1. Qatar – Visit by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian (December 9-10, 2020) – Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris – December 10, 2020)
Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, went to Qatar on 9 and 10 December. He was received in an audience by His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, and met his counterpart, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed al-Thani.
The visit allowed the Minister to thank the Qatari authorities for their support in the context of the health crisis, which, among other things, enabled French nationals stranded in Asia to return to France.
Against the background of the campaign of hatred and slander which has targeted France these past few weeks, the Minister continued the explanatory work he has begun in the region and underlined France’s determination to continue, with its partners, a battle which exclusively targets extremism and terrorism.
Mr. Le Drian discussed regional crises, in particular Libya. He recalled the need to end foreign interference in Libya and lend support to the implementation of the ceasefire and to the United Nations’ efforts to bring about a credible transition to a general election.
The Minister expressed France’s support for the efforts being made to achieve a lasting resolution to the crisis under way between Qatar and several Middle Eastern countries, which is essential for regional stability.
Finally, the Minister signaled his desire to step up bilateral coordination between France and Qatar in every field, particularly with a view to preparations and security for the 2022 football World Cup, organized by Qatar.
2. Human Rights – UN – Human Rights Day – statement issued by the Spokesperson for the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris – December 10, 2020)
On this anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, France pays tribute to all those who fight for human rights on a daily basis, often risking their freedom and their lives to do so. Today, 15 especially brave activists will be awarded the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
In January 2021, France will rejoin the UN Human Rights Council. In keeping with its commitments, France will champion three priorities: promoting the rights of women and girls, including the rights to sexual and reproductive health; protecting human rights defenders; and protecting the freedom of information and freedom of the press.
Working with civil society, France will continue to strive for the universal abolition of the death penalty, the fight against all forms of discrimination, and the fight against impunity for the perpetrators of atrocities. It will once again work with Argentina on making the Convention on Enforced Disappearances universal.
Along with its EU partners, with whom it shares a deep commitment, France applauds the EU Foreign Affairs Council’s adoption, on December 7, of a new mechanism making it possible to sanction the perpetrators of human rights violations worldwide. France actively contributed to this effort.
3. European Union – COVID-19 – Brexit – Interview given by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to RMC/BFM TV (excerpts) (Paris, 08/12/2020)
The British are now starting to vaccinate, it’s under way there today; and we’re still waiting for the European Union’s green light. First of all, the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, then we’ll need the go-ahead from the European Commission and then the go-ahead from the French National Authority for Health. Does Europe ultimately act as a brake?
THE MINISTER – No, I want to reiterate a few truths, really. First of all, we’ll see how things go in the United Kingdom. And secondly, let me remind you that you don’t base a strategy on a single vaccine. The Prime Minister and the Health Minister presented it last week: in order to gradually vaccinate as many people as possible and the entire population – at any rate, a large sector – there will doubtless be six vaccines, six laboratories producing those vaccines. So it’s not just a sprint, it’s a marathon, and it’s spread out over several months. So we mustn’t judge things on the basis of a single day, if I can put it that way, rather as if…
Yes, but ultimately, sorry: during that time, they’re still starting today. And we’ve been told so often that the vaccine is the solution, so why are we waiting, whereas they’re ready and getting under way?
Well, first of all this has absolutely no connection with any European brake or with Brexit, as may have been said via the official channels in London.
It has nothing to do with it?
It’s not because they’re outside the European Union that they can begin straight away? Then why aren’t we doing that?
No, I’m going to tell you why: because there’s a legal framework which is the same until December 31, they’re still legally bound by European rules until 31 December, the same legal framework in France, in the UK, in Germany etc. We’ve made a choice in France and in all the other European Union countries – except the UK, that is – to follow a European procedure. Why? Because it enables us to have certain access to all the vaccines, and that’s very important. And it enables us to have a procedure that is swift – I’ll come back to that – but also perfectly safe. We’re taking a few more days…
Does that mean that it’s a bit less safe for the British?
They’ve chosen – we could have done so – a so-called accelerated procedure, an emergency procedure that doesn’t provide exactly the same safeguards. I’m not health minister, but we know it’s a shorter procedure which therefore has a few downsides, because it doesn’t have exactly the same safeguards. And there’s been a debate in the UK. So I think they wanted to show they were capable of moving quickly on a vaccine, and they’re starting this week. We’ll see if it’s ready, we’ll see if people have confidence…
You seem slightly doubtful, all the same…
I am slightly doubtful. I was watching your reports this morning, too; a number of people have been slightly taken by surprise and don’t know if it’s properly organized, they don’t necessarily have confidence yet. And we know in our societies, in our countries, in France in particular, you have to create confidence in the vaccine. So I believe combining effectiveness and speed, on the one hand, and absolute safety on the other, is important, and that’s the decision we’ve made. And to be clear to the people listening to us, the European Union will give, the European [Medicines] Agency will give its opinion on the very first vaccines in a few days’ time. So we’re really looking at a gap of a few days…
Before Christmas? They’ve pledged to provide the response before 29 December. Could it be even earlier?
