Minister welcomes UN resolution on Aleppo

Syria – Situation in Aleppo – Reply given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to a question in the National Assembly

Paris, 20 December 2016

Thank you for recalling France’s action. France is determined, patient and never gives up. The United Nations Security Council has at last made a break with its inability to take a decision because of permanent use of the veto.

Here, the opposite has happened. In view of the humanitarian tragedy, France negotiated and agreed to the amendments. But what’s important is contained in this resolution, which was adopted and must be implemented. Indeed, it provides for people to be evacuated in complete safety and monitors to be put in place by using – to move things quickly – all United Nations personnel already in the region. This is possible with immediate effect. The humanitarian organizations – particularly the Red Cross – absolutely must be able to intervene, because people are in an utterly wretched situation. And this resolution also reaffirms the need to protect health professionals throughout Syria.

Those are the resolution’s three key points; we must ensure they are implemented.

Yet at the same time, as you said, this isn’t the end of the war, let’s not be naïve. Indeed, it’s imperative for a ceasefire to be reached for the whole of Syria. Who says the war won’t continue elsewhere, in Idlib, in western Aleppo? This matter hasn’t been resolved. The three statements Moscow issued today hardly provide us with complete reassurance. We’re happy when Russia, Iran and Turkey talk, but things have to go further, and Resolution 2254 – which lays down the conditions under which a peaceful solution must be negotiated in Geneva – has to be implemented.

It’s an honest response; France will continue working on it because there’s no future in Syria without a negotiated position, because it’s time to end the war. The war is in Aleppo, but the same situation prevails everywhere, and that’s not what we want./.

Syria – Situation in Aleppo/adoption of a resolution at the United Nations Security Council – Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris, 19 December 2016

I welcome the adoption today by the UN Security Council of a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Aleppo.

This resolution, which was put forward by France, provides an initial response to the humanitarian emergency in Aleppo. It should make it possible to ensure the evacuation of civilians under the supervision of the United Nations, guarantee people immediate and unconditional access to humanitarian assistance and ensure the protection of all health workers and facilities throughout the country.

France calls on each of the parties, especially the Syrian regime and its supporters, to demonstrate responsibility to ensure that this resolution is implemented without delay and that a lasting ceasefire can be established throughout the country, in order to put an end to the terrible suffering of the Syrian people and allow political negotiations to get under way, on the basis of UNSCR 2254.

Syria – Situation in Aleppo – Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris, 13 December 2016

While the terrible suffering in Aleppo continues, we are receiving allegations of widespread abuse perpetrated by the forces that support Bashar al-Assad’s regime: the cold-blooded murder of entire families on the grounds that they are reportedly considered to be pro-opposition; summary executions, notably of women and children; people burned alive in their homes; the continued systematic targeting of hospitals, their staff and their patients…

Such atrocities are an affront to the human conscience. There is, more than ever, an urgent need to put an end to the hostilities in Aleppo. The regime’s supporters, starting with Russia, cannot let this happen and accept a strategy based on revenge and systematic terror without running the risk of becoming accomplices to the crimes.

Full light must be shed on the suffering inflicted on the civilian population of Aleppo. I call on the UN to immediately use all mechanisms available to establish the truth about what is happening in Aleppo and on the international community to ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished./.

Syria – Situation in Aleppo/High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition – Statement by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Paris, 12 December 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wanted to have a meeting today with Mr Hijab, Chief Coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition, and his delegation, amid the tragic situation we’re seeing in Syria, particularly Aleppo.

What we know of the nonstop bombing under way there shocks everyone today but above all arouses feelings of revulsion, as do the recurrent massacres in Aleppo, whose targets are the civilian population. Hospitals have been destroyed; schools too. Today, much of the population is being held hostage, with the fear of being massacred if they want to flee.

Our first duty is humanitarian. What we want to do – both France and the international community, which is mobilizing – is have humanitarian corridors that can be opened, so that people can be evacuated and those remaining in Aleppo can also be fed.

The regime believes it has won a round, when it has merely notched up an additional horror, after so many others that have been committed.

There can be no solution without a ceasefire, without access by international organizations to the people who are currently victims and without, ultimately, a political solution.

I also wanted to lend my full support to the Syrian opposition, the opposition which we call democratic, and it is, and which we say is moderate, but it’s not moderately democratic. I wanted to tell this opposition it has France’s support. It has nothing to do with terrorist organizations. That’s the language of the regime and its Russian and Iranian supporters, who want to create this confusion. The opposition is also fighting the terrorist organizations, be they Daesh [so-called ISIL] or al-Nusra. We must enable this opposition to play its role, at military and political level.

