F.Hollande meets with B.Obama at the White House
President Hollande of France and President Obama hold joint press conference at the White House
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: (As interpreted.) Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me, first and foremost, to thank the President of the United States, Barack Obama, for the solidarity he has shown immediately as we found out about the terror attacks. He was the first one to call me. It was very late in France, 2:00 a.m., when Barack called — the President of the United States.
I would like to express his solidarity towards France, his emotion, his compassion against the horror. And on that night, he meant to tell me that the United States stood by France, that the help that could be provided to France would have no limits, and that we had a duty, a joint duty, to pull our forces together and fight terrorism.
I do not forget, either, all of the messages that the American people sent to the French people over the past few days — the French colors, the French flags all around in many gatherings; these candles in places that represent France here in the United States; La Marseillaise, our National Anthem, sung in official ceremonies. It is true that in 9/11, we all felt Americans. But after the 13th of November, Americans felt French. Our two peoples, together, merged as one, sharing the same emotion and also the same willingness to fight for freedom, to stand for our values.
We are not two similar peoples. We each have our own history. We have our own culture, our own background. But we share the same trust, the same faith in freedom. It is France that came under attack on the 13th of November. France, for what it is — a country which we consider unique in the world because France speaks to the world — France came under attack for what it represents, for what it stands for, for its culture, our way of living, as well as our values, our principles.
But by targeting France, the terrorists, the cowardly murderers, we’re targeting the world in these restaurants, in these cafés, as well as the Bataclan, that concert venue. They were men and women, most of them young, who came from 20 countries, at least. And they shared the same passion for life. And that’s the reason why they were murdered.
My thoughts are with the friends and family of a young American student, Nohemi Gonzalez, who came as well to share a moment of culture and joy. My thoughts also go to this American band that was playing at the Bataclan. Our cultures on that occasion were together to bring the same enthusiasm, and they were hit by terrorists.
We are facing a terror group which organizes itself on territory. They have some substantial resources. They’re thriving on smuggling of oil, drug, human beings. And since the beginning of the year, they hit many countries — Denmark, Tunisia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, as well as Russia, by taking down a Russian plane.
So, together with President Obama, today we wanted on the occasion of that meeting, first of all, to share our determination — relentless determination — to fight terrorism everywhere and anywhere. We also meant to tell the world that we will not allow those who want to destroy what we’ve built, we will not allow them to do it — to destroy what we’ve built, generation after generation. They will not be able to damage the world. And against Daesh, we need a joint response, an implacable joint response.
France and the United States stand together to bring that joint response. Militarily, it is about destroying Daesh no matter where they are. It is about taking out their financing, hunting down their leaders, dismantling their networks, and taking back the land they currently control. We, therefore, decided, President Obama and myself, to scale up our strikes both in Syria and in Iraq, to broaden our scope, to strengthen our intelligence-sharing regarding the targets we must aim at.
The priority is to take back key locations in the hands of Daesh in Syria. It is also a matter of urgency to close the border between Turkey and Syria, and prevent terrorists from crossing the border and coming to Europe or other places and undertake such terrible attacks. We also took the decision to work together with our partners of the coalition in Iraq, and to support all of those who are fighting Daesh on the ground.
The aim is to make sure that these forces can be supported, helped by all countries that are willing to act militarily to destroy Daesh. The resolution of the Security Council that was voted unanimously Friday, after being introduced by France and supported by the United States, this resolution provides us with the clear basis to act. This is what France is currently doing. Our aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is currently in the east of Mediterranean, and allows us to enjoy more capability. Yesterday, for the sixth time after the terror attacks in Paris, we struck Raqqa. In addition, we’ve been providing some assistance to Iraqi fighters in the region of Ramadi and in Mosul, within the framework of the coalition.
Now, diplomatically, both President Obama and myself have strengthened our cooperation as early as the night after the attacks. And I would like to commend everything that is being done so that intelligence and information available can be used to tackle terrorists and to follow their movements, so that we prevent them from doing what they want to. Because beyond Syria and Iraq, what they want is somehow to spread fear everywhere so that we doubt, so that we make decisions which are exactly contrary to what we want in terms of freedom and rights. But we will not give in. That being said, we have to defend ourselves and use intelligence.
Diplomatically, we’re working on a credible political transition in Syria within the framework of the Vienna process. And I commend the work done by ministers Fabius and Kerry to agree a timeline that will enable a ceasefire, of course, as quickly as possible, and to open up to a process that will lead to Bashar al-Assad’s departure. Because we cannot imagine the Syrians getting together, gathering around the leader who is responsible for some — the most of 300,000 dead in a few years. So a government of unity is required, but that must lead to Assad’s departure.