Maybe a bit earlier, but in any case there’s this deadline of 29 December for an initial vaccine, which is also the one being started in the UK. So you see we’re looking at gaps of a few days, and when you put all the vaccines end to end, the organizing we must do, the confidence we must create, I think we were right to take the extra time.
I understand you: you’re saying the European Union guarantees us more safety and we do things better. But ultimately it’s true that on the British side it’s almost propaganda, it’s tangible, the idea of being able to say: today we’re the first, we’re going ahead, we’re vaccinating. They’re also batting for their own team, in other words they’re saying: well look, Brexit has also enabled us to be the first. On the Brexit front, we can nevertheless say, overall, it’s a disaster, at any rate from the point of view of the European Union, which doesn’t believe there will be an agreement – you’ll confirm that to us this morning. But in any case, on London’s side they were saying yesterday evening: there’s every chance of the post-Brexit negotiations failing.
Yes, even though they themselves – well, there again, as you’ve said, I don’t know if propaganda is the right word, but there are tactics, there’s PR, a bit about the vaccine undoubtedly and probably also about messages surrounding the negotiations. The truth of the matter is that negotiations are still under way. (…)
In practical terms it’s complicated, and we ourselves don’t want to give in to any kind of pressure the British might exert on us, because there are at least two very concrete priorities for the French, for the Europeans and for our businesses: fisheries – there are more than 6,000 direct and indirect jobs in a few French regions, particularly Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany. That’s major, it keeps those regions alive; there’s no reason why we should surrender it all because it’s important for the British and then say to them: listen, never mind, you block our access to your waters and we’ll do things differently. That’s not acceptable. So making efforts, yes, compromises, yes, everyone knows that; we’ve been honest about it to French fishermen. But sacrificing our fishing and our fishermen? It’s a no. And the British know that.
So there’s fishing and there’s…
There’s fishing and there’s what are rather clumsily called fair competition conditions. In practice, this means we want – if the British have access to our market, which is what they’re demanding: to continue to be able to export to us, and we to them…
Then it’s a win-win, after all…
It’s a win-win, true, but when you export to a market like that of the Europeans, which is eight times bigger than the British market, you have to comply with some rules. I can’t tell French consumers; “we haven’t checked that the British comply with our health rules, our environmental rules, [for] chemical products, pesticides and other things”. We can’t do that, otherwise it’s unfair, and it doesn’t reassure consumers either…
But aren’t you fed up with last-chance meetings?
Yes, I admit we are fed up, but we’re not going to say we’re slamming the door because we’re tired, especially because it’s Michel Barnier who is negotiating for us…
But if you yourself… Because you’ve said, particularly about the fishermen: if I feel French fishermen are truly under threat, I won’t hesitate to use my veto. But what use is your veto to them, I mean the British? What will it change?
Well, it’ll change – to be specific, I was asked whether we’ll look at the agreement when it’s on the table: obviously, and we’ll analyze whether or not it properly defends our interests, particularly the fishermen’s. If we think the agreement is less good than not having any agreement, then we won’t hesitate to do that – like all the countries, incidentally, which will make that assessment.
So anyway, when they – the British – say the negotiations overall are going to fail, are you saying: no, they’re not yet completely done for?
No, I’m not going to formally acknowledge failure. I think we still have time for negotiations, a few days, and then we have to say clearly – because it’s also important for businesses, for our fishermen – “yes or no, deal or no deal”. (…)
4. United Nations – The situation in Darfur (Sudan) – ICC referral pursuant to resolution 1593 – Joint stakeout by Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Mexico and Norway (New York – December 10, 2020)
I would like to make the following statement today on behalf of the ten Members of the Security Council that are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Tunisia and the United Kingdom) as well as three incoming Members of the Security Council that are also States Parties to the Rome Statute (Ireland, Mexico and Norway):
We, States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), would like to use the opportunity of today’s briefing of the ICC Prosecutor to the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Darfur to welcome the official visit in October by a delegation of the ICC Prosecutor to Khartoum. The engagement of the Sudanese officials with the ICC Prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, for the first time in Sudan to discuss the Court’s investigations into the most serious crimes of international concern is an important step in ensuring justice is delivered for the people of Darfur and we commend the Government of Sudan for delivering this progress.
In addition, we welcome the Government of Sudan, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front and the Sudanese Liberation Army – Minni Minawi commitments to full and unlimited cooperation with the ICC in accordance with Security Council resolution 1593, and as set out in the Juba Peace Agreement signed on October 3, 2020. We wish to encourage the Sudanese authorities to build on this important development and continue their commendable efforts in support of justice for victims with further steps to implement such cooperation. In that regard, continuing to facilitate safe and secure access, swiftly, to Sudanese territory by ICC staff is particularly important to conduct the Court’s investigations, especially in connection with the case of Mr. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman following his surrender to The Hague in June this year
We would also like to use the opportunity of today’s briefing to reconfirm our unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution.
