Russia’s approach on Syria "obstructive" - Prime Minister
Syria – Russia – Reply by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, to a question in the National Assembly (excerpts)
Paris, 12 October 2016
Mr President, you said it, and it’s on everyone’s minds: Aleppo today is a bombarded, martyred city whose 250,000 inhabitants are under siege and starving, the main victims belonging to the civilian population – men, women and children.
War crimes are being committed there, and what’s happening is a tragedy. One person is responsible for that tragedy. Of course, we must never distort things, and the situation in Syria and Iraq – as in the Middle East as a whole – is extremely complex, but one thing is responsible for that tragedy: Assad’s regime, backed and supported at arm’s length by Russia and Iran. And without Russia’s massive support, the regime and Assad would be incapable of fighting the battle of Aleppo.
In the face of that tragedy, which challenges the world’s conscience, we have no right to be powerless. We can’t watch civilians being massacred, hospitals being deliberately pounded – and you’re aware, Mr President, of the accounts from all the humanitarian agencies about their inability to come to the aid of civilians. We can’t remain powerless and make do with condemning the situation.
For France – since you ask me about our position – the urgent thing is the truce, it’s a ceasefire that finally enables humanitarian aid to reach the besieged districts. And the most urgent thing of all is to evacuate the wounded and deliver the essential medical care. And because of this urgency, we submitted a resolution for a vote at the United Nations Security Council.
The Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, as he recalled yesterday, went to Moscow last week, then to Washington, to create the conditions [for the resolution] to be adopted. Russia decided, in the circumstances you’re aware of, to veto this resolution, which could therefore not be adopted, but Russia’s initiatives were supported by only a few countries.
Russia has chosen an obstructive approach. From our point of view, this approach is unjustifiable. I’m going to tell you precisely what I believe. Russia is a great country, through its history and culture. It’s a European country to a large extent, a country that has a long-standing relationship with France, a country that paid a heavy price during the Second World War. That’s why Russia and France sit together at the United Nations Security Council and are both permanent members of that council.
We can have shared goals, including to fight against terrorism, in Syria, in Iraq and all over the world, because the Russians can be and have been, like us, victims of terrorism.
But because Russia is a great country, because it has a responsibility given to it by history, because we have this relationship with it, we call on it to shoulder its responsibilities to make these massacres stop.
We’ll continue to talk to the Russians and their leaders, not in vain but in order to make progress, to save Aleppo, to support a ceasefire agreement, to find a solution of peace. The French President (…) was ready to host President Putin on 19 October, not to accompany him on a cultural or religious visit but to discuss this plan with a view to imposing a ceasefire on Aleppo.
Could one imagine a visit by the Russian President to Paris to inaugurate an exhibition devoted to Russian art, or the Orthodox Church, without a direct discussion being organized, as had already occurred at the G20 in Moscow, in Paris, between the French President and President Putin? It was impossible. So the decision was taken to learn lessons from the fact that the discussion was, sadly, not possible.
We noted this reversal, but the dialogue is continuing. (…)
We won’t abandon our efforts, and we’ll tirelessly continue our mobilization for Aleppo and Syria. In the face of the war crimes being committed in Aleppo against civilians and health infrastructure, impunity can’t be tolerated. We appeal to Russia to shoulder its responsibilities as a great country.
We, as a great country, a permanent member of the Security Council – because France is a voice that is listened to and respected – will shoulder our responsibilities./.