Source: France-Diplomatie – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development
1. Australia – Joint communiqué issued by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister for Europe and Foreign affairs, and Mme Florence Parly, minister for the Armed forces (Paris, 16/09/2021)
France notes the decision just announced by the Australian Government of the halting of the ocean-class Future Submarine Programme [FSP] and the launch of cooperation with the United States regarding nuclear-powered submarines.
This decision is contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based not only on a relationship of political trust but also the development of a very high-level defence industrial and technological base in Australia.
The American decision, which leads to the exclusion of a European ally and partner like France from a crucial partnership with Australia at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, be it over our values or respect for a multilateralism based on the rule of law, signals a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.
With the Joint Communication on Europe’s strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region being published today, France confirms its desire for very ambitious action in that region aimed at maintaining “freedom of sovereignty” for all. As the only European nation present in the Indo-Pacific, with nearly two million of its nationals and more than 7,000 military personnel, France is a reliable partner which will continue to honour its commitments there, as it has always done. The regrettable decision just announced on the FSP only heightens the need to raise loud and clear the issue of European strategic autonomy. There is no other credible path for defending our interests and values around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific region./.
2. Defence – Afghanistan/European Union/Sahel – Excerpts from the speech by Mme Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces, at the start of the autumn parliamentary session (Paris, 13/09/2021)
=Check against delivery=
(…) I’d like to pay a glowing tribute to the women and men of Operation Apagan. Thanks to their commitment, France was able to set up an airlift between Kabul and Paris less than 24 hours after the order given by President Macron. Thanks to them, thanks to the diplomats, police officers and French staff running the operation day and night for two weeks, we can be proud that we managed to evacuate nearly 3,000 people, including 2,600 Afghans, in record time.
The fall of Kabul was obviously an event whose impact goes well beyond the immediate region and resulted from a chain of events of which we’ll collectively have to learn all the lessons. For the time being, at this stage I’m taking away three main lessons from the crisis:
To begin with, whilst the Taliban’s coming to power ushers in a major period of uncertainty, it confirms what we already knew: our fight against terrorism is necessary and must continue. Two points in particular are crucial. Firstly, we’re entitled to ask ourselves what approach the Taliban government will adopt towards terrorist groups, especially al-Qaeda. We can remember that the Taliban regime in place 20 years ago offered asylum and support to Osama bin Laden’s group, which planned the 9/11 attacks. It did so from its safe haven in Afghanistan. The negotiations in Doha in recent months produced commitments from them, but we have to recognize that the initial decisions – starting with the make-up of the government – show a difference between promises and deeds.
The other crucial point concerns the presence in the country of Daesh, whose attack at Kabul airport showed the tragic power to cause harm. Admittedly, Daesh is the Taliban’s enemy, but how can we ascertain that the latter will manage to contain this threat effectively? For these reasons, we’ve got to remain vigilant. We’ll have to continue following the situation on the ground closely and discussing with our allies the means to prevent any resurgence of a terrorist threat, which would seriously affect the stability of the region and even recreate a capability for planning attacks in Europe and elsewhere.
The second lesson concerns Defence Europe. For many Europeans, the crisis in Afghanistan revealed what we already knew: Europeans’ security is a matter first and foremost for Europeans themselves. It also shows we still have a long way to go. This realization created a new, legitimate burst of momentum among many of our European partners. We must make the most of this momentum to further Defence Europe, realistically and pragmatically.
Because there’s a Europe of intentions and a Europe of deeds. As far as I’m concerned, as far as we’re concerned, we’ve subscribed to the second – i.e. the Europe of deeds – for a very long time. We must go on building a grassroots Defence Europe, able to act, and rely not on unachievable promises but on what already works today. Task Force Takuba, in the Sahel, is the best example of this. In this respect, I think we’ve got to have a renewed ambition for the European Intervention Initiative, which is of increasing interest to our partners.
The third thing which the Afghan crisis has shown us is that the military estimates act is bearing fruit. Three A400M and two MRTT planes ensured a large part of the airlift between Kabul, Abu Dhabi and Paris; one had been ordered in advance under the aerospace support plan, which I announced in June 2020. We owe these planes to the military estimates act, which has speeded up the delivery of the MRTTs and increased our ambition for the A400Ms, with the target of 25 aircraft by 2025. (…)
In the immediate future, we’ll have to successfully adapt our military provision in the Sahel. We know why we’re in the Sahel, and why we must continue the fight against terrorism. Our security and that of the Europeans – who we’ve also broadly managed to mobilize alongside us – depend on it. Look what’s happening with Takuba: today, nine countries are taking part in it. Others are arriving. Our partners have understood our messages about changes to our provision in the Sahel: we’re not leaving, we’re adapting to the reality on the ground, moving towards more cooperation with the Sahel countries and international partners, particularly Europeans.
That’s also what differentiates us from what the Americans have done in Afghanistan over recent months: we talk to our partners, we coordinate with them. And we’ll continue to do so tirelessly.
That brings me to this autumn’s final priority, the French presidency of the European Union, which is approaching very quickly. The course the President set in his Sorbonne speech has now largely materialized, in large part under France’s impetus and thanks to your work. The French presidency must capitalize on this success, while initiating a new phase with a renewed level of ambition. The Strategic Compass, the European Union’s future strategic document, will be one of the main vehicles of this. We’ll have to increase our ability to act together in operations, and we’ll have to promote the idea of a European defence conceived not as a barrier around the European Union but as an ability to defend our interests wherever they may be.