Following the statements of the President of the Assembly of States Parties, issued on June 11 and September 2, 2020, we reiterate our commitment to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity and independence undeterred by any measures or threats against the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it. We note that sanctions are a tool to be used against those responsible for the most serious crimes, not against those seeking justice. Any attempt to undermine the independence of the Court should not be tolerated.
The ICC embodies our collective commitment to fight impunity for the most serious crimes under international law. By giving our full support to the Court and promoting its universal membership, we defend the progress we have made together towards an international rules-based order, of which international justice is an indispensable pillar.
5. United Nations – Youth, peace and security – Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations – Security Council meeting in Arria Formula (New York – December 9, 2020)
I would first like to thank South Africa for organizing this meeting and all the speakers that are participating to this session as well. I would like to seize this opportunity to pay tribute to all young activists and human rights defenders around the world.
As we celebrate the 5th anniversary of the adoption of landmark resolution 2250, we must take stock of the progress made and of the long road ahead of us. We must remain mobilized to guarantee a central place for youth and to fully grasp their immense potential for establishing and maintaining international peace and security, and building just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
In this regard, the unanimous adoption of resolution 2535 last July on youth, peace and security, facilitated by the Dominican Republic and France, was an important step. It highlighted the Security Council’s strong support to the effective and meaningful participation of youth in peace and security.
France calls for the collective, integrated and coordinated implementation of resolution 2535, along with previous resolutions on Youth, Peace and Security. That is the utmost responsibility of the members of the Security Council, but also of the United Nations as a whole.
I would like to underline today the importance of respecting the fundamental rights of youth to enable them to fully express their potential. In this regards, Resolution 2535 marked a significant step forward by strengthening the human rights protection framework as well as the protection of the civic and political space. Young people continue to be stigmatized and seen as troublemakers or ground for violent extremism in certain contexts. These stereotypes are too often used as pretexts to ignore their demands and to violate their rights.
France will continue to call for the respect of freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly everywhere and for everyone, in particular by supporting young human rights defenders.
I can also assure you that France will continue to be engaged in ensuring that young people, including young women, are associated in our work at the United Nations. Young people today have shown us that they are ready to be part of the discussion on major global issues – we see it every day in their mobilization against climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. We must now fully support their involvement in the discussions and decisions making processes.
France also commends the work of the Office of the African Union Youth Envoy, in particular the organization of the fellowship on silencing the gun last month to equip young women with a comprehensive training on peace and security.
Finally, France will also put youth at the heart of the Equality Generation Forum organized jointly with Mexico and UN Women, which will take place in 2021. We believe youth participation will be fundamental. This will allow them to participate meaningfully in the discussions: their voices will be heard.
You can count on France’s support and determination.
I thank you very much Mr. President.
6. United Nations – Central Africa/UNOCA – Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations to the Security Council (New York – December 9, 2020)
[translation from French]
I thank Special Representative, Mr. François Louncény Fall, for his remarks. Your action, Mr. Special Representative, fully demonstrates the added value of a regional approach to understanding the dynamics of Central Africa and to strengthen the preventive approach of the United Nations in the region.
I would like to briefly address three points:
First of all, on progress in terms of regional cooperation.
I welcome the implementation of the institutional reform of the Economic Community of Central African States, which came into force last August. The establishment of the new Commission reflects the deepened cooperation within the region. It complements the numerous recent cooperation initiatives in Central Africa in the area of security or cross-border cooperation. This dynamic must be sustained in favor of peace and development.
Secondly, the fragilities of the region to which we must pay attention.
Several political, security, humanitarian and human rights challenges remain. I think in particular of the persistence of terrorist actions carried out by Boko Haram in Cameroon and Chad, which continue to claim many military and civilian victims. Despite some improvements, we must also remain vigilant against the activities of armed groups in the DRC and CAR, and maintain our commitment against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
On the humanitarian aspects, needs remain high and food insecurity is worsening. It is essential that international humanitarian law and human rights are fully respected. The indispensable fight against the COVID-19 pandemic does not justify their violation. We condemn attacks against humanitarian and medical staff. These acts must not go unpunished. The support of international partners is key to help the countries of Central Africa overcome the humanitarian and health crisis. France has pledged 1.2 billion euros to support Africa in the fight against COVID-19. It has launched an initiative within the framework of the G20 and the Paris Club for a moratorium on debt servicing for countries affected by the pandemic. In Central Africa, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Angola, the DRC and Cameroon are benefiting from this measure.
Third, and finally, the importance of inclusive electoral processes.
With elections approaching in several countries in the region, first in the Central African Republic where elections will be held before the end of the month, but also in Chad and the Republic of Congo, it is essential that these elections take place in the best possible conditions and in a context that allows all stakeholders to take part. The full participation of women as voters and candidates is indispensable, as is that of youth, displaced persons and refugees.
United Nations regional offices such as UNOCA are essential to strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations action, particularly in conflict prevention. This is why France will continue to support them in a spirit of strengthened partnership with African regional and subregional organizations.
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