The Syrian crisis is directly relevant to Europe, first of all, given the terrorist threat, but also because there are millions of refugees fleeing the regime’s bombs and Daesh atrocities. If we were to abandon them, we would betray what we are. This is the reason why I reject identifying migration and terrorism.
At the same time, we must control the borders. Today, people are risking their lives to flee when they travel at sea between Turkey and Greece. Turkey, therefore, plays an important role, and it is together with Turkey that we must find solutions so that the refugees can stay close to their country of origin. And we need to make sure that the required controls, the checks are implemented at the border.
On Thursday, I will be traveling to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin. And I will tell him that France can work together with Russia if Russia concentrates its military action on Daesh, against ISIL, and if Russia fully commits to the political solution in Syria. This is what we want to do — we want to gather all countries, all those who are willing to find and to implement a political solution in Syria. We do not want to exclude anyone, but we want to make sure that this political solution can eradicate terrorism.
Lastly, next week — that is, on Monday — we will be hosting, in Paris, the climate conference. I certainly could not imagine that this conference would be taking place against such a background. At the same time, I think there cannot be any better symbol or response but to hold the conference in Paris where the attacks took place, where we took the right measures in terms of security protections as well as in defending our values. There is no greater symbol than holding this conference on climate in Paris with some 150 heads of state and government.
Never before did France host so many leaders of the international community. They’re coming to sort out the climate challenge, and again, to work and to find the right agreement so that we can limit greenhouse gases emissions and make sure that our children and our grandchildren live better, or simply can live. But they are also coming to express their support to freedom, to the fight against extremism, that radical Islam which is becoming dangerous.
Yes, all of them are coming no matter their background, no matter their religion, their convictions, to express the same principle, the same values with the same word — life. Yes, simply life.
And this is the reason why I am very pleased that President Obama will allow us to succeed. I commend his recent statements over the past few weeks and months, but I also commend the commitments he’s made in the name of the United States, as well as in the name of the world. It was very important that one of the most powerful countries in the world, if not the most powerful, and therefore with the highest level of emissions, could also be there to face the future like we’ve been facing history.
What we will be doing early next week in Paris means that we can continue to live, as well as protect our lives and that of all children. France and the United States, given their history and the values — the founding values of both our nations, given our spirits, we both have that duty to act as a matter of — urgently against terrorism and against Daesh, and at the same time, to prepare for the future.
Against that background, even though it is a very dire one, I’m pleased to be with Barack Obama to send across that message to the entire world.
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: (As interpreted.) The event that took place is a serious one, and we can only regret it. Turkey is currently providing all of the information to NATO so that we can find out what truly happened and whether Turkey’s airspace indeed was entered into. But we must prevent an escalation; that would be extremely damageable. The only purpose is to fight against terrorism and Daesh. This is what we must do, all of us — we, Turkey, Russia.
And what just took place, like Barack said, means that we must find a solution to the Syrian crisis, because we can see what the risks are otherwise — the risks of escalation. I, therefore, will be traveling to Russia this week because we have this resolution of the Security Council and it does show that we must take action against Daesh, against terrorism. That resolution has been voted unanimously. In a way, that was the broadest possible coalition.
Then, I will ask President Putin, as I’ve done before and what I told the Russians a number of times already, that the strikes must be against Daesh, against terrorism, and those who precisely are threatening us. They are threatening the Russians, like ourselves in Europe, like France that was targeted over the past few days. We must, therefore, coordinate ourselves, cooperate, but on that basis, and make sure that we’re all acting against Daesh. And that will be part of the political process, one that must lead to the solution. And we all know what the parameters of the solution are or are not. We know that there’s a deadlock today.
Lastly, I mentioned the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, which is in the east of the Mediterranean now. As a matter of fact, there are also some Russian forces. And I, therefore, agreed with President Putin that we must share our intelligence so that we can act in coordination. We must not contradict ourselves. And it’s already the case, and we’ll continue to do so.
Q (As interpreted.) Mr. President, the Americans have some Special Forces in Syria. Beyond the words and beyond what is happening, are you going to send some Special Forces as well to Syria? Are you considering some ground intervention there?
Mr. President, beyond the emotion that we can feel here, beyond these beautiful statements, for more than a year we heard all of you saying that Assad must go, that a political transition is necessary in Syria. Mr. President, can you today, here, in front of us, tell us a specific date, a deadline for Assad to go?
