Statements made by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris - November 17, 2017)
• European Union – Nathalie Loiseau’s participation in the General Affairs Council (Brussels - November 20, 2017)
• Syria – Chemical weapons
• Cambodia – Dissolution of the main opposition party (November 16, 2017)
• Development – World Toilet Day (November 19, 2017)
Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will attend the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Naypyidaw in Burma on November 20.
During this 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Jean-Yves Le Drian will underscore the importance of revitalizing this inter-regional forum, 20 years after its creation. The ministers will discuss the regional crises during the meeting and will reaffirm Europe and Asia’s shared commitment to multilateralism, including with respect to climate issues which will be central to the discussions.
The situation of the Rohingya, and in particular the return of the refugees, is a matter of grave concern for France. During a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, the minister will push for access to humanitarian assistance and the need for independent investigations into the accusations of human rights violations.
Mr. Le Drian will reaffirm France’s support for the democratic transition in Burma led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the only way to bring about the return of the rule of law and to contribute to lasting peace throughout the country.
Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, will visit Brussels on November 20 to take part in the Council of Ministers of the European Union (General Affairs). The agenda will include the following key points:
- Preparations for the European Council on December 14 and 15: France will continue to promote, in all its dimensions, a Europe that better protects its citizens, notably through the development of European defense.
- The legislative planning for 2018: Following the adoption by the Commission of its work program, the member states will reaffirm their expectations regarding the interinstitutional proclamation due to be adopted in December, setting out the EU’s legislative priorities for 2018. The areas of work defined by the Commission broadly reflect France’s priorities for the future of the EU, in particular with respect to the six key areas of European sovereignty identified by President Macron during his speech at the Sorbonne: security and defense, migration issues, foreign policy, environmental transition, digital affairs, and the Economic and Monetary Union.
The minister will also take part in the General Affairs Council session devoted to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (so-called Article 50 sessions, involving the EU27). The ministers will review progress in the negotiations with the UK in preparation for the European Council on December 14 and 15.
On the sidelines of this meeting, a vote will be held on the transfer of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA). As a reminder, as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU, these two agencies, which are currently located in London, must be relocated according to a specific procedure agreed at the level of heads of state and government. France has presented Lille as a candidate to host the European Medicines Agency and Paris as a candidate to host the European Banking Authority.
France is disappointed by the result of the vote on renewing the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The JIM was established in 2015 by a unanimous decision of the UN Security Council, at the initiative of the United States and Russia. We regret Russia’s veto of the balanced, non-confrontational draft resolution that had been presented. This is the fourth Russian veto on Syrian chemical weapons and the tenth on Syria within this body.
The JIM has been shown to work; it demonstrated its effectiveness and its professionalism in its investigative methods. In this regard, France wishes to applaud the JIM’s competence, unwavering impartiality, and irreproachable conduct since its establishment, as well as that of its current head, Edmond Mulet, and his team. Its report on October 26 unambiguously pointed to the Syrian regime’s responsibility in the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed more than 80 people on April 4, and Daesh’s responsibility in the Um-Housh attack on September 16, 2016.
In addition to these conclusions, the JIM’s earlier reports, in 2016, established the Syrian regime’s responsibility for using chlorine gas as a chemical weapon in at least three attacks in 2014 and 2015, but also that of Daesh in a case where mustard gas was used in 2015. This confirms the Syrian regime’s severe violations of the international commitments it undertook in 2013.
The JIM should be allowed to continue documenting the use of chemical weapons, regardless of who the perpetrators are.
For France, defending this mechanism means preserving the chemical non-proliferation regime, and thus our collective security; safeguarding human rights, as chemical weapons attacks are war crimes; and guaranteeing the truth, as there will be no lasting peace in Syria as long as there is impunity.
France will maintain its commitment to this issue and will continue to act with its partners in New York and The Hague to combat chemical proliferation, but also impunity in Syria and elsewhere.
On Thursday, Russia vetoed a resolution aimed at renewing the mandate of the investigative commission on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. What can France and its allies do to move forward on this issue given Russia’s opposition?
I refer you to today’s statement.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved on November 16 and 118 members of this party were banned from holding political office for 5 years. The CNRP is the main Cambodian opposition party and had secured almost half of the votes during the parliamentary elections in 2013 and the local elections in June 2017.
This decision by the Cambodian Supreme Court calls into question the democratic process initiated following the conclusion of the Paris agreements in 1991. In the absence of the main opposition party, the 2018 parliamentary elections will not be considered free and democratic.
France regrets this further deterioration in the political climate following the arrest of the leader of the CNRP, Kem Sokha, and the closing of several media outlets and NGOs.
France urges the Cambodian authorities to once again become part of a democratic process and to allow the opposition, media and civil society to function without hindrance.
Some 2.4 billion people worldwide lack basic sanitary facilities and 1.8 billion use a water source contaminated by fecal matter. These figures are alarming.
Access to toilets is central to the sixth sustainable development goal on water and sanitation for the 2030 Agenda. For the past 10 years, these efforts have essentially focused on access to drinkable water, but much remains to be done on sanitation.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is working to make access to drinkable, healthy, clean, accessible, and affordable water widespread, along with sanitation for all—an effort to strengthen world governance on water and ensure the right to drinking water and sanitation, recognized in 2010 by the UN General Assembly as a fundamental right.
At the behest of the Ministry, in 2016 the French Development Agency approved €1.2 billion in funding for the water sector in foreign countries and €52 million for Overseas France, an increase of 30% compared with 2015. One-third of these commitments is dedicated to sanitation. At the same time, there are more than 260 decentralized cooperation projects in French local jurisdictions dedicated to the water sector and waste worldwide.
Why was Jean-Yves Le Drian’s trip to Iran postponed?
On November 9, the minister announced on Europe 1 that he would soon be traveling to Iran. To that end, we are identifying a date that works for everybody.
Following the minister’s statements in Saudi Arabia, on Friday Iran accused France of "partiality" and asserted that its approach was aggravating the crises in the Middle East. How do you respond to that?
France maintains a dialogue with all countries that have an influence on the Middle East crises. Its aim is a de-escalation in violence so that all the parties can contribute to political solutions that alone will allow for the return of peace, security, and stability.