Statements Made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Excerpts (March 26-27, 2013)
United States (March 27, 2013)
What was the upshot of this morning’s talks between Laurent Fabius and John Kerry?
They discussed first and foremost the situation in the Middle East in the aftermath of President Obama’s visit to the region. Mr. Fabius stressed the importance of making the peace process a priority, the need for the international community to become involved, and France’s willingness to play a major role.
As for Syria, the two ministers noted the unacceptability of the violence perpetrated by the regime and their concern over the risk of chemical weapons being used. Mr. Fabius offered an update on European Union talks on lifting the arms embargo.
With respect to Mali, Mr. Fabius and Mr. Kerry underscored the need to deal with all of the various aspects involved in resolving this crisis: the fight against terrorism and the restoration of Mali’s sovereignty throughout the country; the political dialogue between North and South and respect for the transition roadmap; and development benefiting all Malians. Mr. Fabius confirmed the drawdown of French troops in Mali starting in April, and spoke of the prospects for deploying a UN mission there in July.
They also discussed the situation in the Central African Republic and agreed on the urgent need to fully implement the provisions of the Libreville agreement concluded on January 11 under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States.
As for Afghanistan, the two ministers emphasized the need for the upcoming elections to be open, free and transparent.
Finally, they spoke about the prospects for a free-trade agreement between the EU and the United States.
Mr. Fabius and Mr. Kerry agreed to meet again in the near future to further discuss these issues.
Mali (March 26, 2013)
Forces under the aegis of the United Nations were supposed to be replacing the ones on the ground. At what stage are the discussions on this point?
I’d like to recall the general framework we’re working in. The idea is to have a gradual downsizing of Operation Serval from the end of April onwards. At the same time, the African force, Afisma [African-led International Support Mission to Mali], will take over. This process is already well under way. It’s being done gradually, in an orderly and controlled way.
A United Nations stabilization operation will then take over. It will intervene after the Security Council adopts a resolution, between now and two months after the end of April – [two months that are] necessary for the UN to deploy an operation of this kind.
It’s a switchover justified by the development of the situation on the ground and the change in the military presence necessary to respond to it. We’re gradually moving from an intensive military phase, launched on January 11, toward a stabilization mission at the end of the process. (…)
Central African Republic (March 26, 2013)
Regarding the Central African Republic, I’d like your reaction to Mr. Djotodia’s announcements that he’s going to legislate by decree and is suspending the institutions.
We made several statements at the weekend, in terms similar to those of the African Union [AU], the European Union and very recently the Security Council. What’s important for us now is three things, basically.
First, a return to public order. In particular, the looting in Bangui must stop. Second, a guarantee that civilians and foreign communities will be protected. As you know, we’ve reinforced our military presence in Bangui to ensure the safety of the French nationals and citizens of other nationalities whom we have agreements to protect. In total, this concerns some 2,000 people.
Third, a return to the spirit and the principles of the Libreville agreement, which, as you’ll remember, was reached on January 11 under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States [ECCAS]. This agreement is the reference framework for us. Among other things, it includes institutional provisions, with the appointment of a prime minister and a national unity government and the organization of elections.
Do you recognize the new authorities? Are you going to deal with them?
Once again, the framework in which our relations with the Central African Republic must be organized is the framework set in Libreville. There must be a return to it as soon as possible, and therefore a return to what was agreed at the time by the CAR under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States.
Do you regard Mr. Djotodia as an interlocutor?
You’re asking me the same question and I’m giving you the same answer. We condemned in the clearest terms the forcible seizure of power that occurred in the CAR at the weekend. So there’s no question of our recognizing this state of affairs. What we’d like is for the CAR to return to the framework accepted by it, validated by it in close coordination with and under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States in Libreville. That’s not only France’s position, it’s that of all the CAR’s partners: ECCAS, the AU, the EU and the Security Council.
As regards contacts with South Africa – which is, after all, heavily involved and which says it doesn’t intend to withdraw for the time being – is there twinning, cooperation on peacekeeping and security operations between the South Africans and the French force on the ground?
With the South Africans, given the role they play in the African Union and also in the CAR, we have daily contacts at several levels. For example, the French President talked to President Zuma at the weekend. Likewise, the Foreign Minister has contacts with his South African counterpart.
As regards the – not political but operational – contacts on the ground, I refer you to the Ministry of Defense. Let me emphasize that the French forces have the mission of ensuring our citizens’ safety, particularly by organizing patrols in Bangui. (…