France sets three conditions for fighting Daesh effectively

Seventieth United Nations General Assembly/Security Council meeting/terrorism/Iraq/Syria – Press conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)¹

New York, 30 September 2015

THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. I would like to share a short message with you, as what is happening right now is important. I think we need to make things clear and speak briefly, perhaps even more briefly than what I’ve just said to the Security Council which is, by necessity, more structured.

The United Nations Security Council has just met at the request of Russia, which is presiding it this month, to discuss the fight against Daesh [ISIL]. The debates mainly focused on the Syria crisis, a crisis on which the Security Council has unfortunately, for the last three years, been – yes, this is the right word – powerless.

Mr Sergei Lavrov, the Russian minister, presented the parameters of a Security Council resolution that would create a sort of grand coalition against Daesh.

I am going to explain France’s position to you.

Of course, we need to fight to the utmost, and together, against Daesh. As far as we are concerned, we have already been doing so in Iraq for a year, along with more than 60 countries. And more recently in Syria, since, as you know, French aircraft carried out strikes on a Daesh training camp on Sunday.

All those who wish to join us in this action against the Daesh terrorist group are welcome – I wish to make that clear – but on three conditions, which are vital for effectiveness.

Firstly, strikes have to be directed against Daesh and [other] terrorist groups alone, excluding civilians and moderate opponents, who for their part are courageously defending a vision for Syria which we share: namely, a democratic, united Syria where all communities are respected. We need to check whether or not the Russian strikes today fulfil that first condition.

Secondly, bombings of civilian populations, which are absolutely terrible, have to stop. In these bombings, barrels of explosives and chlorine are dropped from helicopters. This violence is ordered by Bashar al-Assad and is the main cause of extremism and floods of refugees. So the second condition is that these bombings with barrels of explosives and chlorine have to stop.

Lastly, the third condition, if we want to be effective, is that we need to treat the root cause of the crisis: a political transition is needed, where it is made clear to the Syrian people that their executioner, Mr Bashar al-Assad, is not their future. That is what we are calling the transition out, and we know its parameters: they were laid out in the famous Geneva Communiqué of June 2012. We also know who the players are. So we want a broad negotiation to be initiated, under the auspices of the United Nations Special Envoy, Mr de Mistura. This negotiation could probably be placed under the control of a contact group, which could be built around the P5 group – i.e. the five permanent members of the Security Council – expanded to key regional partners.

Those are the three conditions. The first is that Daesh and [other] terrorist groups should be attacked, and not others. The second is that barrel bombings of civilian populations must be stopped; that is the responsibility of Bashar al-Assad. The third is that a political transition be initiated quickly, under the conditions I’ve just mentioned.

Those are the conditions needed to guarantee the effectiveness of essential collective action against Daesh.

I am at your disposal to answer three questions.

Q. – (on Russian bombardments in Syria)

THE MINISTER – Listen, verifications will take place today. The first indications have been given – the military authorities will, of course, have to be asked – and show – but perhaps we will receive further information – that the zones hit were not controlled by Daesh. But that needs to be verified and checked. (…)

Q. – (on the political transition in Syria)

THE MINISTER – That is a question that has been asked many times. The terms of diplomatic negotiations can be discussed, but it’s unacceptable for it to be said from the outset and at the end that Mr Bashar al-Assad will continue to lead Syria. That is because of both moral reasons – there is no need to emphasize this, as he has committed crimes against humanity and is responsible for 80% of these 250,000 deaths – and for reasons of effectiveness.

If we are to unite the Syrian people – that is our goal – and if we want to move towards a united, democratic Syria where the various communities are respected, then we cannot push part of the Syrian people towards terrorist groups. That is what would happen if it were accepted from the outset that Mr Bashar al-Assad would remain in power. It is not simply a question of morality, but also one of effectiveness – and we are seeking effectiveness.

Q. – Yesterday, Minister, you criticized Russia and said that some did a lot of talking but took no action. Do you welcome the Russian initiative now?

THE MINISTER – I sensed, madam – grant me this at least – that the Russians were going to act. We had simply observed that criticisms were being levelled against many – including against the Americans, the French and a few others – because we were not judged to be effective against Daesh. But we are taking action and have taken action. I said – I can’t remember my exact words – that we need to act against Daesh. I uphold all that.