We also have a duty to fight Islamic State, Daesh, which we see is retreating but can also carry out offensives – notably in Palmyra – against the regime. We must ensure that Raqqa can be captured, recaptured. There too, we must coordinate our efforts to ensure that the forces on the ground, supported by our air forces, can capture that city, which, along with Mosul, is Daesh’s stronghold.

Finally, I wanted to emphasize what France is doing at diplomatic level. On France’s initiative there was a resolution at the Security Council, and we’re working incessantly to ensure the negotiations can resume at any moment, because the reconstruction of Syria must be prepared.

Today it appears remote, with so many horrific images reaching us. But it is possible. This was the purpose of the meeting which took place a few days ago, chaired by Jean-Marc Ayrault: so we can also support all the efforts, even pending [the arrival of] the new American administration, so that a political solution can be found and the international community can condemn, as far as possible, the force which is being used today – force which in fact constitutes war crimes and will be a matter, when the time comes, for the international courts. We must also warn that there will be no impunity with regard to what is happening today in Syria and Aleppo.

That’s the message I wanted to deliver. For over four and a half years now, I’ve been focusing, as President of the Republic, on the Syria tragedy.

France has never wavered; it has always been on the side of the democrats. It has never wavered; it has always fought against terrorism. It has never wavered; it has always condemned the regime and its atrocities, including when it used chemical weapons. It has never wavered; it has shouldered its responsibilities as much on the military front in fighting Daesh [so-called ISIL] and the terrorist organizations as by supporting, as far as possible, the moderate opposition.

It will not waver. Until the end, it will continue to uphold this position. It will make sure it can always take initiatives. I want you to know that we won’t abandon you./.

Syria – Situation in Aleppo/fight against terrorism – Press conference given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, following the meeting of the group of like-minded countries (excerpts)

Paris, 10 December 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

Aleppo is going through dark times. The total-war mentality which France has continually denounced continues to prevail on the part of the regime and its supporters, Russia and Iran. Despite its succession of massacres and refugees, despite the international community’s very widespread condemnation, illustrated again yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly with the passing of a resolution by an overwhelming majority, despite even the use of chemical weapons on several occasions, this war mentality continues to prevail. This is why Sheikh Mohammed [bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani], Frank-Walter Steinmeier and I were keen to convene a meeting today with our close partners, those who from the outset have genuinely supported the goal of a political solution to the Syria crisis.

At this morning’s meeting, we reiterated in a dramatic atmosphere that the most urgent matter is the humanitarian emergency. We’re determined to relieve the suffering of a people who for more than five years have faced a barbaric war, and we repeat this forcefully: the matter of urgency, the priority in Aleppo and the rest of the country is to end the fighting, end the bombing and deliver humanitarian aid to every person who needs it. We’ll go on providing support to all those involved on the ground who are going to the assistance of those suffering, and we’re thinking in particular of the White Helmets.

The international community is duty-bound to be vigilant and strict vis-à-vis the regime and its supporters. What is happening to the people being forced out of their destroyed city? What are these camp round-ups leading to, and what’s the purpose of them? When will there be an end to the policy which is akin to sectarian cleansing, where inhabitants are moved away and others brought in, at the risk of fuelling even more tensions in the future? What refugee or displaced person would willingly return without any assurance that in doing so they wouldn’t be endangering their lives? What is peace if it’s the silence of cemeteries? These are questions not only being asked by all Syria’s friends in particular, but also by all the millions of refugees in neighbouring countries – Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon – and also in Europe.

The second matter of urgency – and this is essential for us – involves specifying the conditions for a genuine political transition capable of guaranteeing a future Syria which is at peace and united in its diversity. So the negotiations must be resumed on clear foundations, in the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, and we noted in particular through the voice of Riad Hijab, coordinator of the Syrian opposition’s High [Negotiations] Committee, that all the stakeholders must publicly state their willingness to negotiate in the framework validated by the Security Council and the international community, and Mr Hijab told us that the opposition he represented this morning is prepared to resume negotiations unconditionally. So there’s an offer of negotiation, a significant offer of peace which must be taken into account.

And the third matter of urgency involves continuing the fight against terrorism, starting with the fight against [so-called] Islamic State, against Daesh. The battle of Aleppo and its litany of horrors isn’t so much aimed at destroying terrorism as attempting to eradicate any political protest. Above all, it aims to bolster a despised dictator through violence. Its goal is to liquidate opponents, much more than fighting al-Nusra, as we are doing. The real battle against terrorism is being played out elsewhere, not in Aleppo, but particularly at the moment in Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are paying a heavy price. And it must also be played out in Raqqa, as France has long been demanding. Those carrying out the massacres in Aleppo aren’t the ones waging the battles that are key to everyone’s security, and ours in particular; we’re the ones, as part of the international coalition.

