Source: France-Diplomatie – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development
1. Oman – Death of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman – Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic (Paris – January 11, 2020)
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman died yesterday.
During his reign, Sultan Qaboos was able to set his country on a path towards modernization, while respecting its traditions and values. The Omani people have lost a man of intelligence and culture, who was both deeply attached to his Omani roots and open to the world, especially to France, which he knew well.
During times of great upheaval, Sultan Qaboos was able to respond to the aspirations of his people. As a man of peace, he worked tirelessly to resolve regional conflicts and to de-escalate tensions. He never ceased to promote a vision of reconciliation and mutual tolerance.
Throughout his reign, Sultan Qaboos sought, in close partnership with French presidents and governments, to establish a strong and trusting relationship between France and the Sultanate of Oman. Our two countries were therefore able to establish a strong partnership in furtherance of a shared understanding of major regional and international issues.
President Macron extends his heartfelt condolences to the family of Sultan Qaboos and to the Omani authorities and people, and assures them of his friendship and that of the French people.
2. Sahel – G5 Sahel – Pau summit – Statement by the heads of state (Pau – January 13, 2020)
The G5 Sahel member countries’ heads of state and the French President met in Pau, France, on January 13, 2020, to discuss the situation in the G5 Sahel region.
The heads of state reaffirmed their shared determination to fight together against the terrorist groups operating in the Sahel-Sahara Strip. They paid tribute to the civilian victims of the atrocities committed by those terrorist groups and to the African, French and international soldiers killed while accomplishing their mission.
The G5 Sahel heads of state expressed the desire for France’s military involvement in the Sahel to continue and called for a strengthening of the international presence alongside them. They expressed their gratitude for the crucial support provided by the United States and the desire for it to continue.
They repeated that this joint action is aimed at protecting civilians, defending the sovereignty of the G5 Sahel states and preventing the terrorist threat from spreading into bordering countries – the goal being to restore stability, the essential precondition for development. In the face of a threat that violates international peace and security, they recalled that this action is in line with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements in force.
The heads of state agreed to step up and coordinate their efforts to bring about a swift solution to the Libya crisis, which continues to fuel instability in the Sahel. To this end, they recalled the international community’s responsibility and the urgent need for all parties to deal with the issue as a matter of priority, and expressed their support for the goals of the international conference in Berlin to restore stability and security to Libya.
The heads of state welcomed the actions already taken and emphasized the need for greater coordination in implementing the initiatives under way in the Sahel and for increased international commitment.
To this end, the heads of state agreed to hold a discussion with the partners already involved, in order to establish a new political, strategic and operational framework that will represent a new step in the fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel and in the collective shouldering of responsibility.
In light of these discussions, this new framework will take the form and name of “Coalition for the Sahel”, bringing together the G5 Sahel countries, France—through Operation Barkhane and its other forms of commitment—, the partners already involved and all countries and organizations that wish to contribute to it. This framework will be organized on the basis of four pillars combining the efforts made in the following areas:
- The fight against terrorism: the heads of state signaled their firm desire to fight together against all the armed terrorist groups active in the region, concentrating their immediate military efforts on the three-borders region under the joint command of the Barkhane force and the G5 Sahel Joint Force, and targeting ISGS as a matter of priority.
Alongside this effort, this coalition’s joint command will gradually bring in all volunteer and partner countries, whose military contributions will join Operation Barkhane, such as the future grouping of European special forces, known as Task Force Takuba, which will come under this first pillar. The Joint Force’s concept of operations will be revised so that it can act with increased room for manoeuvre beyond the area 50 km on either side of the borders.
The military coalition will be able to develop the operational capabilities of the Sahel forces throughout the G5 Sahel region, in order to reduce the threat from terrorist groups and ensure more effective border control.
- Strengthening the military capabilities of the states in the region: the heads of state welcomed the launch by France and Germany of the Partnership for Stability and Security in the Sahel (P3S) initiative and expressed the wish for military and practical training, logistical support and equipment for the G5 Sahel countries’ armies to be speeded up and broadened. This pillar will draw, among other things, on the efforts already made by the United Nations and the European Union’s training missions. It may include support for the deployment of the G5 Sahel countries’ armies with the backing of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
- Support for the return of the state and administrations on the territory: the G5 Sahel heads of state pledged to take all measures aimed at speeding up the return of administrations and public services across all the territories concerned by the issue, particularly penal and judicial systems, which are essential for the return of the rule of law.