Today, actions are being taken. It remains to be seen who they are taken against. If they are really taken against Daesh and [other] terrorist groups, then that is great, so long as no other groups are targeted. You have of course understood my message. These actions need to come with actions to prevent the bombing of civilians. They also need to come with the search for a political solution, which I’ve just defined.

France’s position has not changed. I do not know if you were able to listen – things were all at the same time – to what I said to the Security Council. From the very outset, we have had a number of principles. We remain faithful to those principles. If others want to combat Daesh then they are welcome – I want to make that very clear – but only so long as the conditions for effectiveness that we have set are fulfilled.

Q. – Did Russia notify France in advance that they were going to attack?


Q. – Is there any way to avoid a clash between those who fly over Syria?

THE MINISTER – Obviously a clash must be avoided and there is an effort to what we call disconnect. It is an absolute necessity.

Q. – Minister, Mr Vladimir Putin and Mr Sergey Lavrov said at the Security Council that the Russian strikes were aimed solely at the Islamic State group.

THE MINISTER – That remains to be checked.

Q. – Vladimir Putin called upon Bashar to compromise this morning. Do you sense an adjustment in the Russian position?

THE MINISTER – I will look into all that because, if you like, I am a player who is not always in a position to interpret the many statements that are made. As regards the strikes themselves, we need to check that it is truly Daesh and [other] terrorist groups that are being targeted and not opponents of the Syrian regime or the civilian population. There is no judgment to be made on intent. This needs to be checked.

If it is true, if they were aimed at Daesh and al-Nusra, then the strikes are welcome. If they are being used in reality to strike against the opponents of Mr Bashar al-Assad and the civilian population, then that is another matter.

Q. – Mr Lavrov has called for a coordination of efforts. Are you prepared to participate?

THE MINISTER – I have said – I hope I was clear – that all genuine actions against Daesh and other terrorist groups are welcome, so long as they fulfil the three conditions for effectiveness set out by France./.

¹M. Fabius spoke in French and English.

Seventieth United Nations General Assembly/counter-terrorism summit/Daesh/Syria – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

New York, 29 September 2015

Thank you, Mr President.

First of all, I’d like to thank President Obama for taking the initiative for this very important debate. I have four minutes; I’d like to set out four ideas.

The first, which was very well set out by the previous speakers, is the absolute necessity – we all agree on this – of combating Daesh [ISIL] in various forms.

There is of course the military battle, there is – we’ve just talked about it – the media battle and there is the battle aimed in particular at young people, to manage to show that this terrorist group consists, in short, of religious fakes and genuine criminals.

We have a big job to do on this, because it’s true that, among the public, it’s not always considered as such. That’s the first idea.

The second, quite simple idea – but sometimes the simple ideas are forgotten: if we want to show specifically that we’re against terrorism and against Daesh, we must engage practically in the fight against Daesh. In recent days I’ve heard a whole series of very well-conducted media initiatives, but we too are acting in the coalition. It’s not easy, but we’re playing an active role.

The best way of fighting Daesh, for those who say – so much the better – that they want to lead the battle against Daesh, is for them to conduct practical operations. We here are conducting them; that’s still not the case for everyone.

The third observation I’d like to make is very quick, because on the issue of Iraq, Prime Minister Abadi has said everything that has to be said. It’s necessary to have local military action on the ground, international action from the skies and a political and social contract respected by all.

I think everyone is convinced that only the continuation of our collective efforts on these three fronts will ultimately enable us – because it’s going to take time – to defeat Daesh in Iraq and stabilize those territories in the long term.

Finally, Syria is clearly the most difficult part today. As you’re no doubt aware, France has recently decided to carry out reconnaissance flights over Syrian territory, increase our intelligence capability and carry out strikes if necessary.

We carried out a strike a few days ago and we’ll continue to do so in the self-defence framework of United Nations Charter Article 51. These military actions must be conducted; and I’ll say that from this viewpoint, a clear-sighted assessment of what each of us has been doing for several months now is undoubtedly leading to improvements.

But we also know military action isn’t sufficient. We must also – these discussions are under way – free up security zones for the Syrian people so they’re not forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries, which poses huge problems. And we must of course make progress towards a political transition.

Not all countries agree on the forms of this political transition. For our part, we say clearly that not only is there a moral obligation but that it’s very difficult to envisage Syria’s future continuing to be entrusted to someone the United Nations Secretary-General has described as a criminal against humanity.

