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Official speeches and statements - November 12, 2020

Published on November 12, 2020

1. Nagorno-Karabakh - Statement by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - November 10, 2020)

Announcements were made last night by Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian authorities regarding the signing of a ceasefire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh. We have taken note of the agreement and are examining its terms and implications. Clarifications are expected in order to assess their impact.

The cessation of fighting is crucial. The parties had made this commitment several times over the last few weeks and we have been, and remain, strongly committed to this priority within the framework of the co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group. We therefore expect Azerbaijan to strictly uphold the commitments that it has made and to put an immediate end to its offensive. In this context, we call on Turkey not to do anything that goes against this key priority.

At this difficult time, France reaffirms its wholehearted friendship with the Armenian people in light of our close human, cultural and historic ties with Armenia. In these tragic circumstances, we stand alongside it. In particular, we will work to lend it all the support it needs. Indeed, the situation on the ground, with displaced populations and fighting in urban centers, has resulted in serious humanitarian consequences.

France has mobilized its efforts in recent weeks through a very large number of civil society initiatives. The French authorities are contributing to these initiatives, providing medical assistance, which arrived late last week in Yerevan and included teams of surgeons specialized in treating conflict victims. Other initiatives will be taken in the coming days to provide Armenia with the help it will need.

Finally, the resumption of negotiations between the parties on a lasting settlement of the conflict remains necessary, beyond the ceasefire announced yesterday. As co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, France will be an active participant in this effort. Discussions between the two parties must resume without delay. They must allow for the return of people displaced by the conflict in recent weeks, and for the definition of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

2. Foreign policy - United States of America - multilateralism - Atlantic Alliance - Turkey - Egypt - Morocco - fight against terrorism - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 2, via live link-up from Morocco (Paris - November 9, 2020)


With Joe Biden’s victory, do you think the period being ushered in on the international stage is somewhat calmer?

THE MINISTER - There’ll no doubt be greater transparency, less improvisation, more clarity. I note that a genuine mobilization of the people, a genuine mobilization of democracy has been apparent in the United States, firstly because of the size of the turnout and also the clear result. In the end, it shows that the United States is a robust, living democracy which has to set a kind of example in a way. There was unrest, there were worries, concerns, and now we’re in a very much clearer situation. I think that’s rather a good thing.

You think the situation is clearer. One person would totally disagree with you: Donald Trump. He played a lot of golf over the weekend but believes the Democrats stole this election from him and he very much intends to make himself heard. Does this mean France considers there’s no longer any doubt about the conditions and legitimacy of the vote for the new American president?

President Macron has congratulated future president Biden. There are undoubtedly challenges being lodged, there always are, appeals are being brought, but there are also instruments in the United States for handling those appeals, be it at federal state level or the level of the Supreme Court. In the past we’ve seen much closer results subject to appeals with a decision by the US judicial authorities. So I’ve no worries on that score. I think we’ve got to trust the tools American democracy has given itself to ensure this election is legitimate.

But does that mean France definitively recognizes Joe Biden as President of the United States?

President Macron has congratulated him and I think he was right to do so.

Do you fear a bumpy transition period in the United States?

I think the main task Joe Biden set himself in his first statements is to pacify the country, to bring it together again. It’s fractured, it’s fractured geographically, it’s fractured socially, there are concerns, there’s unrest. This is the case in other democracies too. His primary task is to bring the country together again.


So there’s bringing his country together again and there’s also acting in the international arena. Do you think Joe Biden’s election spells the end of "America First", the return of what we call multilateralism? Do you believe this?

I think some things will remain the same. If only the fact that the United States is increasingly turning towards the Indo-Pacific, towards confrontation-conflict-competition with China. All the same, this election should allow us to build the transatlantic relationship on a new footing. It’s a historic relationship, it’s also essential. But the nature of it must change, because for four years the nature of the world has really changed. There’s more brutality, more confrontation between powers, more risks, more threats. And so the transatlantic relationship must be built on a new footing, not like before, it’s not a case of going backwards, of an interlude we’ve just gone through in order to get back to how things were before - that isn’t right. We must now build new foundations, in a calm frame of mind. And I think that’s what this relationship will be all about.

And when these new foundations are being built, Europe must make its voice heard. Europe isn’t secondary to the transatlantic relationship. It must assert its sovereignty within that relationship. It has started doing this over the past four years. But there are major issues which must be initiated, centering precisely on multilateralism. What is multilateralism? It’s when States define the rules together and together decide to obey them. And this subject is also going to be on the agenda, not just when it comes to the transatlantic relationship, but the relationship in the international community too.

You mentioned the word "brutality". Are you hopeful American diplomacy will be less brutal? And a second question to follow on: how do you rate Donald Trump’s track record on the international stage during his term of office?

