Fight against terrorism – Ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS – Statements to the press by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Washington, 14 November 2019)



We actually had five priorities and five decision requests to put to our Coalition colleagues, which I’ll briefly mention.

The first priority, the first decision we were expecting was for all the Coalition players to avoid taking unilateral initiatives without consulting the other members, initiatives which, moreover, could undermine our efforts. This commitment is made in the ministers’ declaration, which we agreed, and which you should now have since we published it a short while ago.

The second decision, the second proposal for action, was to reaffirm that we’ll continue our commitment in the Coalition framework and devote the necessary resources to it in north-east Syria and Iraq. You saw that the United States decided to maintain a military presence in north-east Syria to continue the fight against Daesh [so-called ISIL] and continue supporting our local partners; this is good news and France will go on shouldering all its responsibilities and participating as before in the [Global] Coalition to Defeat ISIS. I think this is an important point of the morning, and was reaffirmed very resolutely by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The third priority concerns Daesh’s foreign fighters, an important issue. These fighters – those who aren’t operating underground – are being held today either in Iraq or in north-east Syria, and when I talk about Daesh fighters I mean Daesh fighters as a whole, because it’s too often forgotten that most of those being held come from Iraq and Syria. The foreign fighters issue is part of this problem, but foreign fighters, especially French fighters, are very much in the minority compared to the mass of Iraqi and Syrian fighters. What we’ve decided is that we must at all costs guarantee the safe, long-term detention of fighters to make sure they can’t disperse and go off to fight again, and also guarantee [the fight against] impunity for the crimes they’ve committed and for us to go on saying that they must be tried as near as possible to where they committed their crimes, because let’s never forget that these women and men who joined Daesh made a conscious decision to fight for a terrorist organization.

The fourth priority we proposed was to continue financing and supporting the humanitarian effort and the stabilization effort, both in Syria – as much as possible – and Iraq. The regime’s return to a part of north-east Syria limits what we can do beyond providing humanitarian assistance to people, even though humanitarian assistance can be distributed everywhere and this is what we’re doing, because we don’t want the areas held by the regime to become stabilized and rebuilt; we believe those initiatives must be taken solely once the political process, which has finally opened in Geneva following the first meeting of the Constitutional Committee, has come to a satisfactory close.

This is also what we think regarding support for any forced resettlements which may occur, which won’t benefit from our support for stabilization.

Finally, our fifth priority is to reaffirm our commitment to continue supporting the Iraqi authorities in the battle they’re waging against Daesh. The Iraqi government has taken up huge challenges in recent years. The Coalition must remain at its side in the very tough situation we’re familiar with in that country.

I note in the final, approved communiqué that all these points were retained and I’m delighted about this. (…)

So this is an important meeting for clarification and remobilizing against terrorism, and I think a new stage in the Coalition’s action has begun this morning following the meeting, which we called for, and which, I believe, has enabled the necessary clarification we were asking for. That’s what I wanted to say to you by way of an introduction.