Quite apart from this moral aspect, the aspect of effectiveness makes it very difficult to imagine we can have the Syria we would all like to have – i.e. a united, free Syria which respects communities – if it is written that its leader will be the person who has caused the chaos. We must – it’s complicated, but I think everyone here has goodwill – succeed in finding a political solution. A solution which I’ll call a transition out, which allows for a government which has not only elements of the regime – this must be clearly said – but also elements of the moderate opposition.

That’s what I wanted to say, in a few words.

There is no miracle formula that will save us the long effort needed to combat Daesh. But we must avoid false solutions that would actually only prolong the tragedy and worsen the situation. We need a political base to unite local forces against the terrorist threat, and if we don’t have this our necessary military action will remain insufficient.

That is why France, like many of you, is proposing that we continue the military engagement against Daesh, while continuing to work for a political transition in Syria. Thank you./.

Seventieth United Nations General Assembly/Syria/Daesh/Russia – Press conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development¹

New York, 29 September 2015


Syria/fight against Daesh

THE MINISTER – The other subject that I would like to come back to is Syria.

We, France, have had the opportunity to address this issue with many countries and this will be supplemented by the meetings that I will hold in the coming hours and days. Naturally, we discussed it with the President of Iran, the President of the Syrian National Coalition and the Prime Minister of Turkey. For my part, I have had many discussions, including yesterday morning and continuing this evening, with John Kerry and my British and German friends, as well as a number of key Arab partners in the region. I have also spoken to my Iranian colleague, Mr Zarif, my Emirati colleague, my Saudi Arabian colleague and my Turkish colleague. And I will see my Russian colleague and my Chinese colleague today. We are therefore speaking to everyone, without exclusion.

I have read a whole series of statements and comments on the heart of the matter, but I would like to start by telling you that what is important in the fight against Daesh [ISIL] is not the media impact but the real impact. It is important to bear that in mind when reading the newspapers.

What do I mean by that? We want to strengthen our fight against Daesh, and luckily we are not the only ones. In fact, this morning we have a meeting chaired by President Obama on the fight against terrorism. France’s position is absolutely clear. We have been effectively combating Daesh in Iraq for several months already and we decided, in conditions that you are aware of, a few days ago, in view of Daesh’s threats against France from Syria, to send out reconnaissance planes. On Thursday, the President of the French Republic gave the order to strike. That strike happened a few days ago. We will continue to do this each time our security is under threat. This means that, along with many others, not only are we ready to fight Daesh but we are actually fighting them. This sets us apart from others who talk a lot about combating Daesh but so far, unless I am mistaken, I have not seen them commit a plane to the fight against Daesh. If they do so, bravo. And even with regard to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, until last week there had been no strikes. So let us be clear: there is the media impact, which is very important in today’s world, but we want a military impact.

Political transition/Assad departure

Secondly, we clearly need a political transition mechanism. Experience shows us that we cannot definitively resolve problems using military solutions, especially from the outside. We are, of course, discussing this issue with many others.

We – and France has not changed its stance – believe that we need to focus on effectiveness and, if possible, morality too. As far as morality is concerned, there is nothing to discuss. Bashar al-Assad has been described by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as a criminal against humanity. Everyone knows that he is responsible for the fact that, starting from a small rebellion involving a few young people in Syria three and a half years ago, 250,000 people have now been killed. So on this basis alone, I would say there is nothing even to discuss: not that he is the only tyrant in the world or in history, but that it is clear that he cannot call for moral recognition of any kind. But let us state our position, because it is crucial in terms of effectiveness. What do we want for one another? We would like Syria to be free, to be able to regain all of its territory, for the Syrian government currently only controls a small portion of its territory, and to recognize community diversity and the law. And we would like there to be a transitional governing body, as stated in the Geneva Communiqué, that would enable all of those things. It is in the name of this quest for effectiveness that we say it is necessary to establish a “transition out” mechanism. It is not a question of affection or personal determination. It is unimaginable that the Syrians, the Syrian refugees, 80% of whom have left Syria because they were threatened by Bashar al-Assad, could return to Syria and participate in this free, united and respectful Syria that we are seeking if they are told that “the future of Syria is Bashar al-Assad”. It is a contradiction in terms. That is why, over and above the moral aspects, we want there to be a transition out. Of course, it is very difficult because there are different positions, but it is the role of diplomacy to achieve this. That is the position adopted by France and many others.