In a spirit of shared responsibility, these commitments will be supported in the framework of the P3S, which will focus its involvement particularly on the training and deployment of staff, including at local level, in the areas of civil administration, internal security (police, gendarmerie, customs) and justice.
- Development assistance: the heads of state welcomed the initial results of the Sahel Alliance, which was launched at Germany and France’s instigation in July 2017, and called for countries and organizations which are members of the Alliance to proceed with an initiative which is even more closely coordinated with security action, called for more systematic use of joint programming and for reciprocal delegation mechanisms taking into account the priorities of the G5 Sahel member countries.
Similarly, the heads of state urge international partners to translate into action the commitments made at the Nouakchott donors’ conference in December 2018 for the implementation of the G5 Sahel’s Priority Investment Program (PIP).
The heads of state also call on the G5 Sahel states’ partners to increase their assistance and support to allow us to tackle the new humanitarian challenges of internally displaced people, refugees and the closing of schools and health centers.
A summit bringing together the G5 Sahel states and France will be held in Nouakchott in June 2020 as part of Mauritania’s presidency of the G5 Sahel. Between now and then, these commitments will be followed up at foreign and defense ministers’ level.
3. Iran – Joint statement by the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Pau – January 13, 2020)
We, the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, share fundamental common security interests, along with our European partners. One of them is upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) plays a key role in this respect, as our Leaders have just unambiguously reaffirmed. The JCPoA is a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy and the global non-proliferation architecture. We negotiated the JCPoA with the conviction that it would decisively contribute to building confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, as well as to international peace and security.
Together, we have stated unequivocally our regret and concern at the decision by the United States to withdraw from the JCPOA and to re-impose sanctions on Iran. Since May 2018, we have worked together to preserve the agreement. The E3 have fully upheld our JCPoA commitments, including sanctions-lifting as foreseen under the terms of the agreement. In addition to the lifting of all sanctions, required by our commitments under the agreement, we have worked tirelessly to support legitimate trade with Iran, including through the INSTEX special purpose vehicle.
Following Iran’s announcement in May 2019 that it would cease meeting some of its commitments under the JCPoA, we have sought to persuade Iran to change course. The E3 have worked hard to address Iran’s concerns and bring it back into compliance with its commitments under the nuclear agreement. We have also undertaken and supported diplomatic efforts, such as France’s initiative, to deescalate tensions and to bring Iran and the US to the negotiating table for a comprehensive negotiated solution. The E3 remain fully committed to this diplomatic effort and intend to resume it as soon as conditions allow.
However, in the meantime Iran has continued to break key restrictions set out in the JCPoA. Iran’s actions are inconsistent with the provisions of the nuclear agreement and have increasingly severe and non-reversible proliferation implications.
We do not accept the argument that Iran is entitled to reduce compliance with the JCPoA. Contrary to its statements, Iran has never triggered the JCPoA Dispute Resolution Mechanism and has no legal grounds to cease implementing the provisions of the agreement.
We publicly stated our concerns, along with the High Representative of the European Union, on November 11. At the Joint Commission on 6 December, we made clear to Iran that unless it reversed course, we would have no choice but to take action within the framework of the JCPoA, including through the Dispute Resolution Mechanism.
Instead of reversing course, Iran has chosen to further reduce compliance with the JCPoA and announced on January 5 that “the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the fifth step in reducing its commitments, discards the last key component of its limitations in the JCPoA, which is the ‘limit on the number of centrifuges’”, and that “the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program no longer faces any operational restrictions,” including on enrichment and enrichment-related matters.
We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran’s actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments under the JCPoAand to refer this matter to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism, as set out in paragraph 36 of the JCPoA.
We do this in good faith with the overarching objective of preserving the JCPoA and in the sincere hope of finding a way forward to resolve the impasse through constructive diplomatic dialogue, while preserving the agreement and remaining within its framework. In doing so, our three countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran. Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom once again express our commitment to the JCPoA and our determination to work with all participants to preserve it. We remain convinced that this landmark multilateral international agreement and its non-proliferation benefits enhance our shared security interests and strengthen the rules-based international order.
