First of all I’d like to pay tribute to the initiative you’ve taken of convening this high-level meeting, and the presence of many heads of state and government and ministers really is testimony to the international community’s clear-sightedness in the face of the current situation in the Sahel.
What’s happening in northern Mali isn’t only a challenge for that country’s authorities, it’s a threat to West Africa and the Maghreb. It’s also a risk for the international community as a whole, because when a territory as big as France is occupied by terrorist groups whose aim is not merely to control, punish and subordinate a people but to establish a support base for conducting offensives of the same terrorist nature on the states in the region, then we’re facing a threat that concerns the whole world.
That’s why the Security Council has already started to act. That was the purpose of UNSCR 2056, adopted in July under Chapter VII. But now it’s time to move to the second phase.
This second phase has been made possible by the willingness of the Malian authorities – and I commend them – to refer the matter to ECOWAS, the African Union – I pay tribute to its president – and the UN, to call for the creation of a stabilization force with a view to organizing the recapture of northern Mali. France will fully support this initiative. She’s therefore asking for the Security Council to be convened again swiftly so that a resolution under Chapter VII can enable this force to be organized and set in motion as quickly as possible.
I know there may still be the temptation to conduct negotiations. But negotiations with whom? If it’s a question of political forces that want to play their role in building Mali’s future, very well. But there can be no question of negotiating with terrorist groups.
Any misunderstandings, any time-wasting, any long-drawn-out processes can only play into the terrorists’ hands. That’s why we’re now convinced that if the Security Council adopts this resolution, following our meeting – the high-level meeting you wished for –, then the terrorists will know an operation is being prepared, the Malian authorities will be able to rebuild their forces, and ECOWAS and the Africans will shoulder all their responsibilities.
That’s what I wanted to say about the security issue, because it’s the precondition for everything: how can we imagine operations of development, of support to the people of the Sahel unless terrorism is eradicated in that part of the Africa region?
In terms of development, we’re in favour of consistency. In this regard, France fully adheres to the strategy set out by the United Nations Secretary-General, which aims to mobilize all the United Nations’ agencies, funds, programmes and financial institutions for the Sahel. Let me remind you – Mr Van Rompuy did so before me – what Europe is already doing and what France is adding in terms of her own commitments. We must also envisage this development strategy well beyond Mali, for all the countries concerned – I’m thinking particularly of Mauritania and Niger.
Two matters need addressing urgently, beyond what we can do for development in the medium and long term.
The first is to overcome the food crisis, which is adding the tragedy of poverty and hunger to the tragedy of terrorism. Here again, France will be fully involved in the European AGIR [Sahel] project, and we’re calling for all the multilateral banks to mobilize so we can take even further action for rural development.
The second urgent matter relates to displaced people: several tens of thousands in the whole subregion. Here again, the international community will have to help the Sahel states cope with this, in the framework of a coherent approach and taking account of specific issues and the choices each country has taken.
I conclude: our responsibility is to act on two fronts. The first is to define this comprehensive, coherent approach for development in a medium- and long-term perspective. The second front – and I use the word deliberately – is to ensure that we can intervene, that the Africans can intervene. Because it’s the Africans who now hold the key, if we are able to support them, back them and provide them with all the elements of international law. France, at any rate, won’t remain inactive. We can’t tolerate hands being cut off, women being raped and children being displaced. We can’t accept monuments, treasures of mankind being smashed to pieces. We can’t allow terrorism to be organized on a territory.
So France will back every initiative and, once the Security Council resolution has provided the force of international law, do everything she can logistically to support the operations planned. I also welcome the Secretary-General’s decision to send a special representative.
There comes a time when the international community has to face up to its responsibilities for Mali, for the Sahel. That time has come./.