We also want Bashar al-Assad to promptly stop what is known as barrel bombing – that is, the indiscriminate bombing of his own population, because civilians are still being killed in their hundreds. We are currently discussing various initiatives in this regard, for example Turkey’s proposal, and others. It is important to ensure the safety of the Syrians, or at least as many of them as possible. That is the point that I wanted to emphasize because sometimes, no doubt in all good faith, we let ourselves be led.

To put it bluntly, Daesh are absolutely terrible people and must be fought without restraint. To be precise, they must be fought not through the media but through concrete action, as some are doing, including the coalition and France.

But combating Daesh is not enough. We must also enable a political transition, and that is the discussion that needs to be held, and we hope to find a way for the major powers and others to reach an agreement. I will chair a P5 lunch with Mr Ban Ki-moon, where this very issue will be addressed with my fellow permanent members of the Security Council. (…)

Q. – Is it conceivable that Assad might be part of this transition out in Syria at the beginning and for a period?

THE MINISTER – We are discussing these aspects, which are important. In any event, it must be clear that it is not him who is being proposed as a component of the solution at the end of the process, otherwise there can be no movement whatsoever, for the reasons I have explained to you. Naturally, various arrangements are possible and it is necessary to make discussions possible with all concerned; each party has its own concerns at the outset.

But it must be clear, for reasons – as I have said, let’s pay close attention to this – not only of morality but also of effectiveness, that it cannot be said in any way whatsoever at the beginning of the process that the end of the process will be the maintenance [in power] of Bashar al-Assad, because that would be a contradiction in terms.

Q. – You do not wish to play all your cards before beginning negotiations?

THE MINISTER – That is what diplomacy is about.

Q. – I will repeat the question I put to the President of the Republic yesterday. How do you intend to get rid of Assad? He does not want to go and is hanging on to power. What do you intend to do?

THE MINISTER – The question of what one man wants is one thing, but what really counts is the welfare of his people and the destiny of Syria. I have said this before, and I hope to convince you. Given everything that has occurred, nobody can imagine, at least no reasonable person, that we are going to build a reunited Syria, whole once again, as it were, free and respectful of communities if the person leading it for the duration is responsible for so many dead. That is inconceivable.

Between the current situation, in which Bashar al-Assad is where he is, and the situation we need to move towards, which I describe as the transition out: that’s the scope of all our discussions.

Fight against Daesh

Q. – Let’s talk about effectiveness. France has begun strikes in Syria. For the last year, the Americans have been conducting strikes in Syria: 2,500 strikes and no results. The training programme for local troops is a fiasco, and has in fact just come to an end. Who in your way of thinking is going to fight Daesh on the ground?

THE MINISTER – That is why we certainly need to make changes to the approach. Where France is concerned, it is engaged and will continue to be engaged, but not on the ground. Where the coalition and our American friends are concerned, we had discussions at the meeting yesterday or the day before and we will be having further discussions this evening because there are practical steps to be taken. Where air strikes are concerned, I would say that we have everything we need. As for presence on the ground, that must be the task, in our view, of the Syrians and regional elements.

Q. – That is not working.

THE MINISTER – Because, in our view, things have not been done in a sufficiently coordinated manner.

Q. – Persistence is needed…

THE MINISTER – No, adaptation is needed. The results – you cited the figures that have, I believe, also been cited in the US Congress – are completely unsatisfactory. Strong engagement is therefore needed, real engagement, and also by the Syrians and regional populations on the ground.

Q. – Yes, but who? If you can be a little more specific…

THE MINISTER – Look at the map.

Q. – A secondary question: would you oppose the parallel initiative of a coalition led by the Russians? What would you do in such a case?

THE MINISTER – There was, I believe, an idea for a resolution in one of the speeches yesterday. But for the moment, that has not been translated into fact and we have received nothing of that kind. (…)

Those who are against Daesh are those conducting strikes against Daesh. Take that as a starting point – it is, I think, fairly easy to understand. If there is a willingness for engagement, why not? But there are obviously two conditions to the analysis I have offered. The first is that there must be the transition out I mentioned to you. Because this is not a mechanism which is designed or even used to maintain in position the person responsible for the situation. And the second is that it must be possible – we, along with others, are thinking about this – to free up one or more zones in which Syrians would be protected. As you know, there are initiatives on this from Turkey and others. And the barrel bombing has to stop. But of course, if there is real willingness, let us go forward. But real willingness, not just in the media.

