2019)

1. A meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG), jointly chaired by France and the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, was held in Paris on December 11. China, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the League of Arab States, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation took part in the meeting. Representatives of the Lebanese authorities also attended the discussions.

2. Lebanon has been left without a government for more than six weeks since Saad Hariri resigned on October 29. The Group considers that preserving Lebanon’s stability, unity, security, sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity requires the urgent formation of an effective and credible government capable to meet the aspirations expressed by all the Lebanese that will have the capacity and credibility to deliver the necessary substantive policy package of economic reforms, and that will be committed to dissociate the country from regional tensions and crisis. It is urgent for the new government to be in place as quickly as possible.

3. The Group noted that Lebanon faces a deep economic and social crisis which has placed the country at risk of a chaotic unwinding of its economy and of increased instability. In order to halt the sharp deterioration in the economy and financial sector, to restore confidence in the economy and to address, in a sustainable manner, the social and economic challenges, there is an urgent need for the adoption of a substantial, credible and comprehensive policy package of economic reforms to restore fiscal balance and financial stability and address long-lasting structural deficiencies in the Lebanese economy. A sustainable financing model is needed to reduce the economy’s vulnerability and reliance on external funding. These measures are of utmost importance to bring answers to the aspirations expressed by the Lebanese people.

4. The context requires, as part of a stabilization strategy, that Lebanese authorities fully commit themselves to timely and decisive measures and reforms. The Group therefore calls upon Lebanon to immediately adopt a reliable 2020 budget as a first step towards a multi-year fiscal program, including permanent revenue and expenditure measures, aiming at sustainable improvement of the primary balance, while strengthening social safety nets to protect the poorest and most vulnerable, and a debt management strategy. It also urges the Lebanese authorities to take decisive action to restore the stability and sustainability of the funding model of the financial sector, to tackle corruption and tax evasion (including adoption of an anti-corruption national strategy, the anti-corruption agency law and judicial reform and other measures to instill transparency and accountability), to reform state-owned enterprises and implement the electricity reform plan including governance-enhancing mechanism (through an independent regulatory body), and to markedly improve economic governance and the business environment, through the passing of and effectively implementing procurement laws.

5. On the longer run, within the first six months after the formation of the government, ambitious structural measures to ensure a sustainable economic model should be put in place. The Group reaffirms that the conclusions of the CEDRE Conference, agreed upon by the Lebanese authorities on April 6, 2018, are still valid. In this regard, the Lebanese authority should accelerate implementation of existing projects and commit to prioritize the different projects of the Capital Investment Plan in line with people’s needs and expectations and set up an interministerial committee to oversee their timely implementation. The Group considers that the support from international financial institutions is pivotal to help the authorities sustain their efforts to implement the necessary economic reforms over time.

6. The Group reaffirms its willingness to support a Lebanon committed to reforms in the implementation of such a comprehensive set of actions, including through technical assistance to a new government, and to ensure Lebanon’s access to basic goods and trade facilities, as currently provided for by trade facilitation programs, to preserve the livelihood of the population and economic resilience. It encourages the Lebanese authorities to identify reasonable and sustainable ways to face the current crisis, notably through support from their development partners, including international financial institutions.

7. The Group commends the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces for their actions in securing the peaceful character of the protests and the rights of citizens more broadly. The Group reiterates that the right to peaceful protest must continue to be respected and call on all sides to act responsibly.

8. The Lebanese delegation discussed the conclusions of the meeting with its participants. It indicated Lebanon’s appreciation for the support granted by the Group and Lebanon’s determination to implement its conclusions with the support of the international community. Against this backdrop, the Group reaffirmed its readiness to accompany Lebanon in swiftly defining precise measures to be taken and modalities of support, inclusive dialogue with civil society and the private sector being part of this process.

9. The Group welcomes the prospect of future meetings with different configurations and levels as needed.