"All options open" if Syria truce is not observed, says President
European Union – Syria/Russia/Iraq/Brexit – Statements to the press made by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, on his arrival at the European Council (excerpts)
Brussels, 20 October 2016
Syria/Aleppo/sanctions against Russia
Q. – Are you in favour of sanctions against Russia for its role in Syria and Aleppo?
THE PRESIDENT – The priority today is to extend the truce. Yesterday evening, the whole night, Chancellor Merkel and I were putting pressure on Vladimir Putin to do his duty, namely observe the truce and stop the bombing, rather than continue to act in support of the Syrian regime.
So all options are open if no truce is observed and if there’s this desire to crush a city, Aleppo, a martyred city. That’s why I’ve come to this Council, to persuade the Europeans that we must exert all necessary pressure to get the truce extended, to get humanitarian aid delivered to those people who are suffering, and so that subsequently a political discussion can take place on Syria.
Q. – Daesh [so-called ISIL] fighters are leaving Mosul for Raqqa. Is Raqqa going to become a second front in the war against Daesh?
THE PRESIDENT – First of all, Mosul hasn’t been recaptured yet. It’s the Iraqis, supported by the coalition – France is playing its part in this – who must, with the Kurdish Peshmerga, recapture Mosul. Let me remind you that Mosul is Daesh’s capital. It’s there that its leaders masterminded the attacks which took place in France and everywhere else. So capturing Mosul is very important, but if we let Daesh’s leaders leave for Raqqa, which is a risk, then certainly the next objective will be Raqqa in Syria. But for the moment, we’ve got to make sure Mosul is captured. (…)
Q. – Theresa May is participating in the European Council today. What are you expecting?
THE PRESIDENT – Theresa May is coming today as a member of the European Council. She hasn’t triggered Article 50 yet, so is party to all the discussions on Europe. Until the UK has left the EU, it is still in it.
Q. – Are you expecting clarifications from Mrs May?
THE PRESIDENT – I’ve said this very firmly: Mrs May wants a hard Brexit? The negotiation will be hard.