Syria/Russian position

Q. – The Russians are increasingly active in Syria. Are we at risk of being excluded if we have preconditions on Assad?

THE MINISTER – Active… they have sent in a fair amount of equipment on Bashar al-Assad’s side. But, unless I’m mistaken, I haven’t seen them attacking Daesh. Yet the objective is to destroy Daesh. For our part, we’re fairly realistic. We will see what happens. And if there is a desire for a political solution – I was speaking about this only yesterday, because we had a meeting attended by my colleague and friend Mr Lavrov and with Mr Zarif – we must arrive at a transition, what I call a transition out. And we still have major discussions to be conducted on that point.

Q. – Would you take a favourable view of a Russian and Iranian intervention, as is much discussed, against Daesh in Syria at the present time?

THE MINISTER – That has not been proposed for the moment.

Q. – And how would you view it?

THE MINISTER – I deal in realities.

French nationals/right of self-defence

Q. – You talk about real strikes, and I put a question to the President yesterday and received no answer so I hope to have luck with you. The French strike was aimed notably at training camps where French nationals could potentially be present. Given that you are talking in terms of a threat to France, I would like to hear what you have to say on France’s position with regard to the fact that a democratic state, a state governed by the rule of law, could perhaps be targeting its own nationals in strikes conducted abroad. What is your position? Is there debate on this point within the armed forces?

THE MINISTER – He did in fact answer you. Perhaps you weren’t satisfied, but he did answer you. For our part, we are acting under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which provides for a right of self-defence. Once we have identified – a training camp in this case – elements for which all the evidence is that France may be targeted, given that, the right of self-defence applies. Naturally, maximum precautions – and I stress this – are taken to ensure that no civilians are killed. However, I fully agree that it is difficult to make distinctions between people, particularly the terrorists of Daesh, who are people who think ahead and seek to mix with the civilian population. We do everything we can therefore to avoid that, but at the same time it cannot lead to a paralysis of action that would allow Daesh to advance and to destroy us without our having been able to take action.

Q. – I was not referring to civilian victims. I will simplify my question: does France consider today that it has the legitimacy to target a French national abroad in a missile strike?

THE MINISTER – Of course we do not target French nationals. In this specific situation we are targeting training camps under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

Civilian protection zones

Q. – You mentioned zones in which Syrians would be protected? Are you referring to no-fly zones and at what stage are the discussions on this?

THE MINISTER – As you know, there are very many complicated discussions about terminology: “safe zones”, “no-fly zones”, “secure zones” etc. Let’s not launch into this technical discussion. Simply, there’s a common-sense idea – we have to see if it is feasible – and that is that many Syrians under threat both from Bashar and Daesh are trying to flee. They are going to the neighbouring countries and may also travel to Europe. The neighbouring countries are basically Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. If we want to avoid that, firstly Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have to stop barrel-bombing. That is what we are asking for and it is absolutely within his power. And that has nothing to do with Daesh. Secondly, a zone needs to be freed up, perhaps in the north, perhaps in the south, where they would be protected, be safe; that way, they would not need to travel to other countries. It is not straightforward; there are discussions with various parties and we are taking part in those discussions, but no decisions have been reached. (…)

Refugee crisis/Turkey safe zone

Q. – Two questions please. Do you believe the refugee crisis is adding new momentum to the idea of a safe zone somewhere in Turkey? And secondly, what do you make of the Russian proposition? President Putin was very clear on this; he said that while you are fighting ISIL, you cannot remove Bashar al-Assad as army-in-chief. Do you agree with that position and for how long can that go on?

THE MINISTER – Briefly speaking, as far as the refugees are concerned. If we want to stop the movement of refugees: many of them are leaving Syria because of Bashar al-Assad and because of Daesh. Therefore, we have to find a solution for Bashar al-Assad. It is what we call the transition out. And to fight Daesh. Meanwhile, it could be an idea – and we are working on that with different countries – to have within Syria one or two or three – there are different wordings: safe zone, security zone, and so on – in order that these zones would be able to welcome Syrian people, without forcing them to go out of the country. We are working on that, no decision has been taken yet.

