DCSIMG

Secretary Kerry and French Foreign Minister Fabius on Syria

Quai d’Orsay, Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Paris, France



FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: (Via interpreter) — Kerry. I would like to commend both your energy and your ability to convince as well as your very reliable judgment or point of view. Together with the Secretary of State we discussed a number of topics, including, of course, Israel and Palestine and as well Syria, of course.

Let me start with a few comments. What we’ve been seeing very clearly over the past few days, notwithstanding a number of side comments of briefings, the first one is that the Damascus chemical massacre is proven and bears a signature. It is Mr. Bashar al-Assad who is the only one to hold the arm that was used for the massacre and to be in a position to use it, and he did use it. And we have to keep back to this because these are the facts.

In addition, and it is also what explains the fact that when people are comparing to the situation in Iraq, it has nothing to do. You remember that France did not participate in the intervention in Iraq. But at the time, the weapons of mass destruction did not exist, therefore, it was a mistake to go theEre; whereas, here, weapons of mass destruction exist and the fault, the mistake would be not to sanction.

Second, this massacre requires a strong reaction in order to sanction and in order to deter for an obvious reason which everybody will understand. Mr. Bashar al-Assad – as was said by the Secretary General of the United Nations, said this is a crime against humanity and we have to deter him from doing it again.

Then there is a third element which is obvious, even though it may require some thinking. The sanction is not in contradiction with a political solution. It is a prerequisite. Mr. Bashar al-Assad will not join any negotiation as long as he believes he is invincible.

From that, people were saying that France and the United States would be isolated. It is pretty much the opposite, and let me get back to what happened over the past 48 or 72 hours. Now, seven out of the eight G-8 countries share our views as to the necessity of a strong reaction. Twelve of the 20 G-20 countries, including Germany now, share in this reaction. And this morning, the 28 countries of the European Union supported the number of key elements: first, the 21st of August massacre is an abominable crime, it is a crime against humanity, it is a crime of war. All the evidence show that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for it. In order to sanction it and in order to deter it from doing it again, we need, I quote, “a clear and strong answer from the international community.”

And these messages are also those of the Arab League, or as shown this morning once again, those of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council. Therefore, there is a clear and growing support to a strong and clear reaction.

Together with John Kerry, we are in sync about the nature of this response. It must be short, targeted, and by nature prevent Bashar al-Assad from committing a new similar massacre. It is the prerequisite to the political settlement which we are actively looking for. It must also comply with the most efficient timing, and this is the reason why President Hollande said yesterday that we would be waiting for (inaudible) investigation team.

We agree (inaudible) that the crisis – the solution to the crisis in Syria will be political, but it would be an illusion to believe that we could find a political solution without a determined response to this abominable crime.

Let me conclude by saying – and this is obvious – that France and the United States stand together. Some people may wonder why, and you only need to go back to history. Each time the cause is just and we stand together, France and the United States.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Laurent. I will say a few words in French in order to share some of our thinking with the people of France directly, and then I will say a few words in English to do likewise for my fellow Americans.

(Via interpreter) I’ll start by saying that I fully agree with all that Laurent said. It is a pleasure to be back in Paris for a meeting with my friend, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and I look forward to meeting tomorrow with members of the Middle East Peace Follow-on Committee of the Arab League. We are grateful for France’s hospitality. Thank you very much.

When President Kennedy came to Paris to meet with Charles de Gaulle a little over 50 yearsH, Kennedy said the relationship between France and the United States is essential for the preservation of freedom around the globe. He also acknowledged something that we know very well at home, that our alliance with France has more than withstood the test of time, from the very days of our country’s existence through two world wars to the great partnership that exists today between President Obama and I and President Hollande and the Foreign Minister of France, Mr. Fabius. France and the United States have stood together to defend the values that we share, and at this moment in the wake of the brutal chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the relationship President Kennedy spoke about is as essential as ever.

The French understand perfectly the importance of the situation because some of the earliest deadly chemical weapons attacks took place here on French soil during World War I, and many of the earliest victims of these lethal and indiscriminate weapons were young French soldiers no older than 19 or 20 years.

Shortly after that war ended, the community of nations came together to draw a global redline to ensure that these heinous weapons would no longer be acceptable on the battlefield or anywhere else, and forever. And with a few abhorrent exceptions, that line has been upheld. But we know with absolute certainty that Bashar al-Assad, as the minister just said, has crossed that line, that redline. And on August 21st it was not soldiers fighting in trenches who were targeted. It was hundreds of young children and their parents, Assad’s own people. It was innocent families who suffered the (inaudible) horror, eventual death these weapons cause.

There is no question that that happened and that the Assad regime is responsible for that. And plus, they have the capability to attack again, and the risk of inaction is far worse than the risk of action. Today, Assad is watching to see whether his actions will be met with impunity. And he is looking – he is joined by his friends in Iran, in North Korea, by Hezbollah and others who want to see if the United States, France, and the rest of the world will stay silent when our warnings are ignored.

It is not hyperbole to say that the safety of the entire world depends on whether our collective conscience and our commitment to international norms that have been in place for nearly a century compels us to react. We are not talking about going to war. This is not Iraq. It’s not Afghanistan. It’s not even Libya or Kosovo. We have been very clear the United States believes the only way for the Syrian conflict to truly end is through a political, not military, solution. What we are talking about here is a limited military action, one that is aimed squarely at degrading Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons and deterring him from using them again. What we are talking about is standing together and speaking with one voice in opposition to a quite clear violation of a redline that the world has defended for nearly 100 years.

This is really our Munich moment. This is our chance to join together and to pursue accountability over appeasement. The United States, as our French partners know, cannot be silent spectators to this slaughter. This is not the time to allow a dictator unfettered use of some of the most heinous weapons on Earth. This is a time to pursue a targeted (inaudible), as the minister has said, a clear and effective response that holds dictators like Bashar al-Assad responsible for the atrocities they commit.

I know I also speak for President Obama when I say that we are exceedingly grateful to have France by our side in the effort to uphold the global redline on chemical weapons and protect our shared sense of decency for the generations that follow.

(In English) Let me reiterate that we are not talking about going to war. This is not Iraq. It is not Afghanistan. It is not even Libya or Kosovo. We have been very clear the United States believes the only way for the Syrian conflict to truly end is through a political and not a military solution. What we are talking about here is a limited military action, one that is aimed squarely at degrading Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons and deterring him from using them again. What we are talking about is standing together and speaking with one voice in opposition to a clear violation of a redline the world has defended for nearly 100 years.

So this is our Munich moment. This is our chance to join together and pursue accountability over appeasement. We in the United States know and our French partners know that this is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter. This is not the time to send a message where doing nothing is far more risky than responding. This is not the time to allow a dictator unfettered use of some of the most heinous weapons on Earth. This is a time to pursue a targeted and limited but clear and effective response that holds dictators like Bashar al-Assad responsible for the atrocities that they commit.

And I know I speak for President Obama when I say that we are exceedingly grateful to have France by our side in the effort to uphold the global redline on chemical weapons and to protect our shared sense of decency for generations that follow…

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