Syria - Meeting in Support of the Civilian Revolutionary Councils - Speech by Laurent Fabius (Paris, October 17, 2012)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to begin by thanking you for coming today. I most particularly want to welcome the chairman of the Civilian Revolutionary Council of the city of Maaret al-Numan, which has been hard hit, in recent days, by the regime’s murderous madness. Welcome, too, to the representatives of the civilian councils and committees of Homs, Hama and Jabal al-Zawiya, as well as those of Tal Rifaat and Atarib in the Aleppo area, who have all traveled from Syria for this meeting and who will return there in the coming days. I also want to welcome the activist living in France since the July 6 meeting who will talk to us about southern Syria, including Damascus.
On behalf of us all, I want to pay tribute to their commitment and their courage in upholding – on a daily basis, and despite the blind violence of the regime – the ideals of a revolution that has aspired from the outset to be democratic and civilian.
These exemplary Syrian citizens represent the efforts of a collective mobilization that remains strong, despite the fighting. For us, it was particularly important to give them the opportunity to be heard today, so that we might better understand their role. They have come to speak to us of the situation on the ground but also to explain how they work, how they are organized and, most important, to talk about their projects and needs.
Since the beginning of the revolution, France has supported the peaceful demonstrators and their legitimate democratic aspirations. We have made numerous efforts, within various international forums and through European sanctions, to step up pressure on the Assad regime.
This has not been enough, notably because of the deadlock within the Security Council that you are all familiar with.
During this time, the regime has continued its mad rush toward a total crackdown, redoubling its cruelty and brutality, deploying tanks and airplanes against its own people, bombing schools and hospitals, and killing and torturing men, women and children.
From the beginning, France was determined to support the Syrian opposition and people, essentially through medical and humanitarian aid. It did this very discreetly in Damascus with the help of Ambassador Chevallier, when the Embassy was still open. It persevered and is continuing to provide support through local solidarity networks and the courageous commitment of Syrian doctors, notably with the help of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, whose presence here I salute.
During the past few months, while it was gradually losing control of the situation on the ground, with the “liberation” of part of the country, the regime stepped up the violence by using MIGs and then dropping barrels of TNT, and more recently and still more terribly, using cluster bombs. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated further, leading me to make a regional trip in August to tour refugee camps before chairing a ministerial meeting at the UN Security Council on this topic.
Since the meeting of the Friends of Syria group, which we hosted in Paris on July 6, we and the President decided to take a new step in supporting the Syrian people. As we wait for the formation of a representative interim government, which France advocates, we have launched a program to directly support civilian revolutionary councils, both in the “liberated” areas and in regions still “occupied” by the regime.
This approach to supporting the civilian revolutionary councils fulfills 4 objectives by:
providing assistance to a portion of the population that isn’t served by the traditional humanitarian channels (UN, ICRC, international NGOs) which we also actively support and whose efforts we salute, even though they are restricted by the Damascus regime;
lending direct support to the local entities fostering stability and governance until they’re able to rely on an interim government;
strengthening the credibility of civilians with respect to the governance of the Syria of tomorrow;
responding to the Syrian people’s strong feeling that they have been abandoned by the international community.
Since August 31, France has therefore mobilized almost €1.5 million for 15 civilian committees in the Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Hama, Damascus and Latakia Governorates.
This assistance made it possible first of all to respond to very urgent humanitarian needs, notably in the area of medical care. Several thousand families with no income also benefited from food and direct financial assistance, thanks to the work carried out to identify needs, on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, by the neighborhood committees working for the revolutionary councils.
In the areas that were able to liberate themselves from the yoke of the regime, this assistance has notably made it possible to restore certain public services, such as trash collection, street cleaning, road repairs and the repair of water pipes and the electrical grid. It has also made it possible to carry out structural projects such as the rehabilitation of several industrial bakeries which provide bread to around 300,000 people every day, or for example to establish a local police force to help the citizens and no longer be a tool for repression.
Elsewhere, in Hama and Homs, as well as in certain areas around Latakia and Damascus, this support has primarily made it possible to provide emergency medical and food assistance, and to respond to other basic needs.
I’m pleased to hear the message of thanks being sent to France from these Syrians whose lives are being made hell by a murderous regime. But I also know that this cannot and must not be the international community’s only focus of action. We must continue to mobilize our efforts to ensure that Bashar al-Assad’s regime falls and makes way for a democratic transition.
Thank you again to all of you - representatives of more than 20 countries, representatives of international organizations – for being in Paris today to listen carefully to what our courageous Syrian friends have to tell us and for examining together, in accordance with the goals that we set ourselves in support of the Syrian people, the modalities of this support for the population.
Having listened to these civilian councils, it seems clear that the post-Bashar era has already begun in the areas that have managed to rid themselves of the regime, as well as in those parts of the territory where the regime is only maintaining control through violence and where it has lost the people’s trust.