There, the point is about the whole conflict. We think that because, both for moral reasons and reasons of effectiveness, both, we have to organize a process of transition out for Mr Bashar al-Assad. Why? Because morally, he has been qualified as a “criminal against humanity” by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And it is very difficult to imagine that somebody who is responsible for 80% of 250,000 dead can be the future of his people. But even if we leave aside this moral aspect, from the standpoint of effectiveness, what is our common aim for Syria? It is to have a free Syria, with respect for the different communities, every community living in peace with the other communities, and respecting the integrity of the territory. How could one imagine that it would be possible, with the prospect of a permanent, not only power, but dictatorship, of the one who is responsible for the present chaos? It is a question of good sense. And therefore, we have to organize all of us, and it is very difficult. Because Geneva I was in June 2012. We have, but that is the role of diplomacy, to organize things in such a way that we can find a transition out. That is the point.

Syria/Russian position

But, coming back to the fight against Daesh and against terrorism, it’s an absolute necessity. But it must not be a fight only in the media; it must be a real fight. And when I’m looking at who is really committed in the fight against Daesh, I ask you to think about it. So, as far as Mr Bashar al-Assad is concerned, it is fairly recent, fairly modest. As far as Russian partners are concerned, up to now – maybe it will change – they haven’t gone against Bashar. The international coalition is involved against Bashar. We, the French, have bombed a Daesh camp this week. And we have to judge realities. Not mass media. And the first criterion for judging who is really acting against Daesh, the first criterion, is to see who is involved and committed to the real fight on the ground and in the air against Daesh.

Q. – In terms of short-term effectiveness, do you consider it to be possible to engage a political process in a country already at war before the balance of power has already been reversed?

THE MINISTER – Strikes are necessary. Both are necessary.

Q. – At the same time?

THE MINISTER – Both have to be done, of course. We must strike Daesh and at the same time organize a process of political transition.

Q. – But given the ineffectiveness of the strikes?

THE MINISTER – They have not been sufficiently effective for the moment because they have not been conducted in a sufficiently satisfactory manner. And because not everybody has been conducting strikes. The international coalition must of course improve its methods. France can help in this even if it is acting independently. But all those who are against Daesh must be effectively against Daesh.

Q. – Hubert Védrine was saying yesterday that monsters are not necessarily measured by numbers of deaths and that if that were the case we would never have made an alliance with Stalin against Hitler.

THE MINISTER – We can of course look at any number of historical comparisons. Where I am concerned, I have to say that I am not an observer. I head our diplomacy alongside the President of the Republic. We need to hit Daesh, which is an absolute danger and when answering a question earlier I pointed out – something not given sufficient attention – that the international coalition is hitting Daesh, France is hitting Daesh, Bashar al-Assad is doing so very little and for the moment the Russians not at all. So you do need to look at who is doing what.

Secondly, we must obviously begin a process of political transition and to do that we need to have discussions with everybody and arrive at a transition that will enable Syria – and this is very difficult – to restore its integrity and protect all its communities. To think – as Hubert Védrine, who is an intelligent man, does not for a moment – that we can arrive at a position in which the Syrians agree that all communities must be respected if we say that the man who is the cause of the chaos is to lead them for all eternity, no. We must, and this is the role of diplomacy, find both the way to initiate the political transition – that is why I am in discussions with everybody – and conduct strikes at the same time.

Q. – Are you inviting the Russians and the Iranians to intervene? Are you asking the Russians to make strikes?

THE MINISTER – I am not asking for anything at all but I find that there is a certain coherence in what I would express in the following way: if you are against terrorists, it is not illogical to conduct strikes against terrorists./.

¹ M. Fabius spoke in French and English.

Meeting of the Security Council/terrorism/Iraq/Syria – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

New York, 30 September 2015

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am going to focus my comments on the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Syria.

In the face of the barbarity of Daesh [ISIL], which knows no bounds, the Security Council has unfortunately, more often than not, been a council of impotence. What the victims of this tragedy and international public opinion are now asking us can be summed up in two words: act quickly. This is also France’s position. And I would add: if possible, act together.

France is an independent power. We are seeking peace and security all over the world. And in Iraq and Syria, it’s this demand that has influenced and will influence our choices.

In Iraq, in August 2014, when Daesh took control of Mosul, an international coalition was formed. From the outset, France committed itself to acting within this framework. Our military action, supported on the ground by the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga, went hand in hand with a political process aimed at national reconciliation. A year after we started our efforts, Daesh has only begun to retreat. It remains a strong threat. We all know here that defeating terrorism will require long-term action.

