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26 September 2013 – Sahel – Remarks to the press by Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Unofficial translation

We’ve just come from a meeting on the Sahel. You may remember that last year, on France’s initiative, there was an important meeting on the Sahel and that’s when the situation in Mali was addressed in particular. A few months later, terrorist groups advanced on Bamako; France was forced to intervene, and then so was the European and international community. We’re now lucky that the security issue has been resolved and that we have a democratically elected president. But the issue of the Sahel remains. What happened in Mali could have happened elsewhere which is why we proposed the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel; that’s what we discussed today.

France, which is extremely attached to the Sahel, and which is the second largest donor, contributing €300 million on a bilateral basis, intends to continue – this is our duty, our mission – supporting the Sahel. Which means that efforts to ensure security, efforts to promote all forms of economic development are encouraged, that efforts must be made to improve governance, with controlled, exemplary states.

Ban Ki-moon will visit the Sahel in November. I announced the decision by France, which will chair the Security Council in December, to secure a special meeting at the ministerial level on the Sahel. Because in our view this region is absolutely critical, both for the development of Africa and for the security of all of us.

These are some of the points that I wanted you to consider, given that a whole series of initiatives have been undertaken with respect to the Sahel and that Romano Brodi is the UN Special Envoy for this region.

On MINUSMA, the Chadian troop left their posts in Gao, due to some disagreement, and also there are charges of rape among the Chadian troops in Mali. So I’m wondering: do you think the mission is coming on well?

Indeed, there have been some serious incidents, and these are currently being analyzed and documented. If any acts of violence have taken place, then the consequences must of course be drawn.

Mr. Minister, can you now say that the war in Mali is over? What can you tell us about the status of the combatant forces belonging to the armed groups in the north and the Islamic groups?

Security in the cities has been re-established, as you know. Incidents may still occur, that’s why MINUSA has been deployed and French troops are still on the ground. In recent days, troops numbered approximately 3,200; this figure will drop to 2,000 toward October.

Since the second round of elections has been scheduled for December 15 we can then reduce the number of troops that will remain on the ground to 1,000 and we will be able to ensure security in order to prevent any possible return by the terrorists. But there are more, obviously, and that’s the essence of the operation: the forces that ensure Mali’s stability and security, the international forces. Again, in all regions of the world, incidents or accidents could occur, and they may sometimes be quite serious, but I can tell you that in Mali security has been re-established. That doesn’t mean – and this is linked to the previous information – that it has been re-established throughout the Sahel. The terrorists in Mali have been neutralized but some may have fled to other regions, to other countries. And so we have to be extremely vigilant and we must adopt a regional approach to these issues at the Security Council.

Furthermore, I want to point out that a very important meeting between France and all African countries will take place in Paris and will focus in particular on security issues. All African countries, and, in addition, all countries of the world should be concerned about their security. The situations aren’t the same everywhere. The situation in Mali to which you’re referring to isn’t the same as in Nigeria, which isn’t the same as in Tunisia. And our African friends have asked us to work with them on defining security: What are the responsibilities of the purely national forces? What would a regional approach or the sharing of resources involve? Who is requesting EU support? Who is requesting AU support? Who is requesting support from the international community, represented by the UN? This meeting, which promises to be extremely interesting, will therefore enable us to examine all of these issues and to propose solutions that should be taken up again in this meeting on the Sahel that we will host during France’s presidency. These are a few perspectives that should allow us to make progress.

Can I ask a question on Syria? Can you provide details about progress on the resolution on Syria and tell us if France’s three demands are now fully included in the text?

We discussed this issue yesterday with Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the so-called P5 countries. There has been clear progress. A resolution isn’t confirmed until it’s been fully confirmed and there are still some things that have to be clarified. But I think that it’s been favorably received, there’s been noticeable progress. You probably know that the UN resolution – which I hope will soon be ready – must also be in alignment with what’s happening at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. So there’s an opportunity to reflect on our own goals. With respect to France’s requirements, I’m pleased to see that at this stage they have been fulfilled. We raised three specific issues at the beginning of the week: first of all that any chemical attack be regarded as an attempt to undermine international security so that this issue can be referred to the Security Council.

Secondly, it’s clear that the perpetrators of these crimes must be held responsible and brought to justice. And thirdly, we requested that reference be made to Chapter VII; in the event of non-compliance with the provisions and therefore the decision with respect to the chemical weapons, then the matter will be referred to the Security Council on the basis of Chapter VII. Furthermore, this is a reaffirmation of the agreement that was concluded between the United States and Russia in Geneva which seems to have been somewhat forgotten in the meantime. So with respect to these three points we’ve made as much progress as we would have hoped.

Learn more on Mali.



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