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: (As interpreted.) I will not provide you with a date because it must be as soon as possible. That is one of the requirements for a solution to be found. But at the same time, allow me to underline something. There is a new mindset now. The crisis in Syria has been ongoing for four years — four years. There are probably more than 300,000 dead. And this is not just relevant to the countries of the region, which are hosting the refugees. It is relevant to Europe and the entire world now with that issue of refugees. And those who believe that we could wait some more, and that, in any case, it was far away, they now realize that we have an influx of refugees, that the terrorists — the risk is everywhere due to Daesh. We, therefore, must act.
You also asked me what we were going to do, what more. We will intensify the strikes. We will have some more specific target to make sure that Daesh resources, their means are cut off, including their command centers, the trucks carrying oil, their training centers where they prepare terror attacks. We will continue and we will intensify our strikes at the heart of the cities which are currently in the hands of Daesh.
France will not intervene militarily on the ground. It is for the local forces to do so. We’ve been supporting them for a number of months. We will continue to do so. And they will do the job on the ground after our strikes that will enable them to do so. But France will take its responsibilities regarding that support, which is absolutely necessary.
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: (As interpreted.) Allow me to go back to what Daesh truly is. It is somehow an organization, a terrorist group occupying a territory in Iraq and Syria, killing. And they want to install rules that dishonor humanity. This is what Daesh is doing there. And this is what they are trying to do in other countries, everywhere (inaudible) stands.
And then we have to deal with the number of networks more or less organized in a number of countries that are being used to lead terror attacks, like was the case precisely in Paris. We know that this dreadful plan was prepared in Syria, and then organized in a number of countries. And there are also some accomplices in France, given that some of the terrorists are French, those who committed these acts of war.
So if we want to tackle terrorism, we must act not only to destroy Daesh where they are — in Syria, in Iraq — but we must also dismantle and destroy these networks. How can we proceed? Well, first of all, militarily, by intensifying our strikes, by taking back these territories, thanks to the local forces on the ground, which we can support by finding a political solution in Syria, by making sure that the territorial integrity of Iraq is restored. This is what we can do.
Then, when it comes to protection measures to protect our territory and our people, this is what I announced in France and this is what we have to do to eradicate these networks and all of these accomplices and those who are present. Some of them just arrived; others have been there for a long time, and they are not necessarily identified as a threat. It is, therefore, necessary that we strengthen yet further our cooperation in terms of intelligence.
The Paris attacks generated a lot of emotion. But that’s not enough — compassion, solidarity. And I take note of it, but we must act. And for a number of days now, I’ve been trying to convince — convincing all the countries that can act to do so.
I met with David Cameron yesterday. He announced that he would take a number of measures to his parliament. That is important. Today I’m here with Barack so that we can act with greater intensity and coherence, as well. Tomorrow I will be hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel so that European countries, including Germany, can face up to their responsibilities, including in terms of military intelligence and police cooperation, and maybe more. I will also travel to Moscow, so that Russia acts — can take action against Daesh, and only against Daesh. And then I will receive Matteo Renzi, the head of the Italian government. I will also have an opportunity to talk to all of the European leaders, given that a European Council, together with Turkey, will be held on Sunday.
So it is all of that that must get together and enable us to implement coordination, cooperation in our actions so that we can act on the source, Daesh, and networks that it can use. It is that strength that will enable us to succeed.
Q (As interpreted.) A question from BFMTV. Both of you today have talked about coordination, cooperation against Daesh. Does it mean that this single coalition — which you mentioned last week, President Hollande — is gone? That it is inconceivable to have the Russians and the Americans to work together under this single command?
And then Bashar al-Assad, you said you could not put a date on his departure. Does it mean that his departure is not a preamble or prerequisite for the future of Syria?
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: (As interpreted.) Regarding the coalition of the international community, I believe that the resolution approved by all at the Security Council enabled us to say that now the entire world is committed to fighting against Daesh. Then — and this is what I will check when I travel to Moscow — we need one single goal: that is to tackle terrorism and fight against Daesh militarily. And I believe that we can have some further cooperation and coordination militarily to do more.
At the same time, we have to be clear when it comes to the political solution, the one that will enable us to find an outcome for Syria. And in this respect, like we’ve said, and we can repeat it, Bashar al-Assad cannot be the future of Syria.
In Vienna, we are already working with all of the countries — even though they do not necessarily, they do not have the same stance — Turkey, Iran, Gulf countries, the United States, France, and of course all of those who are meant to find a solution. But we must work on that transition, a transition where Bashar al-Assad plays no role. Because he’s been the problem, so he cannot be the solution.