In Syria, the situation is even more complex. Indeed, the Daesh terrorist group has thrived, with, in reality, the complicity of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Its hold on Syrian territory has expanded over the last few months, with the city of Raqqa at its centre. The influx of foreign fighters has increased and with it the terrorist threat well beyond the Levant region. The regime’s scorched-earth policy has alienated it from a large part of the population. A military response by the coalition has been prepared. We believe that it should be strengthened. But it cannot in itself constitute an adequate response, because the solution – and I think that we all agree on this at least – must be a political solution.

Some people are now suggesting that we join forces in order to form a grand coalition against Daesh in Syria. Russia has just presented the principles of a resolution at the Security Council.

What is France’s position? It comprises a few principles that I would like to set out:

First of all, we need to strike Daesh everywhere that we can. For our part, that’s what we’re doing. In Iraq, for more than a year, within the framework of the coalition and at the request of the Iraqi government. In Syria, the coalition’s air forces have been engaged for several months and on Sunday, on the basis of a decision by the French President, French planes intervened against a training camp where attacks, notably against our country, were being prepared.

I say this to all of the partners who would like to join our action: they are welcome to do so, on three conditions:

The first condition is that there can be no ambiguity about who we’re fighting. It’s the Daesh terrorists and the other radical groups who want to impose their barbaric laws that we have to fight and defeat. It’s obviously not civilians and the moderate opposition forces, who have, for years now, been courageously defending their vision, which we also share, of a united, democratic Syria that respects all communities in the face of another form of terror – the regime’s brutal crackdown. That’s the first condition. Daesh, and not the civilian population or the moderate opposition.

The second condition is, at the same time, to end the other forms of violence against civilians that actually serve to fuel extremism and increase the dramatic flood of refugees. It is said that 80% of the 250,000 victims of the Syrian tragedy, 80% of the millions of refugees forced to take to the road during the past three years, are the result of the regime’s indiscriminate airstrikes. These strikes must be ended. The Security Council must ban the use of barrel bombs and chlorine gas in Syria once and for all.

The third condition is acknowledging that the root causes of the problem must be dealt with: the fight against Daesh requires a political transition that restores hope to the Syrian people. Their fate cannot simply be a choice between two horrors: a criminal regime versus barbarous terrorism. Our aim is spelled out in black and white in the Geneva Communiqué of June 2012: a governing body with full executive powers that brings together elements from the regime – yes, elements from the regime – and elements from the opposition who reject terrorism. The time has come to implement this transition out, guaranteeing that the Syrian people’s executioner will not be their future. We are familiar with the major goals, parameters and actors in this transition. We must now implement the process. In our opinion this requires broad-based negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, under the control of a contact group whose core could, in our opinion, be the P5, expanded to key regional partners.

I want to add that in order for these commitments to be credible, we’ll have to examine the mechanisms that could effectively protect civilians, beyond mere words. In Syria, broad swaths of territory are being indiscriminately bombarded, without the justification of the fight against terrorism. Thousands of Syrians must flee these towns and villages. This must stop. Several of our partners have advanced concrete proposals to create security zones, no-fly zones – there are different names for them – in which the security of civilians would be guaranteed. We must study these proposals closely and swiftly, with the aim, if possible, of implementing them wherever they would serve the cause of peace.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

In the face of Daesh, there is no miracle formula that can spare us the long effort needed to combat terrorism. But there are false solutions that will only prolong the tragedy, and these we must avoid. A coalition whose very underpinnings would in fact prevent Syrians from uniting against the terrorists would fuel Daesh propaganda and end up making it more attractive. That would be a moral and political mistake for which the Syrian people, the entire Middle East, Europe and the world would pay for decades to come.

France stands ready to act with its traditional partners. With Russia and others, based on the three principles I’ve just articulated, as long as their actions respect three conditions: an effective military commitment against Daesh and other terrorist groups, and not against Syrian opposition fighters or the civilian population; a halt to the use of barrel bombs and chlorine gas bombs against the civilian population; and broad-based negotiations aimed at achieving a political transition that does not keep Syria’s executioner in power but makes it possible to bring the Syrian people together at last. These are the three conditions for the effective action that is vital for Syria./.

Published on 05/10/2015

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