We are grateful to the Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China, with whom we remain in close consultation, for joining us in our common endeavor to preserve the JCPoA. We also thank the High Representative of the European Union for his ongoing good offices in this regard. Given recent events, it is all the more important that we do not add a nuclear proliferation crisis to the current escalation threatening the whole region.
4. Foreign policy – Mali – G5 Sahel – Middle East – Brexit – Interview given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the daily newspaper Sud-Ouest – excerpt (Paris – January 14, 2020)
Q. – (…) Did the postponement of this G5 Sahel summit enable us to ease the tensions we felt at the end of last year with our African partners?
THE MINISTER – Since our intervention in 2013, which enabled us to prevent Mali becoming a new terrorist haven, the threat has changed a lot. More and more harassment actions are taking place against the armies of the countries concerned and against civilians; the terrorists’ goal is now to destabilize states. Secondly, the threat is spreading to an increasingly vast territory. Finally, the terrorists are exploiting inter-community conflicts. All this is creating a new scenario; so we need a new response. That’s the aim of this Pau summit, which is going to testify to the unity among both the African and European stakeholders, enable everyone’s commitments to clear objectives to be clarified, and remobilize everyone, including on the development challenges.
France’s image seems to have deteriorated in the region, among a sector of the population…
I’m sad to see that. There’s impatience among these populations, and a strong feeling of insecurity. A great deal is expected of France, which sometimes seems like the scapegoat for this dissatisfaction. However, I welcome the mobilization by the Sahel heads of state in the fight against terrorism and their refusal to get dragged into an anti-French mentality?
Would you say the tension in the Middle East has diminished?
We’ve just experienced a very serious period. Today we’re seeing an interruption to the escalation, not a de-escalation yet. The Ukrainian plane crash tragically illustrates the need to find a way back to diplomacy.
What’s your explanation of the crash?
Iran has made some public statements [Ed.: Tehran admitted to shooting the plane down “by mistake”]. The investigation must now run its course. Iran now wants this, and France is available to provide all the necessary technical resources. Responsibility must now be clearly established.
How can de-escalation be achieved?
Firstly, negotiation must be given another chance. President Macron has always shown he’s taken the initiative. Secondly, we must recall the need to continue the fight against Daesh [so-called ISIL] with Iraq, because the risk is that we forget the main goal! The international coalition, which has mobilized nearly 70 countries and international organizations, is a coalition against Daesh, not against Iran! We must strongly reassert this obvious fact, because the terrorist group hasn’t yet been eliminated; admittedly it’s lost its territorial hold, but it still has some formidable underground networks.
So we must reaffirm the coalition’s role and do so in close agreement with Iraq, in full respect for its sovereignty. Finally, we must prevent a nuclear proliferation crisis being added to this instability.
That’s why we want to remain in the Vienna agreement, because it enables us to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Let’s imagine what the crisis would be like in the region today if Iran possessed nuclear weapons…
That’s why we don’t share the United States’ position and we condemn the way Tehran is gradually unravelling the agreement.
One of your predecessors, Bernard Kouchner, said General Soleimani “deserved to be killed 25 times over”. Do you agree?
The United States took the decision to neutralize General Soleimani alone, independently of its allies and without informing us, for its own reasons which relate to its own security analysis. It wasn’t a decision by the coalition. The general wasn’t just anyone: he was on the European list of terrorists and he was behind many actions to destabilize the region.
Libya is tearing itself apart again. What is France’s position? Does it still support the official government in Tripoli, or Marshal Haftar?
This instability and chaos are due to clashes between militias, all sorts of trafficking, the predation of resources that should benefit all Libyans, and increasing interference by foreign powers.
We can’t leave things as they are. An international conference is going to be held in Berlin. That’s a good initiative. All the Libyan and international stakeholders will be there, including the United Nations and the African Union. We all agree on certain principles: there will be no military solution, no solution exempt from international law, and no solution that involves interventions by foreign countries that use Libya as a battleground.
Brexit will take place on January 31…
Clarity at last, after three years of uncertainty! A transition phase is now going to begin to establish the type of relationship the European Union will have with the United Kingdom in the future. We must be mindful to protect the EU’s interests, because we don’t want an unfair competitor on our doorstep that practises dumping.