To continue with multilateralism, there will certainly be opportunities, in several areas, which Joe Biden has already made clear - the climate issue, for one. The United States left the Paris Agreement; oddly enough, it definitively left the Paris Agreement a few days ago now, practically the day of the presidential election itself. Joe Biden announced that he’ll return to the Paris Agreement, he even announced that the United States wants to be carbon neutral by 2035. So those are commitments and opportunities for the transatlantic relationship, for a transatlantic Green Deal in a way, so we can effectively prepare the so-called COP26, which will be held in Glasgow next year. That’s an issue where there will be improvements. But there’ll be others too in the area of health. We can imagine that, with the United States having withdrawn from the World Health Organization, once Joe Biden announces that the issue of health is going to be crucial, the United States’ return to WHO will also be a factor for calm on a global level; likewise, the United States pulled out of the [dispute settlement mechanism of the] World Trade Organization which, as a result, no longer functioned since there was no longer a body to regulate trade disputes between the various countries of the world. It is important for the World Trade Organization to be given a new lease of life as well. Those are some absolutely essential projects.


There are other issues on which you perhaps have expectations of him; China, Iran, Iraq and relations between America and Turkey. Are these other urgent issues?

Yes, these are other urgent issues which will have to be discussed in the transatlantic relationship framework and also the framework of the Atlantic Alliance - because this is another issue of recent concern, to European partners in particular: there was doubt about the Atlantic Alliance. There was doubt both as regards the United States’ desire to be involved, but the United States also had doubts about Europe’s resolve. So we need to clarify this, which includes clarifying Turkey’s place in the Alliance and its commitments, because we’re witnessing Turkey very much rushing headlong into things in the European and Mediterranean area. From an Atlantic Alliance ally, this is unacceptable. So this absolutely has to be clarified.


So you’re talking to us from Rabat this morning. You’ve also been to Egypt in the past few days, at a time when France has been the target of attacks in Muslim countries ever since President Macron’s speech on separatism and after he said he didn’t want to renounce the cartoons, following the death of Samuel Paty. Are people still angry with France, where you are?

I met the Egyptian authorities - the political authorities and also the religious authorities; today in Rabat I’ll be meeting the leaders of Morocco. I think the message which France wants to get across is very clear: we respect Islam. It is a great religion. It is part of France’s history. It is part of its achievements; it has long been part of the French consensus. We respect Islam, especially since Islam is France’s second-biggest religion. There’s a sizeable Muslim population, able to practice its faith completely freely because the laws of the Republic allow it.

You’re saying to them: we respect Islam; and you’re also saying: we defend the cartoons?

But we’re also saying to them: don’t let yourselves be exploited, because what President Macron said was distorted, manipulated by social media and also by a number of players, be they from States or religious radicalism organizations; they mustn’t lead people into thinking that France is Islamophobic. And it’s that message I’ve come to deliver to all of them. France is the country of tolerance and does not stand for extremists or radicals committing intolerable acts such as murder in the name of their radicalism or trying to tear French society apart. And this is a fight we’ll share because murders, attacks on freedom, religious radicalism - they also exist in Muslim countries and create victims in Muslim countries. Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia have been the targets of attacks. And so I’ve come to issue an appeal for this joint action in Egypt, and here in Morocco. (...)

3. United Nations - Yemen - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations (New York - November 11, 2020)

Madam President,

I thank Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, Executive Director of the World Food Program David Beasley and Omer Badokhon for their presentations.

It is high time we see a political settlement for Yemen.

There must be a cessation of hostilities and a new government must be formed.

De-escalation is needed. It must lead to a cessation of hostilities. In the North, the level of tensions around Marib and the resurgence of tensions in Hudaydah are concerning. The Yemeni parties must cease their clashes and renounce any military option in the North and throughout the country. In Hudaydah, we call upon the Yemeni parties to resume their talks within the framework of the Redeployment Coordination Committee of the UN Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement in order to implement the Stockholm Agreement and reduce tensions.

We also condemn Houthi attacks on Saudi territory, which threaten the security of the Kingdom and the stability of the region.

A new Yemeni government must be formed without delay. The Yemeni political forces must implement the Riyadh Agreement and they must validate the first efforts to distribute ministerial portfolios. Once again, we welcome Saudi Arabia’s efforts to facilitate the signing of this agreement and its implementation.

This new government must find a comprehensive political solution.

We call upon the parties to engage in good faith in the dialogue on the draft joint statement proposed by the Special Envoy, to whom we reiterate our full support.

As Mark Lowcock and David Beasley have stated, the humanitarian situation continues to worsen: the figures speak for themselves. The specter of famine is looming yet again.

We must therefore act collectively to avoid such a catastrophe. Here I would like to commend the outstanding work done by the humanitarian actors, and in particular by the WFP. Your fight against hunger in the world is crucial, and you can count on France’s support.

We must not underestimate the risk of a second wave of COVID-19, the consequences would be tragic.

We will not stop repeating it: all parties have the obligation to guarantee humanitarian access. This issue will be the subject of particular attention at the donors’ meeting on November 12, under the co-chairmanship of the European Union and Sweden. I would also like to recall that the protection of civilians must remain an absolute priority.

Finally, it is essential to allow the inspection mission mandated by the United Nations to have immediate access to the SAFER oil tanker. We must do everything possible to avoid a disaster, and this inspection has been delayed for too long.

France will remain fully mobilized, along with the other stakeholders, to find a political solution to the war in Yemen. And the French authorities will continue to work towards a de-escalation throughout the region.

Thank you.