We’re also working in particular on access to shared spaces, be they in the maritime, cyber or space fields. This aspect will be particularly emblematic of our EU presidency. Finally, we’ll have to bear in mind a few points on which we’ll need to be vigilant, and particularly the risk of seeing our ambition and our ability to act weakened by a number of European regulatory and legal arrangements; I’m thinking, of course, of the European Working Time Directive, which is the focus of all our efforts.
Europe is currently a genuine player in the defence field. So it must not itself undermine the foundations of what it’s building, namely a heightened ability by Europeans to defend themselves. Otherwise, as the saying goes, it will be on the menu of the great powers, not at their table. That’s a message we’ll have the opportunity to send in many settings, including that of the Fabrique Défense [Ministry of the Armed Forces outreach event], whose second season has just begun. In the coming months many events, lectures and discussions will be organized throughout Europe, leading up to the closing event in La Villette, Paris, from 28 to 30 January 2022. (…)./.
3. United Nations – Humanitarian situation in Syria – Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations, to the Security Council (New York, 15/09/2021)
=Translation from French=
I thank Mr. Griffiths and Ms. Qaddour for their presentations.
More than ten years after the beginning of this tragedy, the violence continues, as shown by the recent increase in hostilities in the North-West and in Deraa. Civilians continue to pay a high price.
The priority is an immediate cessation of hostilities under UN supervision, as well as a humanitarian pause, in accordance with resolutions 2532 and 2254 and the Secretary-General’s appeal.
International humanitarian law must be strictly respected, as well as the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructures. Since last March, 19 humanitarian workers have been killed in the North-West: these attacks will not go unpunished. France will continue to give its full support to mechanisms to fight impunity.
Humanitarian access must also be guaranteed. The priority must remain emergency aid. All parties, in particular the Syrian regime, must respect their obligations. Humanitarian needs continue to grow, in a context marked by food insecurity and the pandemic of COVID-19. It is essential to accelerate vaccination campaigns against COVID-19.
France welcomes the delivery of a first “crossline” convoy to the North-West, which is a concrete translation of Resolution 2585. It is important, however, that “crossline” aid is not limited to food aid and that it is delivered in full respect of humanitarian principles.
But let’s be clear: the cross-border mechanism will be necessary as long as aid does not reach all the populations in need throughout the country, based on an objective assessment of needs. The renewal of this mechanism for twelve months was a relief. But we all know that this is not enough. We encourage the UN agencies to intensify cross-border convoys to pre-position humanitarian aid before winter.
Only a political solution in line with Resolution 2254 will bring an end to the tragedy and stabilize permanently the country. The regime, supported by its allies, is pursuing a logic of obstruction of the political process, in defiance of the aspirations of the Syrian people and the commitments made before this Council.
Without a political solution, the position of France and its partners on normalization, reconstruction and sanctions will remain unchanged. The instrumentalization of the issue of sanctions to mask the overwhelming responsibility of the regime deceives no one.
Without a political solution, there will be no safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons.
Thank you, Madam President./.
4. United Nations – South Sudan – Statement by Ms. Sheraz Garsi, political coordinator of France to the United Nations, to the Security Council (New York, 15/09/2021)
=Translation from French=
Thank you, Mr. President,
I too would like to thank Nicholas Haysom, Reena Ghelani and Ms. Nanija for their interventions.
I would like to emphasize three points:
France recognizes, as do others, the progress made in the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and in particular the formation of the transitional national legislative assembly and the progress towards the operationalization of the truth and reconciliation commission. The authorities have also made efforts to facilitate the mobility of UNMISS, in accordance with the status of force agreement.
France is ready to materialize the helping hand offered by the Security Council to South Sudan, provided that the objectives set by the Security Council are achieved by the government. UNMISS is there to help.
However, while several commitments have been renewed recently, the bulk of the measures are still pending, particularly with regard to the security sector reform and the implementation of transitional justice mechanisms.
The Security Council has set a strategic direction for the mandate of UNMISS, which is guided by the holding of elections planned at the end of the transition. France takes note of the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in preparation for this deadline. We encourage UNMISS to set up an electoral assistance team. We call on the authorities to prepare as of now the legal framework for the elections, the operationalization of the national electoral commission and the allocation of the resources necessary for the organization of the elections.
In this regard, we call on all parties to put unity first. The fragmentation of some of the signatory parties to the revitalized peace agreement represents a threat to the respect for the cease-fire. In this regard, we welcome the efforts of the IGAD presidency to ease tensions.
France also calls on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and human rights.
In this regard, we are concerned by the measures taken to block calls for demonstrations. Arrests, intimidation of those involved, and widespread Internet blackouts are unacceptable. We call on the authorities to guarantee freedom of expression and peaceful protest. We are also concerned about extrajudicial killings in Warrap and Lakes states. We call on the authorities to guarantee respect for human rights and to fight against impunity for the perpetrators of violations, including those committed against children and women, which the speakers have referred to in detail.
We also condemn the attacks against humanitarian and medical personnel. We know that South Sudan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for humanitarian workers. It is important that the perpetrators of violence against these personnel be brought to justice and sanctioned by the Council. The humanitarian needs are immense, as it has been detailed by OCHA, and the risk of famine is increasing. In this context, it is important that humanitarian and medical personnel be able to move freely in order to deliver assistance to the population, that they be able to do so without hindrance and without fear of being targeted.