Europe must rally together on Syria, says French President

European Council – Syria/Greece – Statements to the press by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, on his arrival

Brussels, 15 December 2016

Syria

Q. – On the conflict in Syria and the Aleppo tragedy, what will your message be? What will your proposals be for the Council?

THE PRESIDENT – Firstly, I’ve asked the Mayor of Aleppo, who is here in Brussels, to be received at the European Council. This will be done in a few minutes’ time, so that he can give his account, so that he can appeal for international solidarity, because the urgent thing today is to ensure people are evacuated as soon as possible; they can no longer endure the bombing and the massacres, and they want to leave the area in full safety.

The second priority is to gain access to Aleppo for food aid and medicines, for those people who would like to stay.

And finally, it’s to protect all the hospitals around Aleppo so that they can take in the wounded. And the precondition for all this is a ceasefire, and that’s what the European Council must demand: a ceasefire and the evacuation of civilians. And finally, political negotiation.

Europe must make its voice heard.

Q. – Do the Twenty-Eight agree?

THE PRESIDENT – If the Twenty-Eight didn’t agree on an issue as crucial as saving civilians, ending a war that has already lasted more than five years and condemning the massacres being carried out by the Syrian regime, by its supporters, particularly Russians and Iranians, then what would be the point of having a 28-member Europe?

So Europe must rally together on this position, whilst paving the way for negotiation. That’s what France has always asked for, always done. And it must, of course, be together with the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks and all those who are likely to have a stake in a solution.

Q. – Are you asking for a humanitarian ultimatum?

THE PRESIDENT – Yes, the humanitarian ultimatum is about demanding that the people who are currently under threat, being held hostage, can leave Aleppo and that a humanitarian corridor can be opened. And in the next few hours, unless the efforts are made, as I’ve said, the regimes supporting Bashar al-Assad will bear responsibility for this situation, which is extremely grave for the population.

You can’t let men, women and children be subjected to bombing, forced to enlist, threatened for their safety and treated so disgracefully. At some point he must be made to answer for what he has done. I’m told “we must talk to Russia”. I constantly talk to Russia. Russia makes commitments it doesn’t keep, so now it’s time for us to get a truce and this absolutely necessary humanitarian action.

Greece

Q. – On Greece, do you support Germany, which has vetoed reducing the debt?

THE PRESIDENT – I support the decisions which are being taken in the Eurogroup. The Eurogroup has decided to reduce Greece’s debt – still not sufficiently –, I support the Eurogroup’s positions, and there can be no question of asking Greece to make further efforts or preventing it from taking a number of sovereign decisions which respect the commitments which were made, here in Brussels, to find a solution for Greece’s future.

I’m in favour of Greece being treated with dignity, of it remaining in the Euro Area and of us finally managing to settle Greece’s debt, because on it depends Greece and Europe’s stability. Thank you./.

Published on 21/12/2016

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