Minister outlines France’s efforts on Iraq and Syria conflicts
Foreign policy – Iraq/Syria – Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the daily newspaper La Croix (excerpts)
Paris, 4 November 2016
Q. – The battle of Mosul has been going on for more than two weeks. Do you believe Iraq’s second city can be recaptured within a short time?
THE MINISTER – Mosul is a dangerous battle for the coalition forces and for the hundreds of thousands of civilians in the city, held hostage by Daesh [so-called ISIL]. So there’s no question of the coalition – to which France belongs – indiscriminately bombing the city. We also have to focus on the thousands of people fleeing it, and think about the aftermath. France is also taking initiatives on this level.
On 20 October we organized a meeting in Paris to discuss the future governance of Mosul and its region, as well as Iraq in general. We must do everything to prevent any future settling of scores. We mustn’t repeat the mistake the United States made in 2003 when it intervened in Iraq – what’s more, without anticipating what would follow. The emergence of Daesh is a consequence of the US intervention.
Q. – In Syria, you condemn the crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad and his supporters. Do you think it will be possible to put him on trial?
THE MINISTER – A tragedy has been unfolding in Syria since the crackdown in 2011 on what was initially a mass public protest. Five years later, there are more than 300,000 dead and 10 million internally displaced people and refugees abroad. That’s more than half the country’s population. On the morning of Thursday 3 November, I hosted a meeting with Paulo Pinheiro, who chairs the international commission of inquiry on Syria.
That commission has no judicial status but works on gathering authenticated witness accounts of crimes and acts of violence on both sides. It’s due to deliver its conclusions to the Human Rights Council, which will present its report in Geneva at the beginning of 2017. Countries will then have to shoulder their responsibilities.
More generally, the fight against impunity in Syria is a condition for peace and a return to stability. France is determined to ensure that the perpetrators of offences constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity are one day brought to international justice. We’re working on this by trying to persuade the other countries. (…)./.