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Official speeches and statements - March 31, 2020

Published on March 31, 2020

1. Ukraine - Joint Statement by the French and German Ministers of Foreign Affairs (March 30, 2020)

At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic poses a historic challenge to the international community, we must actively pursue our efforts to end the violent conflicts currently under way. With regard to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, France and Germany call on all the parties to shoulder their responsibilities in the face of major threats to human health.

We call on all the parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine to implement UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call for a global cease fire in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

France and Germany are deeply concerned by the restrictions imposed since March 21 on the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) by members of armed groups in non-government-controlled areas. The Covid-19 epidemic should not serve as a pretext for restricting the Mission’s freedom of movement and hindering the implementation of its mandate. The SMM must have safe, secure and unconditional access to all Ukrainian territory, including non-government-controlled areas. Russia must use its influence to guarantee its free and safe passage.

Furthermore, France and Germany call for lifting restrictions on access to non-government-controlled areas for UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC must have full and unconditional access to detainees linked to the conflict in non-government-controlled areas, in line with the conclusions of the last Normandy-format summit of heads of State and government

France and Germany welcome the resumption of activities at the Donetsk filtration station, which makes it possible to supply water to hundreds of thousands of people. It calls on all the parties to take all necessary measures to guarantee safe working conditions for employees at critical infrastructures to ensure the continuity of their activities.

Once again we call on the parties to implement the common conclusions of the last Normandy-format summit, held on December 9, 2019, especially those concerning still-pending agreements on new crossing points, disengagement areas, demining and another prisoner exchange

France and Germany continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We remain committed to a peaceful and lasting resolution of the conflict through the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

2. COVID-19 - Return of French people stranded abroad - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 3 (excerpt) (Paris - March 30, 2020)


Q. - 20,000 French people are still stranded abroad, this lunchtime. What can France do to repatriate them? There still many in Morocco, for example.

THE MINISTER - To be clear, we’re now talking about more like 12,000 because dozens of planes are bringing our compatriots back home every day. I was listening to the report from Peru, and there’s a great deal of logistical work to be done there because sometimes many French people are scattered in more remote areas, so to speak, in Cuzco, in Arequipa. And so we’re in the process of gathering them together before bringing them back to France, from Lima. We’re going to continue the flights, as long as there are French people on trips who are still stranded abroad.

And regarding Morocco there were 140 flights in one week, which allowed us to get 20,000 French people back. And a ship left yesterday to bring the latest, who included motor-homers stuck in Ceuta, back to Sète.

Does that mean everyone should be back home this week?

We’re doing as much as we can to get them back as soon as possible - the French tourists and business travelers - and, indeed, I hope this will be finished this week. The Foreign Ministry teams are working flat out, 24/7, morning, noon and night either here or all over the world. (...)

3. COVID-19 - Interview given by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France Inter (excerpts) (Paris - March 29, 2020)


THE MINISTER - Today, 95% of Europeans are at home. They’ve all been asked to limit their social contact, to limit all gatherings, and indeed we’ve exerted a lot of pressure. Let me tell you very clearly: a moment came when, vis-à-vis the British in particular, we had quite a frank dialogue and told them: "we think that if we want to continue having a minimum level of exchange on goods, on cross-border workers, and a common management of our space at the borders, well, you’re going to have to do a lot more on the health issues." That’s been done, and they’ve now adopted an approach which is the one the rest of Europe is taking. I can tell you that in the Netherlands and Sweden the measures are changing every day, because they really have realized - like everywhere else - that it’s not magic: you reach agreement.

What matters in health terms at European level - because some things fall under each country’s responsibility and authority - is really about research. The good news today is that more than €180M has been released for research into a treatment, a vaccine, and fortunately we’re not doing the same research 27 times simultaneously. Fortunately there’s a great deal of coordination: clinical trials are being done together. Everything is being done to work really collectively, and on that point I think that in health terms we’re functioning well together, and that - particularly if we find molecules that work - we can, well, function [together], not each separately in a disorderly way.

Q. - You talked about European solidarity, and yet it was China that delivered masks to Italy. In turn, Cuba has just sent a contingent of doctors. 88% of Italians don’t believe the European Union is helping them. How do you explain Brussels’ absence in this crisis?

