Official speeches and statements - August 26, 2020
France condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attacks that killed at least 15 people and injured dozens yesterday in Jolo, in the southern Philippines, according to initial estimates.
France offers its condolences to the victims’ families and wishes those injured a speedy recovery. It stands shoulder to shoulder with the Philippines in the fight against terrorism.
Have you received any information on the health status of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and what do you expect from Russia in this case?
THE DEPUTY PRESS DIRECTOR - We have been notified of the preliminary results published by the Charité hospital in Berlin, which point to Mr Navaly having been poisoned.
France expresses its deep concern over this criminal act against a major Russian politician. It is essential for the Russian authorities to expedite a swift, transparent investigation making it possible to establish the circumstances in which this act was committed. Those responsible for this act must be identified and brought to justice.
We wish Alexei Navalny a speedy recovery and reiterate France’s readiness, as expressed by President Macron, to provide him and his loved ones with our support in these difficult circumstances.
3. Foreign policy - COVID-19/European Union/United Kingdom/recovery plan/Belarus - Interview given by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 2 (excerpts) (Paris, 24/08/2020)
EU AND COVID-19
Europe is facing a real resurgence of the epidemic. Is that the main danger we’re all facing?
THE MINISTER - Yes, it’s a major risk that doesn’t only affect Europe, incidentally, but it’s affecting Europe again. As we know, the virus has never disappeared. Fortunately we’re not in the same situation as the one we experienced collectively in Europe in the spring, because, first of all, the resurgence isn’t at the same level, and also because we’re better prepared, better equipped. And this autumn, together with a number of Government colleagues, particularly Olivier Véran, I’m coordinating with European countries to assess the risks and prepare as best we can.
Really, are you really coordinating? Because when you see how things are going, you see for example that Germany is imposing quarantine on people returning from Spain and Croatia and classifying Brussels among the risk areas. The impression is that it’s the return of ʺeveryone for themselvesʺ, where each side takes measures to counter the epidemic. Where’s the European dialogue, when you see situations like these?
THE MINISTER - Well, you’re right, it has to be said there are clear gaps in European coordination - less acute, I have to say, than at the beginning of the epidemic. We saw, particularly in March, a real everyone-for-themselves attitude, particularly in terms of border closures, total...
What is it that’s different now?
THE MINISTER - First of all, there’s no overall closure of European borders, so that has to be said. And there’s a fundamental difference, namely that the principle is that you move freely within the Schengen Area and therefore within our European area; however, outside, in order to protect ourselves - because it’s different, it’s not our living area - there are much stricter closure measures. Now, you’re right...
Freely, but with quarantine measures even so!
THE MINISTER - With a number of restrictions, indeed - sometimes quarantine measures for certain countries. What’s the real weakness, to be honest? It’s that we don’t have the same data or the same assessments. In other words, there’s no European centre, European agency, that says, ʺhere you are, the situation is risky in such a place, in such a department, etc.ʺ. And so that’s a deficiency. We’re trying to work on it. It was on Chancellor Merkel and President Macron’s agenda on Thursday. Together, France and Germany are going to promote the initiative of trying to have the same analyses.
And there’s also a final point: I really want people to distinguish between two issues. There’s sometimes a lack of coordination, it’s true. Olivier Véran and I are going to try and improve it this week, incidentally. And sometimes there’s also differentiation: what’s being called a Euro-shambles is also because we’re trying to avoid those very broad restrictive measures. Obviously, we’re avoiding a new overall lockdown, we’re differentiating by regions... That’s also what sometimes gives the impression of a patchwork. But it’s also because we’re trying not to impose restrictions on everyone...
FRANCE AND COVID-19
Are we, France, imposing restrictions, for example, on other European countries?
THE MINISTER - We’re imposing - we have - certain advice. For example, not to travel - as we said at the beginning of the summer, the Prime Minister said it - to Catalonia, for example. But it’s a good example...
But are quarantine measures, for example, being imposed by France on other European countries?
THE MINISTER - Well, as we’ve said, with the United Kingdom. The UK - in a not very cooperative way, to be quite frank - imposed a quarantine measure on French travellers and also others, like the Dutch. And that will be on the menu of the Defence Council tomorrow: we’ll have a measure, which we call reciprocal, to ensure our British friends don’t close the border on just one side. That wouldn’t make much sense.
So will quarantine be imposed on the British in the coming days?
THE MINISTER - For travellers returning from the UK, there will probably be some restrictive measures. That’s to be decided in the coming days by the Prime Minister and the Defence Council.
EU RECOVERY PLAN
Is this also the main danger for the European economy? We’re going to talk about the [French] recovery plan, which has been postponed. Could the Euro Area, could Europe in general be hit by new lockdown measures and a strong second wave of the epidemic?
THE MINISTER - As we’ve said, it’s exactly for this reason too that we’re trying to avoid an overall measure, which - in terms of health itself, incidentally, in terms of education and also the economy - would be disastrous. And so we’ve got an economic situation that is already very difficult; we mustn’t hide from this. We’ve got a European response which this time - because it hasn’t always been the case in previous crises - has been swift and commensurate, namely the much-talked-about 750-billion euros European recovery plan. We’re going to avoid worsening the economic situation, and now provide this recovery response, next week in France.
The World Bank is warning that the crisis may tip 100 million people into extreme poverty. How many in Europe?
THE MINISTER - In Europe we hope it’s a bit fewer, but we have a risk of a few million people in situations of insecurity or poverty who are clearly going to be in more difficult situations because of the crisis. We mustn’t delude ourselves: the recovery plan won’t prevent a difficult situation, but it may enable our economy to bounce back faster and limit the economic impact of this crisis. (...)
