France and US are united in response to Daesh - President
Fight against terrorism/United States/Syria/Russia/Daesh – Statements made by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mr Barack Obama, President of the United States of America (excerpts)
Washington, 24 November 2015
Paris attacks/US solidarity
Ladies and gentlemen,
I want to begin by thanking the President of the United States, Barack Obama, for the solidarity he has shown. As soon as the news of the attacks spread around the world, Barack was the first to call me. It was late, very late in France, two in the morning. The President of the United States had already expressed his solidarity, his compassion and his shock in the face of this horror, and in our conversation that night, he told me that the United States stood with France, that any assistance it could provide to France would be unlimited, and that we had a common duty to join forces to fight terrorism.
Nor can I forget all the messages the American people have sent to the people of France in recent days. The French flags waving at all the vigils, the candles left in places that remind them of France or stand for France here in the United States, the Marseillaise sung at official ceremonies. It’s true that on 11 September, the French were all Americans, and after 13 November, the Americans were French: two peoples joined together in the same emotion but especially in the same defence of freedom, in their passion to advance our values. We are not the same people – we each have our own history, culture and backgrounds – but we have the same faith in freedom.
It was France that was attacked on 13 November, attacked for what it is – a country we consider unique in the world because it speaks to the world. It was France that was attacked for what it represents, for what it upholds – its culture, its joie de vivre, but also its values, its principles. But by attacking France, it was the whole world that the terrorists, the cowardly murderers of Daesh [so-called ISIL], were aiming at. In the cafés, the restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall were men, women, most of them young, representing more than 20 nationalities and with the same desire to live. And that’s why they were killed. My thoughts go out to the loved ones of Nohemi Gonzalez, the young American student who had gone there that evening to share a moment of culture and joy. I’m also thinking of the American band that was performing at the Bataclan, another sign that our cultures were blending together to generate the same enthusiasm – which was attacked, destroyed, by the terrorists.
Daesh/Franco-US cooperation/draft UN resolution
We are dealing with a terrorist group that has organized itself on one territory, that has substantial resources, that is prospering through trafficking – trafficking in oil, drugs, human beings – and that since the beginning of the year has struck a number of countries – Denmark, Tunisia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, and Russia, whose plane was brought down by Daesh. So President Obama and I wanted to use this meeting first to share our unshakable determination to combat terrorism wherever it may be, to tell the world that we will not stand by while they annihilate and destroy the things we’ve spent generations building. We will not allow [them] to damage the world, and we will respond to Daesh jointly, collectively and implacably.
France and the US are united in this response. Militarily, Daesh must be destroyed wherever it is be found. Its sources of financing must be cut, its leaders must be hunted down, its networks must be dismantled, and the territories it controls must be reconquered. So President Obama and I have decided to step up our air strikes in Syria and Iraq, to expand their reach, to increase the exchange of intelligence on the targets we must strike. The priority is to take back key areas occupied by Daesh in Syria. It is also urgent to close the border between Syria and Turkey to prevent terrorists from coming to Europe to carry out barbarous acts, the kind we’ve seen. We’ve also decided to work with our coalition partners in Iraq and support all those fighting Daesh on the ground and to ensure that these forces can receive assistance and be equipped by all the countries that want to destroy Daesh militarily.
The Security Council resolution – proposed by France and supported by the United States –, adopted unanimously last Friday, gives us the means to act, and that is what France is doing right now. The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is in the eastern Mediterranean and is substantially expanding our capacity to intervene. Yesterday we struck Raqqa again, for the sixth time since the attacks. We have also continued our support for Iraqi fighters in the regions of Ramadi and Mosul, as part of the coalition. With regard to intelligence, since the night of the tragedy, President Obama and I have further strengthened our cooperation, our exchange of information, and I applaud everything we are doing to ensure that the expertise of various parties helps monitor the movements the terrorists may make, to keep them from acting, because what they want is to spread terror far beyond Syria, Iraq and their neighbours – what they want is to create fear everywhere, to cause us to doubt ourselves, so that we take decisions that run counter to our will when it comes to freedom or the law. Here too, we will not give in. But at the same time, we must defend ourselves and use the means of intelligence we have.
On the diplomatic front, we are striving for a credible political transition in Syria. I applaud the work being done by John Kerry and Laurent Fabius in the framework of the Vienna process to come up with a specific timetable for a ceasefire – the sooner the better – and to begin a process leading to the departure of Bashar al-Assad. Because how could the Syrians possibly come together and unite around the man who was the source of one of the biggest massacres in recent years, resulting in nearly 300,000 deaths? There must be a political transition, there must be a unity government, but it must lead to the departure of Bashar al-Assad.
Refugee crisis/Turkey’s role
As Barack mentioned, Europe is directly concerned by the Syria crisis, first because of the terrorist threat, and second because there are thousands of refugees fleeing the regime’s air strikes and Daesh’s atrocities. Abandoning them to their fate would mean denying what we are. That is why I refuse to conflate migrants with terrorists. But at the same time we must control our borders and most particularly deal with the immediate issue of those who are crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece, fleeing at the risk of their lives. That is why the role of Turkey is important, and why we must work with Turkey both to come up with solutions to enable the refugees to remain as close as possible to their homeland and to ensure that crucial border controls will be in place.
President Hollande’s visit to Russia
On Thursday, I will travel to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin. I will tell him that France can work with Russia if it focuses its military action on Daesh, on Islamic State, and if it is fully committed to finding a political solution in Syria. That’s what we want to do, i.e. bring all countries together, all those that are willing to look for and find a political solution in Syria, to reject no options but to ensure that this political solution will make it possible to eradicate terrorism.
The Climate Conference will begin next week in Paris, i.e. on Monday. I never dreamed that the conference would take place against such a backdrop and at the same time I think that there could not be a more fitting symbol, a more fitting response than to host it in Paris –where the attacks took place, where we provided the appropriate responses in terms of protection and security as well in terms of defending our principles and our values. There can be no more fitting symbol than to host the Climate Conference in Paris with 150 heads of state and government. France has never hosted so many leaders from the international community. They are coming to address climate change and to look for and find the agreement needed to limit greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that our children, our grandchildren have a better life and are, quite simply, able to live. But they are also coming to signal their attachment to freedom, to the fight against fanaticism, obscurantism, religious extremism, this form of Islamism that becomes radical Islamism and then becomes dangerous. Yes, they are all coming regardless of their sensitivities, regardless of their beliefs and their convictions, to affirm the same principle, the same values, with a single word: life, quite simply, life. And that’s why I welcome the fact that President Obama is able to help us make this conference a success.
I welcome not just the statements that he has made over the last few weeks and months but the commitments he has made on behalf of the United States, on behalf of the world. It was very important that one of the most powerful countries in the world, perhaps the most powerful, and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, should be able to take appropriate action for the future as it has done in the past. Because what we have to do in Paris at the beginning of next week is show that life doesn’t just go on but that life is protected, that life is ready – for our children. France and the United States, through their history, through the values that formed their two nations, through the spirit that guides them, have a responsibility to take urgent action for the present – that’s what we have to do to combat terrorism and this organization Daesh – and at the same time prepare for the future. In this context, albeit a very tragic context, I am happy to be able to stand alongside Barack Obama in order to deliver this message to the whole world. Thank you./.