MIL-OSI Europe: Official speeches and statements – September 14, 2021

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Source: France-Diplomatie – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development

1. Lebanon – Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic (Paris, 10/09/2021)

The French President welcomes the formation of a new government in Lebanon. It is an essential step towards taking the emergency measures that Lebanese people expect, to get the country out of the profound crisis it is in.

He wishes the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Najib Mikati, success in his high office in the service of the Lebanese people.

He also emphasizes the need for all political leaders to honour the commitments they have made to enable the implementation of the reforms necessary for preparing Lebanon’s future and enabling the international community to lend it decisive assistance. Committed alongside all Lebanese people, the French President will continue acting for Lebanon’s peace, prosperity and stability./.


2. Qatar – Joint press conference given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs – Statements by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian (excerpts) (Doha, 13/09/2021)

A. – (…) I’d like to begin by saying that I attach the utmost importance to my visit to Doha today, within the context of the Afghan crisis, obviously, but also to continue our very longstanding, very fruitful partnership on many issues.

In this respect I’d also like to thank His Highness The Amir of Qatar for his kind welcome this morning, and obviously warmly thank my colleague, Sheikh Mohammed, for our excellent relationship and the always frank, friendly, constructive discussions we have together, on both the bilateral partnership and regional matters.

We have strong, longstanding ties between Qatar and France, which I came here to reaffirm. Qatar is a friend, a dependable country, a partner with which we maintain close dialogue, with regional security and stability our sole concern. The presence of His Highness The Amir of Qatar, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed, a fortnight ago at the Baghdad Conference – which we, the Iraqi Prime Minister and President Macron, initiated – enabled extremely fruitful discussions there.

Today our partnership allows close coordination on the Afghan crisis. I must say that from the outset of the crisis, the Qatari authorities have rallied in an exceptional way, and I’d like to thank the Qatari authorities warmly for the work done during the evacuations of French and Afghan nationals. I was able to appreciate this effort earlier because I myself witnessed 47 French people leaving for France, following their evacuation, thanks to Qatar’s initiatives.

I’d also like to say that we’ll be having discussions over the course of the day both with the minister responsible for the evacuation operations and with the Chief Executive of Qatar Airways.

We’d like to continue this cooperation, to complete the operations to evacuate French people and their families from Kabul and protect the Afghans who are threatened because of their values. I’m very pleased to have had feedback, during my meeting, about Minister Sheikh Mohammed’s visit to Kabul yesterday.

My visit here also reflects a shared desire to deepen our cooperation in various spheres – security, the economy, culture and obviously sport. And the strategic dialogue held annually between our two countries, which couldn’t take place in 2020 because of the pandemic, is the appropriate framework for deepening our exchanges. And we’ve agreed to have another meeting of the French-Qatari strategic dialogue before the end of the year, to assess together where our partnership stands and find ways and means of strengthening it in every sphere.

I wanted to renew to you, dear friend, my and President Macron’s thanks for the support Qatar lent in the Afghan crisis.

I’d like to know if, a month on from Kabul being taken, the idea of women is still a priority for Qatar and France? Can you have any concrete influence on the Taliban Government, which until now hasn’t really announced any reassuring measures for women?

A. – Thank you for that question. We’re very pleased to be here with you in Doha. I think we’ve very clearly set out the international community’s demands; be it through UN Resolution 2593, or through the various meetings organized, including the meeting of European Union foreign ministers at the end of last week, we’ve set out what we expect from the new Taliban authorities: firstly – and my colleague Sheikh Mohammed has just been talking about it – free access, freedom of movement and the freedom to go out unhindered, to travel unhindered. Secondly – although there is no order of priority -, respect for fundamental rights, starting with the rights of women and girls. Thirdly, that there be a genuine break with any kind of terrorism. Fourthly, that humanitarian aid can be shipped anywhere, without difficulty, under the authority of those supplying the humanitarian aid, particularly the international organizations. Finally, that a representative transitional government be formed.

Those are the major points. So obviously the position, the role of women, is crucial. I also note – as I think you know – that we, France, thanks to our cooperation, enabled 2,800 people to be exfiltrated at the end of August, including 2,600 Afghans, virtually half of whom were women. As things currently stand, the responses we’ve had from the authorities set up in Kabul in no way address these demands.

