Coalition must be determined and clear-sighted - Minister
Fight against terrorism/Daesh/Syria/Libya – Press briefing by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)
Rome, 2 February 2016
The purpose of this meeting, as you know, is to take stock within the coalition of where we are regarding operations on the ground. This is the third meeting of its kind, the previous one having been held in Paris, and we’ve had an explanation from the experts, who gave their analysis of what’s happening on the ground: one analysis by our host, who is the Italian minister, one analysis by John Kerry and then successive speeches.
As far as France is concerned, what do we observe? What I’m trying to show my colleagues is that we must not only have an absolutely determined strategy against Daesh [so-called ISIL] but also make a clear-sighted assessment of the current situation. The strategy put in place quite some time ago now is fairly ambitious, because we now have 66 countries in the coalition and nine countries that are actually carrying out strikes. But our analysis is that the effort must be stepped up further. France has given itself the means, both through its own forces and by mobilizing the Europeans, as you know, using Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union following the 13 November  attacks. For me, this provided an opportunity to thank our European partners for their active role.
A certain amount of headway has now been made, which includes Daesh retreating in both Iraq and Syria, but some progress must be made, in our opinion by increasing the number of strikes, focusing on targets that are clearly more strategic and developing intelligence policy. I tried to show my colleagues both the positive things that have been done and what remains to be done, because we must be clear-sighted, at a time when the way things are very often presented is, “everything’s going very well, we’re making headway”, and things are more complex.
Another point I emphasize is the link between what’s happening on the ground and the political process – a link which works both ways, incidentally. We know the solution in Syria is political, so there has to be negotiation. But negotiation, as we’re seeing now, depends largely on what’s happening on the ground. At political level, the negotiations under Mr de Mistura’s auspices have, in a way, begun, and we very strongly support those negotiations. Now the foundations of success must be clear and expressed as such.
The first foundation that seems to have been obtained – and I very much stressed and was actively engaged on this – is support for what’s called the Riyadh platform as the legitimate representative of the opposition. We had in-depth and very difficult discussions on this, and we support that Riyadh platform.
The second absolutely fundamental point is that if we want genuine negotiation the bombing must stop, prisoners must be released and humanitarian aid must reach the people. And we can’t accept a strategy on the part of a number of players, and I’m thinking particularly of Russia, which consists in saying, “we’ll bomb in Syria and talk in Geneva, because things are linked.” And clearly in these negotiations we must be able to talk about everything, and particularly the key thing, which is Syria’s political future and how we get there; it’s the whole issue of the political transition. We can’t allow the negotiations to go ahead without tackling the main problem. I had the opportunity to remind my colleagues and friends of all this.
Finally, the last point is that we must also bear in mind what’s happening in Libya. This morning I met the United Nations’ special envoy and my colleagues from Britain, Philip Hammond, Australia, Julie Bishop, and Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and we discussed the situation in Libya, which is very worrying. Firstly we have a certain expansion of Daesh, and intelligence saying there are more and more forces arriving in Libya, and secondly you’re aware of Libya’s domestic situation.
I reiterated to the United Nations Secretary-General’s representative France’s support for very swiftly achieving a national unity government. Once the national unity government has been formed, the international community will provide it with its support, perhaps through a UN resolution, perhaps at the Munich conference or in another way. And that government will have to take office, have an administration, have the necessary forces and be capable of bringing Libya back to a more normal situation, because what’s happening in Libya is a serious threat to Libya, Tunisia, the neighbouring countries, the Sahel region and also Europe, not to mention the migration issue. (…)./.