Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being present here this afternoon at the Quai d’Orsay. In collaboration with President Hollande and the Prime Minister, I wanted to issue a statement on the situation on Syria.
The situation in Syria has taken an even graver, more horrific turn. We have learned in particular that children are now serving as human shields for the regime; they are led in front of trucks and tanks, tortured, raped and murdered. Every day, dozens and dozens of Syrians are killed by the bloody regime of Mr Bashar al-Assad. Given the circumstances, France has decided to strengthen her stance to oppose this regime of blood and death.
This will come about through four sets of measures.
First, we want to put more pressure on the Damascus regime by increasing sanctions. I am immediately contacting my European colleagues and Mrs Ashton to propose that as of the very next foreign ministers’ meeting, we adopt a new round of even tougher sanctions. This time, the sanctions must affect not only Mr Bashar al-Assad and his clique, but army officers and all those who provide support to Assad. A very clear message has therefore been conveyed to those who are participating in repressive operations. They must know that in addition to those mainly responsible for the crackdown, who are already being targeted – Assad and the various security chiefs – a list of people of secondary rank will also be prepared and that they will be held accountable before a court of law.
In taking this position, I want to issue an appeal, here, to all Syrians who have doubts or who feel that this criminal policy can lead only to greater chaos. They must understand that the only future is one of resistance to oppression, that the time has come to choose, and that they must abandon this ship.
Secondly, we propose to make the provisions of Kofi Annan’s plan binding. This plan is running into obvious difficulties. We heard China expressing her deep concern today. The Security Council must move into higher gear and place the provisions of the Annan plan under Chapter VII – i.e. make them binding.
I want to remind you that the Annan plan, among other things, calls for a halt to the violence, the army’s withdrawal from municipal areas, the provision of humanitarian aid – in short, everything which will enable the start of a political transition in Syria and therefore the departure of Bashar al-Assad. The provisions of this plan must now be made binding.
Thirdly, we must go further in our dialogue with the international powers that are able to exercise influence. That is the purpose of our dialogue with Russia and our contacts with our main partners in the Security Council and in the region. It is also the purpose of our efforts to ensure that the opposition, whether it be external or internal, can meet the challenges facing it by uniting and offering a credible alternative.
We in France support the Contact Group idea proposed by Kofi Annan. We favour all initiatives leading to the implementation of this plan. What matters is to end the massacre and begin the transition.
Finally, the fourth provision: we have now invited more than 140 countries and groups to meet at the Conference of Friends of the Syrian People on 6 July and we shall be increasing our contacts with the opposition. We must show the opposition that it is not alone. At the beginning of the week, I spoke to the new president of the Syrian National Council, Mr Sayda, expressing France’s support. I am also and will remain in contact, in the hours to come, with opposition members inside Syria, with whom we have never lost touch, even though they know that they are risking their lives by maintaining such contacts.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must encourage the opposition to structure, coordinate and organize itself in such a way as to constitute a legitimate force capable of laying the foundations of the post-Assad era.
In short, through my words this afternoon, it is clear that France intends to be in the vanguard of actions against Bashar al-Assad and against the crimes for which he will be held accountable.