We thought that one of the acts could have been a broader-based government; this isn’t the case. There have been declarations; nothing has been done yet. So we’re waiting for the authorities to do what they pledged to do. And we’re continuing to exert pressure at every level so that they deliver on what they themselves committed to do. These commitments haven’t been honoured so far.

How many French nationals remain in Afghanistan?

A. – (…) On the specific question about French people in Afghanistan, I’d like to begin by saying that our evacuation and exfiltration priorities of the past several weeks, but since 15 August in particular, have always been to make sure that our nationals could return, that those who have helped France either alongside the French armed forces, at one time, or through their involvement with French institutions in Afghanistan, could travel to French territory should they wish; and then, for us to support and take in Afghans who, because of their commitment, their initiative, their values, felt they were in a difficult situation. Those are the criteria which made possible the evacuations I was talking about earlier. Thanks to cooperation with the Qatari authorities, we were able to return a further 47 French nationals this morning. We’ve still got a few French people in Afghanistan, but very few. A few dozen at most./.


3. Foreign policy – Fight against terrorism/Afghanistan/Sahel – Excerpts from the interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 5 (Paris, 11/09/2021)

(…)

AFGHANISTAN

There’s the issue of Afghanistan, and obviously of Afghanistan today with the Taliban back in power in Kabul. And this week we’ve seen a new Afghan government. (…)

Is France going to recognize, or does it recognize, the authority of this new government in Afghanistan?

THE MINISTER – France recognizes States; so we had an ambassador in Afghanistan and he’s still ambassador in Afghanistan; France doesn’t recognize governments. But France refuses to recognize or have any relations whatsoever with that government. We’ve had technical discussions to allow the evacuation of nearly 3,000 people who we’ve already been able to evacuate from Kabul…

But no official recognition… and won’t there be any?

A – No recognition. We’ve set conditions, and we’re not the only ones; we’ve said we’re waiting for action from the Taliban. There are five conditions that are shared by all the Europeans, namely: 1) letting those who want to leave do so, with no obstacles; 2) allowing unfettered humanitarian aid, anywhere in the country and without direct control from the Taliban authorities; 3) respecting human rights and especially women’s rights and rights to education; 4) giving up all cooperation with al-Qaeda – even if it no longer has many means of acting, today, it may return; and 5) forming an inclusive government overall… i.e. not solely with forces linked to the Taliban in the past, but also with other political groupings.

They’ve said several times in recent days that they’re not opposed to such a thing, even to letting not only foreigners but also Afghans leave freely; they’ve said they’ll form an inclusive, representative government. Well, for the moment they’re lying: the results are not there. (…)

SAHEL

In the Sahel, the reconfiguration of Operation Barkhane is taking shape, following the review of troops on the ground by France’s Chief of the Defence Staff – a change of strategy in the fight against terrorism after more than eight years of commitment on that territory, which is almost as big as Europe – and a question arises today: namely, what comes afterwards. You launched Operation Barkhane; the images of 15 August in Kabul went around the world; the Malians saw them, for example. What do you say to those in Mali and elsewhere in the Sahel who fear an Afghanistan-type scenario, with jihadists taking power?

We’re not at all in the same situation, even though the way the United States left may create incentives or attractions for some, or renewed confidence for others. The fact remains that we’re not in the same situation at all, firstly because as far as the Sahel is concerned – I’m talking about the five countries – we’re present at the request of the five countries, to ensure their protection. In Afghanistan, we went in to get rid of a government; and secondly, because in the Sahel as a whole, terrorism isn’t dead. There are still actions, even though the French army’s presence has made it possible to eradicate some of the components of those groups, which are both al-Qaeda and Daesh, because terrorist groups now operate by franchise. You belong to the al-Qaeda nexus or the Daesh nexus. So actions have been taken that have made it possible to reduce their ability to intervene significantly, but they’re still there.

But is there a risk of the Sahel again becoming “Jihadistan” as they say, or not?

A – I don’t think so, also because the situation is different, because we have a United Nations mandate too; there are many United Nations forces on the ground, three times more than French forces. People often forget it: there are 12,000 United Nations soldiers in the Sahel.