Finally, the time will come for the essential reconstruction of Syria. We would like to see this happen as soon as possible, after years of war, after the almost total destruction of a country by the will of one man, for the needs of a regime. This reconstruction will require the participation of the whole international community and particularly Europe. But I say this solemnly today: this intervention, this support – particularly financial support – won’t be possible if a credible political transition isn’t begun which adheres to the principles of Security Council Resolution 2254.

I repeat that the European Union will play its full part in this, when the time comes, but France will accept no commitment which might simply result in saving the regime. We want to rebuild Syria to allow all those who have left it because of war to be able to go back there and live in peace, freedom and security.

Thank you. (…)./.

Syria – United Nations – Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris, 9 December 2016

I welcome the adoption by the UN General Assembly by a large majority of a resolution denouncing the disastrous humanitarian crisis hitting Aleppo.

In addition, this important text reaffirms the primacy of a political solution over a military approach in the Syrian crisis, which has gone on for almost six years now.

I warmly congratulate Canada on proposing this initiative, which offers the international community an opportunity to send a strong message at a critical time in the Syrian conflict. France actively supported this initiative by taking several measures.

It is never too late to save lives and help the people who are suffering. It is up to the regime and its supporters, especially Russia, to respond without delay to the demands put forward by the General Assembly today.

France is not giving up. Together with its partners from the like-minded countries, it is hosting a ministerial meeting tomorrow in Paris in order to continue the joint efforts to put an end to the terrible ordeal being endured by the Syrian people./.

NATO – Syria/Russia/United States – Press briefing given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Brussels, 6 December 2016

I’m participating in this NATO [foreign] ministers’ meeting at an important time. We’re in a period of transition and one which no doubt raises concerns, since we’re going to have a new administration in the United States shortly. And this is John Kerry’s last meeting; incidentally, I’ll be having a bilateral meeting with him in a moment, and it’s important to reaffirm the solidarity and solidity of the Atlantic Alliance. That, to begin with, is the first point I’ll be developing at the meeting.

And I’d like to say a second thing: the Atlantic Alliance is also about values and reiterating our commitment to democracy. And the Atlantic Alliance is an organization whose purpose is also to protect our countries against new dangers, new threats, be they from the east or the south. But, at the same time, we’ve been working actively over the past few months, and this, moreover, was the task of the Warsaw summit – to respond to these threats. For example, there’s what we’ve got to do as regards cyber security. Then there are specific demands from our eastern partners, which we obviously took on board. France, in particular, is going to make 300 troops available to the Baltic countries.

Yet, at the same time, let’s be clear: my and France’s message is that we don’t want to enter into a cold-war spiral with Russia. We must talk to each other frankly, and this is why I’m in favour – it’s also what has been decided – of a structured, robust, frank dialogue with Russia. Let’s start now. I think it will be likely to create more trust. It’s necessary because, once again, Russia isn’t our enemy. But we’ve got to face facts, lay them on the table and continue addressing with them [the Russians] all the questions raised – in particular how, in this day and age, security guarantees can be provided for everyone and every country, not just NATO countries.

Final point: as you know, the European Union has adopted an autonomous defence and security strategy, with guidelines concerning capabilities and, at last, a programme and ambitions in terms of the defence industry and research. On this subject I’d like to specify, so that things are clear, that this is in order to engage more in Europe not in place of NATO, but in addition to it. And I think it was important to make this clarification today, in the context of the transition in the United States.

I told you I’m going to meet John Kerry in a few moments’ time; we’re obviously going to discuss current developments in Syria. What worries us a lot is the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, and I deeply regret the veto, particularly by Russia, that was issued at the United Nations Security Council, when the vote would have made it possible to secure a truce within 24 hours, allow humanitarian access and stop this total-war mentality. I’m going to talk to John Kerry about the discussions he’s currently having with Russia, and then, with a view to this Saturday’s meeting in Paris with all the like-minded countries – friends of the democratic transition in Syria –, see what new initiative we can take to relaunch the political negotiation process. We’re convinced there will be no lasting peace in Syria if the military route alone continues to be followed and if the path of negotiation isn’t taken; at any rate, that’s France’s point of view. (…)./.

Published on 06/01/2017

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