Since you took office you’ve had quite a few hot topics to deal with, including Belarus. Only yesterday, tens of thousands of people gathered in Belarus against the leader, Alexander Lukashenko, who is remaining intractable. He’s accusing NATO and putting his army on the alert. What scenario are you most afraid of in Belarus?
THE MINISTER - Obviously we must absolutely avoid a crackdown that is even more violent than the one we’re seeing, because the situation today is already one of violent repression by the authorities. We’ve seen this ludicrous and frightening display by President Lukashenko, who is seeking in this way to threaten his people. So the first European message is that, first of all, we stand by the Belarusian people.
What does it mean when you say that?
THE MINISTER - Well, it means first of all that if you’re a demonstrator and you’re risking your life, risking your skin, for democracy, for rights, I think the least the Europeans can do is to testify to that support. There’s never a solution imposed from outside; you have to be honest. Extremely brave demonstrations on an unprecedented scale [are taking place] in that country, in the face of an extremely brutal regime. So we have to provide that support. There are also sanctions measures, which have been taken in a targeted way - not to hit the Belarusian people, but the leaders - by the European countries in recent days. And we’ll continue to exert this pressure on the powers that be in Minsk in order to ensure a democratic transition as quickly as possible. (...)
On the topic you just mentioned and the question of the Russian Ambassador regarding the letter sent by the United states on August 20 on resolution 2231, I would like to recall the view expressed very clearly by the E3 in our letter circulated the same day: Â“the United States is not a JCPoA participant State under UNSCR 2231 (2015) anymore and therefore [we] do not consider that the United States’ notification is effective". To say it more precisely, Â“the purported notification under OP 11 of UNSCR 2231 (2015) is incapable of having legal effect and so cannot bring into effect the procedure foreseen under OP 11", i.e. the snapback procedure.
We took note of the converging views expressed clearly by 13 of the 15 members of the Security Council on that matter. As a consequence, we firmly believe that no further steps can take place within the Security Council.
Let me also recall that as committed JCPoA participants we, the E3, believe that we should continue to address the current issues arising from systematic Iranian non-compliance with its JCPoA commitments through continued dialogue between all remaining JCPoA participants, foremost within the Joint Commission and in the framework of discussions engaged under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism. We welcome the fact that the Joint Commission will convene in Vienna on September 1st and enable us to directly address these issues.
At the same time, we have serious concerns about the implications for regional security presented by the scheduled expiry of the UN conventional arms embargo, which were also raised by several countries from the region and other UN Security Council members. The E3 are willing to pursue work with Council Members and JCPOA participants to seek a realistic path forward that could secure the support of the Council. As a reminder, France abstained on the US draft resolution on August 14 because it did not constitute an appropriate response to the challenges posed by the expiration of the embargo. The draft could not gather enough support and was therefore not likely to advance security and stability in the region.
I thank you.
I thank Geir Pedersen for his presentation and reiterate France’s full support for his action. I also please him to convey to Ms. Khawla Matar my wishes for a speedy and full recovery.
I would like to address four points.
First of all, a word on the Constitutional Committee, since its drafting committee is meeting next week. It is positive that this meeting is finally taking place. We call on the parties to participate in good faith, without conditions and without seeking to multiply delaying tactics.
France hopes that the work on the new constitution provided for in Resolution 2254 (2015) will make real progress: we call in particular on those sponsoring the regime in these discussions to intensify their efforts. We fully support the Special Envoy in his effort. And we encourage him to continue in parallel his discussions with the Women Advisory Board (WAB) to enable the effective participation of women, as set out in Resolution 2254.
Unfortunately, we have every reason to be pessimistic about future discussions. Last month’s sham parliamentary elections show that the regime is locking itself into its dictatorial logic and following its own timetable, in defiance of Resolution 2254. The lack of progress on the issue of detained and missing persons is another negative signal. How can we believe in the good faith of the regime when it refuses to allow innocent people to be reunited with their families?
Secondly, I would like to recall that a political settlement to the Syrian crisis is not just a constitutional discussion. It is therefore crucial that the Special Envoy engage in all aspects of the crisis, as provided for in resolution 2254 (2015).
I am thinking, in particular, of the ceasefire. The truce concluded in the North-West a few months ago is fragile: violent clashes continue. A lasting and verifiable ceasefire agreement, under the aegis of the United Nations, is essential to allow both the peaceful resumption of the political process and the smooth delivery of humanitarian aid, which has been critically restricted since the closure of the Bab el-Salam border crossing point. I would remind you that this Council adopted Resolution 2532 calling for a cessation of hostilities in all the countries on its agenda, echoing the [United Nations] Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.
Instability and violence continue to prevail, including in the territories taken over by the regime, with killings, kidnappings and unrest, of which civilians are the first victims. In that regard, we recall that France continues to give its full support to the fight against impunity, including through international mechanisms. Crimes committed in Syria cannot go unpunished.
We are thus still far from the safe and neutral environment necessary for the political transition and the organization of free and transparent elections under United Nations supervision, in which all Syrians, including refugees and displaced persons, would participate. We encourage the Special Envoy to continue to work towards that end: he has a full mandate to, inter alia, work on the practical conditions for holding those elections, even if they are to take place after the work of the Constitutional Committee.
Thirdly, I would like to say a word about the situation of the Syrian people, who are the first victims of the war and the mismanagement of a corrupt regime. They are now having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is experiencing a major upsurge in Syria, in addition to the humanitarian disaster facing Syrians. At a time when humanitarian needs are constantly increasing and a large part of the population remains forced to live in exile, I would like to recall that France and its European Union partners stand resolutely by the Syrian people, as evidenced by the commitments made at the Brussels IV conference.
Finally, I wish to conclude by saying that our positions on the lifting of sanctions, reconstruction and normalization remain unchanged. Our determination to contribute to finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis is also intact.
I thank you.