Statement by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs - 10th anniversary of the Syria conflict (15 March 2021)
Ten years ago, tens of thousands of Syrians took peacefully to the streets to demand that their most fundamental rights be respected. The brutal, indiscriminate response from Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his role in the ensuing conflict triggered one of the most serious criminal enterprises and humanitarian crises since the Second World War.
Responsibility for this tragedy lies with the Syrian regime and its external supporters. The figures bear witness to the scale of the tragedy: over 400,000 Syrians have died, 13 million people – more than half the population – are refugees or displaced, and 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. France has continually supported the Syrian people since the conflict began. It will reaffirm its commitment in the framework of the next conference on the future of Syria (Brussels V) on 29 and 30 March 2021.
The Syria conflict marks the re-emergence of the use of chemical weapons, which has been banned for nearly a century. The Syrian regime’s documented and irrefutable use of these weapons on numerous occasions, including after its accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in September 2013, is unacceptable – and will not be accepted. France, alongside its allies, took the necessary armed action in 2018. It remains fully mobilized to ensure that an appropriate response is provided, both within the framework of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and within the ad hoc framework of the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons or with the national jurisdictions to which cases may have been referred. France is also playing its part to enable women and men to come and testify to these crimes.
France has long been committed to ensuring that no crimes committed in Syria go unpunished. This is a moral imperative and an unavoidable precondition for a long-term political solution in Syria. To this end, France will continue to support the work of the International Commission of Inquiry and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism. Several investigations have also been started by the courts in both France and Germany. The French Government will make any contribution that may help further justice and combat impunity.
France intends to continue its resolute action against terrorism in Syria, alongside its partners in the Global Coalition Against Daesh and partner forces on the ground. In addition to its military aspect, this determined action requires the territories liberated from the terrorist group’s control to be stabilized, in order to prevent its resurgence.
France has been working actively with the Syrian people since the beginning of the conflict. In 2018, the French President allocated €50 million to an emergency programme to finance humanitarian and stabilization projects. Aimed at addressing the needs of the most vulnerable people, who are undergoing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, this annual aid was renewed in 2021 for the fourth consecutive year.
France, with its European Union partners, will continue to make the reconstruction of Syria and the normalization of relations with Damascus conditional on the implementation of a credible, lasting political solution in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. The presidential election scheduled in Syria this year will be neither free nor legitimate. It cannot be used as a tool to circumvent this political solution. France, with its partners, will continue its action to bring about a political solution for a stable, sovereign Syria, in the service of the Syrian people.
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