There again, solidarity mustn’t be exploited.


At one point China needed us. At the beginning of February, the end of February, we sent 56 tonnes of equipment to China. That’s very good, and I don’t think we should get into book keeping, manipulate things or keep tallies, which would be inappropriate. We’re showing solidarity, full stop. And I say that for everyone. What I see today is indeed - it’s true - that China has sent equipment because it has the capacity to produce.

But I can tell you that France has given Italy a million masks. We’ve sent tens of thousands of medical gowns and some overalls. Together we’re doing a huge amount of work, particularly at economic level, at health level and in terms of solidarity. Let me repeat to you what’s happening at our borders: we’ve worked a great deal with regions and prefectures to ensure that the German regions bordering France, as well as Luxembourg, Switzerland and now even Berlin, take in French patients. Eighty French patients have already been transferred across our borders. When you see the situation of the hospitals, that’s real solidarity. And the day may come when we, France, will take in patients from other countries because there’s a need there. So solidarity has always been reciprocal. Everyone helps where they can, with what they can offer. (...)

One of the dogmas this crisis has shattered is that of open borders. Is Schengen in danger?

There were indeed a few days when - partly through shock, partly through haste - a lot of countries took slightly disorderly measures. Today things have started functioning again in what I think is a coordinated way. We’ve laid down a number of principles. We’ve said that goods absolutely must move around, because we can’t add a food crisis to the health crisis. It was absolutely necessary for food and medical goods to be able to move around.

We laid down a second principle, namely that cross-border workers - who often work in the medical sector, incidentally - absolutely must still be able to cross the borders.

And we laid down a third principle, namely that everyone must be able to go back home, whatever passport they have. In other words, if you’re a French person who lives in Austria, you have the right to return to Austria. If you’re a Spaniard who lives in France, you have the right to return home to France. We managed to do that together. Together we also managed to lay down our rules in relation to the rest of the world: Indians, Brazilians, Japanese people, etc. That’s how our external borders were regulated - currently closed, in fact - to prevent the virus being imported and re-exported.

This did take a little time; we have to be very vigilant, because it’s like the economy: if you set yourself principles - particularly for the movement of goods and Europeans around an area - only when everything goes well, there again you see that solidarity goes together with a form of responsibility in the times when it’s most difficult. (...)

France has 5,000 ICU beds, Germany has nearly 30,000. Germany is producing tests; we have very few, as we’ve seen. How do you explain such a gap between these two European countries? And basically, isn’t there a lack of cooperation within the Franco-German couple?

Here again, as you heard, the Prime Minister and Olivier Véran [Health Minister] have announced that we aim to have 14,000 to 15,000 ICU beds within the next few days. Secondly, the strategy for equipping hospitals is different, and that’s something which comes under national powers. What I’m seeing is Germany today, let me repeat, offering us extra beds, especially in the border regions. German military aircraft are currently landing at airports in the Grand Est region to take patients to Germany, which shows that the Franco-German couple is working - you know, we sign treaties; we signed the Aachen Treaty, which opens up many very practical opportunities in our cooperation. I can tell you that for the past 10 days my daily job has consisted in putting these treaties, these principles into practice and today this is absolutely invaluable. You can see everything we’re doing in hospitals locally. If we didn’t have that cooperation, I think there would be even more difficulties. So yes, it’s working; only yesterday, Germany delivered ventilators to France. Of course, this Franco-German couple must be able to think, maybe after the crisis, about pooling our best practice. There may be things we’ll learn here in France which will be useful, also so the Germans themselves can prepare, since the wave, the peak hasn’t reached them yet. And I’d really like to thank them. (...)

4. United Nations - Afghanistan - Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council (New York - March 31, 2020)

Mr. President,

I would like to join others in thanking Mrs. Hayden for her comprehensive briefing. Mrs Hayden, please transmit my wholehearted congratulations to Mrs Lyons for her appointment as the new SRSG. We wish her all success in her new role and I can assure you and her of France’s unwavering support to the United Nations’ efforts in Afghanistan.

I will start by stating the obvious and underlining that the current circumstances should push us all to be more united than ever in continuing our support to the people of Afghanistan, a country that has been plagued by war, terrorism, poverty, and now a pandemic.