Secondly, we must have a strong and calm relationship, in particular in the security field, because, with or without Brexit, the UK is still in Europe and we’ll still have to defend shared interests. That’s why we’d like a comprehensive agreement and not just a trade agreement.
You travel a lot; don’t the strikes which have lasted for nearly a month and a half alter France’s image abroad?
I’m struck by the power of France’s and the French President’s image abroad. Everyone clearly sees how difficult it is to reform, especially pensions. But other countries have done it. The message France is sending today – on the climate, multilateralism, rejecting confrontation between powers – is well understood.
5. Heritage – Nice, Capital of Riviera Tourism, candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status – Joint communiqué issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture (Paris – January 13, 2020)
Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Franck Riester, Minister of Culture, announce the candidacy of “Nice, Capital of Riviera Tourism,” for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It was in Nice that a new type of urban planning emerged in the late 18th century aimed at transforming the town into a winter resort and later a summer resort. On this exceptional location, nestled between the mountains and the sea, a cosmopolitan new town was created around a pre-existing urban core; its development between 1760 and 1960 was determined by its function as a resort.
In the second half of the 19th century, Nice’s international success inspired the development of similar sites along the coast featuring a comparable topography and climate. Its urban scale and the diversity of its heritage made Nice the standard for Riviera towns.
This candidacy will be examined by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee during its July 2021 session.
“The candidacy of Nice, Capital of Riviera Tourism, highlights the development of French cultural, heritage and tourism sites. Inscribing Nice on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites will strengthen its appeal and the cultural influence and prestige of all French regions,” said Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“The case of Nice, which we decided to champion this year, is utterly original. It showcases the heritage value of an innovative type of urban development: cosmopolitan and leisure-oriented. What occurred in Nice, starting in the late 18th century, was the invention of an important part of our modernity,” said Franck Riester.
6. Brexit – Excerpts from the interview given by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1 (Paris – January 14, 2020)
Q. – (…) Let’s talk about the future and turn to Britain. British MPs have approved the Brexit agreement after three and a half years of a saga packed with quarrels and twists and turns; is that it? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
THE MINISTER – We can see that things are coming together so that the UK can leave the EU’s bodies politically, i.e. there’ll no longer be any British MEPs, there’ll no longer be any British European commissioners. That’s the political part and should happen on 31 January, since the European Parliament will itself be able to ratify it on the 29th. We’re now entering a second phase…
But this one is so sensitive! It’s the economic, financial phase.
It’s the phase of guarantees we’ve got to give to our citizens and businesses about the fact that we’re going to continue a relationship with the British, they’re on our doorstep; the British Isles aren’t going to move away!
And precisely to avoid a tax haven on our doorstep!
We want neither a tax haven nor environmental dumping.
So you’ve got guarantees?
These guarantees are the purpose of the negotiations which are going to begin. I can tell you something: we won’t sacrifice the quality of the agreement, responsibility, loyalty, balance or reciprocity to get an agreement quickly!
Boris Johnson must be trembling!
What they’re saying is…
Forgive me, but he’ll do what he wants! Once the country has left the EU, taxes, customs rights – he’ll be free to choose!
He’ll be free to choose and we’ll be free to know what we accept on our market. (…)
So another wrestling match, but important too!
But it’s a major wrestling match, because they’re partners, trade partners, partners in security and defence. But our citizens and businesses must have guarantees. (…)
Take climate issues, for example. The European Union has just said, “we want climate neutrality by 2050.” That’s going to give us a lot of standards, a lot of constraints, we’re going to do things which may be more costly, but because it’s a political choice. What does the UK want to do on the subject? How will it impose rules and standards, because our farmers, our manufacturers, our SMEs don’t want this and we understand them…
…and we’ll protect them!
You don’t want a tax haven, whereas many present Brexit as hell!
It isn’t just a tax issue, it’s an environmental issue, an industrial issue, a security issue…
…and a political one.
…and a political one. So we’ve got a negotiation and I can tell you that if Boris Johnson tells us, “this has got to be over in 11 months” and we need 15, 24 or 36… In the meantime, what’s important is for European standards to be applied on both sides of the Channel. (…)