Terrorist attack in London/The Fight against terrorism – Press briefing by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (6 June 2017)


Ladies and gentlemen,

Together with Marielle de Sarnez, Minister for European Affairs, I wanted to come here to London to signal that France stands alongside the United Kingdom, hit by terrorism for the third time in less than three months, following the Westminster and Manchester attacks.

Seven dead, 48 injured, 21 in a serious condition: at this time we’d like to express our solidarity with all the families of the victims of this attack, and also say this concerns us all, as Europeans. We want to express our deep compassion for the victims and their families.

As regards the French casualties, as I speak we’re aware of one French fatality, two people missing and eight injured, four of them in a serious condition and four with minor injuries, two of whom were able to leave hospital today.

I should add that our diplomatic and consular staff were mobilized from the first minutes after the attack. They worked to list the casualties, locate them and provide them with the necessary medical and psychological assistance. All the injured French people reported to the Consulate have received a visit from consular staff. Their families have arrived and are with them. I’d like to express thanks for the excellent action and dedication of diplomatic and consular staff in London.

I’m going to meet Boris Johnson a bit later this evening to discuss increasing resources for our anti-terrorist cooperation. We must take joint measures commensurate with the threat we’re facing. One of the urgent things is to combat propaganda and radicalization on the Internet, a real sanctuary where potential terrorists stir up and influence one another and prepare to carry out attacks. In this regard, I’ll tell Boris Johnson about the initiatives we intend to take in France, in line with the French President’s commitments, regarding such abuses and the abusive use of secure messaging.

Likewise, strengthening our national counter-terrorism apparatus must also benefit our cooperation. The President has called for the creation of a task force, a national counter-terrorism centre incorporated into national intelligence coordination and placed directly under him, which will have to be capable of reacting very swiftly. This task force – whose principles have already been stated and which will be the focus of a statement by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday – will enable us to have more in-depth dialogue with its counterpart in the United Kingdom, which already exists.

Moreover, we must continue to chase Daesh [so-called ISIL] and al-Qaeda terrorists from their hideouts in Syria and Iraq and prevent them extending their hold over other areas in the Middle East, Libya and the Sahel. That’s a battle we’re engaged in, particularly alongside our British partners, and France is determined to fight this battle to the end.

Ladies and gentlemen, what’s at stake is democracy. What’s at state is freedom. What’s at stake is our way of life. What’s at stake is our values, and in solidarity with our partners we’ll fight a very determined battle against those who want to kill this way of life, this freedom and this democracy. I’m convinced that all Europeans – especially the British and French, who have been the victims of recent attacks – have the same goal as me. They [the terrorists] won’t win, and we’ll mobilize very resolutely to that end. Thank you for listening.

Q. – What can you do to strengthen this cooperation, and will it be in danger when the UK leaves the EU?

THE MINISTER – First of all, security cooperation with Britain is long-standing and very strong. It’s taken concrete form in the Lancaster House treaties, and this military cooperation has been stepped up over the past few years. I had the opportunity to come here several times as Defence Minister to express it, while implementing the Lancaster House treaties in practice. And our cooperation on the ground is concrete. We’re together in the coalition against Daesh; we’re intervening together in Iraq and Syria; together we’re assisting the Multinational Joint Task Force fighting Boko Haram in Chad and Nigeria; we have the assistance of the British for other operations, including in the Sahel; and the relationship between our intelligence services is absolutely exemplary too. There’s no reason why this should change, because the security agreements are bilateral agreements, and you’ve heard the British and French authorities saying many times that Brexit won’t affect those agreements, which will continue.

I’m going to repeat this shortly with my colleague Boris Johnson: what we must do is, as far as possible, further strengthen counter-terrorist capabilities, particularly in fighting radicalization, and carry out preventive actions, which is also one of the goals set by the coalition, which met in Copenhagen not long ago and decided to make yet another additional effort on preventive methods and resources for countering propaganda, spread on the Internet in particular.

Q. – (difficult to hear): You talked about two French people missing; have you got their names? Were you able to talk to the family?

THE MINISTER – We’re in touch with the family, and for reasons of discretion – both at the families’ request and also for reasons to do with the investigation – all I can say is that two French people are missing.

Q. – As regards the four casualties in a serious condition, who are still in hospital, what are they being treated for?

THE MINISTER – I’m making no further comment on that; I never have done and won’t start today.

Q. – What were you able to say to the people you met earlier?

THE MINISTER – Mme de Sarnez and I talked about these tragic events, we expressed our empathy and compassion to each of the families present. While some people were extremely emotional recounting what happened, others were more upset by those missing or dead.

Q. – You talked about initiatives you want to present to Boris Johnson. Can you give us a little bit of detail about these initiatives?

THE MINISTER – They’re highly confidential initiatives to combat the misuse of the Internet. As you’ll understand, it’s better for this to remain restricted to the services tasked with tracking people down.

Q. – [inaudible]

THE MINISTER – No, I’ll be reviewing the situation with Boris Johnson later. I spoke to him on the telephone yesterday evening. It so happened I was in Tunisia yesterday evening and this morning, also, as a matter of fact, to take action with the Tunisian authorities to combat terrorism from Libya, so we’re engaged in a battle which has to be waged not just in our own countries, but in coordination with countries in the surrounding area and further afield, since terrorism has recently struck as far away as the Philippines. It’s a global battle, of which we’ve been victims here in Britain and previously in France and Germany in a particularly bloody way. There must be international awareness.