But isn’t the fragile thing about this situation the fragility of States, as in Afghanistan, where we’ve seen a State collapsing? Isn’t Mali – where there have been two coups in one year – in a slightly comparable situation, with the absence of a State preventing the sources of the problem being tackled?

A – There are five fully-fledged States – it’s true that some are more fragile than others – but there are five States which themselves have their own armies that fight, and there are also the Europeans who are present. So it’s a totally different context.

Without wanting to compare, there’s nevertheless a warning for us: Joe Biden, the Americans, said to themselves, “the war in Afghanistan is endless, so we really must put an end to it”. And the impression is that in the same way, the war in Mali is endless, has no way out – no way out can be found. And at some point don’t we risk having to draw the same conclusion about Mali as the Americans drew about Afghanistan?

A – The big difference – I think I said this earlier, it’s also twofold – is that America’s intervention in Afghanistan was a retaliation for an act of aggression on its own territory. And the other big difference is that with regard to the Sahel, and Mali in particular but the Sahel overall, is also that our own security is now at stake. Our own security: it’s our southern border.

Let’s say it’s a major difference, OK.

A – Major… because geography is stubborn and geography is tenacious. And now we come back – I don’t know if Pierre [Haski] is in step with me on this point – to the return of geography in international relations, which are as uncertain as you indicated earlier. And we’ve reorganized our provision to conduct solely counter-terrorism in the five countries concerned.

In a word, we’re currently negotiating with the Taliban; is there any question of talking to jihadist leaders in the Sahel?

A – No, we’re not talking to them, we’re fighting them. (…)./.


4. United Nations – Sudan – Statement by Ms. Nathalie Broadhurst, deputy permanent representative of France to the United Nations, to the Security Council (New York, 14/09/2021)

=Translation from French=

Thank you Madam President,

I also thank Special Representative Volker Perthes and Hala Alkarib for their statements.

For my part, I would like to emphasize three points.

France reiterates its full support for the democratic transition in Sudan. We welcome the government’s economic reforms, which have made it possible to begin the debt relief process. We note the initiative launched by the Prime Minister, called “the way forward”, which aims to consolidate the government’s reform agenda. We encourage consultation between the different components of the transition, the inclusion of civil society and the strengthening of the participation of women and youth. Progress has also been made with the ratification of important conventions on the protection of human rights and strengthened cooperation with the International Criminal Court and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

These efforts must continue, in particular through the establishment of key transitional institutions, first and foremost the Transitional Legislative Council, with at least 40% representation of women. We also call for the continued establishment of institutions in the judicial field and in the fight against corruption.

Madam President, France also remains concerned about the fragility in Darfur and in the east of the country. We call for the rapid implementation of the national plan for the protection of civilians and the acceleration of the deployment of the joint force in Darfur, which were provided for in the Juba agreements. The protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers, and ensuring humanitarian access remain high priorities.

The inclusion of members of the parties is also essential. We call for the resolution of outstanding issues in the talks between the government and Abdelaziz Al-Hilu. We also encourage Abdelwahid Nour’s movement to join the peace process. We also welcome the government’s efforts to engage in dialogue in the east of the country to ease tensions in that region.

Madam President, we are encouraged by the operationalization of UNITAMS and by the cooperative ties that have been established between the mission and the Sudanese authorities. And in this regard, I commend the work of the Special Representative, of UNITAMS and of the entire UN country team. I am thinking of their efforts to facilitate the peace talks, to support the implementation of the mechanisms provided for in the Juba agreements, and also to support the participation of women in the peace process. The strengthening of police and judicial capacities and the fight against the risk posed by mines are also very important aspects of their intervention.

France attaches particular importance to UNITAMS technical assistance for the protection of civilians, and in particular women and children.

Finally, France is also attentive to regional challenges that could jeopardize the success of the transition. The crisis in Tigray and the arrival of Ethiopian refugees are among the main factors destabilizing the Sudanese economy. We are committed, bilaterally and in our European capacity, to helping Khartoum respond to this emergency. We also support the mediation efforts of the African Union and encourage the countries of the region to resume discussions to resolve the El-Fashaga and Renaissance Dam disputes.

Thank you./.

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