The first and crucial form of support is to ensure continued and sufficient humanitarian assistance to face the many challenges that lay ahead, in particular the risk of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. France welcomes the efforts of the UN agencies and their partners to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population and to the COVID crisis. These efforts need to be supported and enhanced. It is also key to ensure a safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all the people in need.

In this regard, I also would like to recall the obligation for all parties to respect international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians. The recent terrorist attack on 25 March is an appalling crime, which our Council rightly and firmly condemned. Efforts must be sustained to reduce violence. Attacks against civilians must stop and the Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire should be heard and applied in Afghanistan.

Following the end of the electoral process in Afghanistan, France calls for the swift appointment of an inclusive and united government. This is especially critical in the prospects of the start of intra-Afghan talks.

France would like to reiterate its call for inclusive representation, from all sides, in these negotiations. We welcome the announcement of an inclusive Afghan delegation for the peace talks which comprises 5 women out of 21 members. It is essential that women participate directly and meaningfully in peace discussions at all levels of decision-making. Inclusivity is also critical to ensure that the human rights of every person are safeguarded in the negotiation of this peace process.

The signing of two agreements in February paves the way to peace and despite the major disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, their implementation must continue, along with the fight against terrorist activities as well as against narcotrafficking and against human trafficking. We will closely monitor progress made in this regard, in light with our security interests.

Before concluding, I would like to underline our strong expectations that progress continues to be made towards lasting peace, the preservation of the unity and integrity of the country, better governance and the effective protection of human rights.

Finally, I would like to express full support for the press elements proposed by Germany. Thank you.

5. United Nations - Middle East - Statement by the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council (New York - March 30, 2020)

Mr. President,

First, I thank Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing and the presidency for organizing the monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is important that the Council continue to meet on the main hotspots.

The Special Coordinator’s briefing underlined the threat that COVID-19 represents for the Palestinian territories.

In Gaza, the health system was already on the verge of collapsing before the pandemic. There was only half of the essential medicine available for only a month. Basic equipment to respond to COVID is obviously lacking. The spread of the virus could also lead to a wider social and political destabilization, with regional consequences.

We took note of the efforts made. We urge Israel to allow the delivery of medical equipment and humanitarian emergency evacuations. The Palestinian authority should also lift restrictions that prevent the delivery of medical equipment and medicine to Gaza.

In echo to the Secretary-General’s call for humanitarian truce, all actors must refrain of act of hostilities, maintain the ceasefire and ensure humanitarian access to all the people in need. We condemn the launch of rockets against civilian areas in Israel, including those over the weekend.

Nevertheless, there will be no sustainable stability in Gaza without a lift of the blockade with credible security guarantees for Israel and the return of the Palestinian authority to the enclave thanks to Palestinian reconciliation. I urge for progress on those two fronts.

Regarding the West Bank, we are very concerned about the situation of Palestinian detainees, including in Israel, and civilians living in the Area C and East Jerusalem. Let me recall the responsibilities of Israel as an occupying power according to the Geneva Conventions. We urge the Israeli authorities to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies.

More cooperation is needed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I welcome the decision of Israel to transfer 120 M shekel of fiscal revenues to the Palestinian authority; the parties nevertheless need to agree on a more comprehensive agreement.

The international community needs to step up its support to Gaza and the West Bank. I welcome the global humanitarian response plan of the UN to respond to the COVID crisis as well as the efforts of UNRWA which remain all the more essential today. And I commend the appointment of Mr. Lazzarini as Commissioner-general of UNRWA.

Finally, we reiterate our condemnation of the recent announcements by the Israeli government to advance settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. They clearly threaten the viability of a future Palestinian state.

Along with our European partners, we have called upon the Israeli government to reconsider its decisions and to put an end to all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power under the Geneva Convention and relevant Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2334. We also call on all parties to fully meet their obligations under International Law.

We have warned against any unilateral steps, including annexation of parts of the West Bank, that would undermine the two-state solution and the prospects for peace. Such steps if implemented would not pass unchallenged.

In conclusion, let me hope that COVID 19 will also be an opportunity to foster reconciliation and peace. Unilateral steps to respond to common challenges simply do not work. I therefore hope we can collectively prepare the ground for the resumption of the peace talks in the framework of the internationally agreed parameters and the two-state solution. Thank you very much.

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