Talks with EU and US on terrorism and Middle East outlined
European Union – Foreign Affairs Council/fight against terrorism/Syria/Libya/Israel/Palestinian Territories – Press conference by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)
Brussels, 18 July 2016
In addition to the solidarity that was expressed, all the speakers – there were very many of them – recalled their commitment alongside France, which had already been demonstrated after the 13 November  attacks. As you’ll remember, France had, for the first time in the European Union’s history, invoked Article 42 (7) of the Treaty, which stipulates that in the event of an attack on its territory, a member state can be supported by its European partners. Many of our partners had proposed, and above all put in place, many contributions to different operations.
Today, the Nice attack and the need for us, France, to renew the national provision, including the Sentinelle programme, are sparking new tensions about numbers in the armed forces. And at the same time, the need to step up our common battle against terrorism means a new effort in the operations being conducted in the Levant and in Africa. So we must fight that battle head-on.
So our invocation of European solidarity in the framework of Article 42 (7) is still utterly important and relevant.
This morning, my EU partners were all especially clear – first of all in expressing solidarity, of course, but as Federica Mogherini, the High Representative, concluded after our discussions, the member states confirmed their readiness to continue increasing their assistance with and commitment to the fight against terrorism in the framework of Article 42 (7) of the Treaty, in the main theatres I’ve mentioned: the Sahel, Boko Haram and the Levant.
At the same time, work on domestic security must continue, and I’d like to pay tribute to the work that has been under way for several months, often on France’s initiative and in particular that of Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, which has enabled us to embark on many reforms you’re aware of, concerning, among other things, border protection, information exchange and the introduction – finally adopted by the European Parliament – of the PNR [Passenger Name Record].
Regarding the strengthening of European security, all the initiatives I’ve briefly mentioned will have meaning in the long term only if the EU provides itself with the means to combat the threats and contribute effectively to stabilizing its neighbourhood. Two important discussions on this are being held today.
First of all, the implementation of the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy. This strategy, prepared by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, assesses the EU’s strategic environment and sets out ways ahead for strengthening European action. It also states that Europeans must shoulder more responsibility for their security. And in the coming months we’ll have to provide an operational framework for the strategy that was presented at the last European Council. It’s entirely in line with France’s analysis of the increasing threats and the need for Europe to shoulder more responsibility for security, in a coordinated way that complements the action of NATO, of which not all the EU countries are members. That’s an important point, it’s an important step, and France – which has been in the vanguard on this issue – is of course committed to ensuring that all the proposals made are swiftly implemented.
There’s a second theme I had the opportunity to discuss several times at the Foreign Affairs Council, namely the strengthening of Europeans’ support to their non-EU partners in the security field, to train them in security. That’s the new initiative which has been proposed, called CBSD, Capacity Building in support of Security and Development. The EU is going to intervene to support its partners and train them in security. And that’s particularly the case in Africa. It’s a very strong demand from the G5 countries, for example, where the threat is very strong and which are fighting Boko Haram. But without this decision, the EU can’t assist its partners by providing them with the basic equipment enabling them to put the training done into practice. So this new initiative reflects a proposal we’ve been making for several months with several partners, in the light of the experience we have in Africa, and from this point of view France is very well placed.
It’s not about usurping the action of all the partners, but rather enabling its partners, in particular its African partners, to guarantee their own security, which is the main condition for their own development.
We also began the day with a meeting with John Kerry, which provided an opportunity to reiterate the need for transatlantic cooperation on all issues, and we discussed several key policies.
Syria of course, with our priority, which is to embark as quickly as possible on negotiation, or rather restart the negotiation which has now been interrupted because of non-compliance with the ceasefire. We must keep up the pressure on the regime, prevent new massacres in Aleppo and Darayya and guarantee humanitarian access.
John Kerry told us of his latest meetings in Moscow. We must of course judge on performance, on results, not just on fine words, and Russia must exert pressure on Bashar al-Assad to halt his strikes. We must see clearly on the ground there, and in particular distinguish the moderate opposition, which is ready to re-enter the negotiations, from terrorist groups such as al-Nusra. And to that end we need a ceasefire to observe the situation. I’ll have another opportunity to discuss the Syria situation at a meeting in London tomorrow. But we must also step up our action in the fight against the terrorists of Daesh [so-called ISIL] and step up the coalition’s action against Daesh; that’s why I’ll be going to Washington with my colleague, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, for a meeting with all the coalition partners.
We also talked about the situation in Libya, where there’s also a battle against Daesh which is under way and shows that we made the right choice supporting the Government of National Accord, but there’s still a great deal to do for the government to bolster its position. We intend to go on supporting Prime Minister Sarraj, whilst encouraging him to create the conditions for all Libya’s forces – particularly on the military front – to unite, because there will be no lasting success against Daesh in Libya if this union doesn’t actually happen. So efforts are needed, they must be encouraged and all countries must contribute to them, especially the neighbouring countries.
We welcomed the resolution the Security Council unanimously adopted – Resolution 2292, which aims to step up the EU’s action in the framework of the EUNAVFOR MED Sophia mission to combat illicit arms flows by actually imposing the embargo decided by the Security Council. So the extension of the European mission is a step in the right direction and it’s important for every country with the means to do so to contribute the resources to implement it.
During the meeting with John Kerry, we talked about the Middle East peace process, the need to create negotiation conditions again which restore meaning to the prospect of two states, which is unfortunately becoming more remote by the day and leading to despair. So – and France took the initiative on this – we must go on bringing together all those who want to help achieve this objective again.
So we mentioned the Quartet report and I recalled the decisions taken in Paris on 3 June to set up working groups focusing on three areas in particular: economic incentives in the event of a peace agreement for the two parties, strengthening the future Palestinian state’s capacity, and the work with Palestinian and Israeli civil societies. We appreciate the huge scale of the task, of course, but we absolutely mustn’t be put off, because restoring hope is essential, and everyone can contribute to this.
We welcome the commitment of John Kerry, who is sparing no efforts, and the Quartet’s work, which has strengthened the French initiative and has the same goal. (…)./.