President hails progress against Daesh, during Iraq visit

Iraq – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mr Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq

Baghdad, 2 January 2017

THE PRESIDENT – Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to be here in Baghdad at the beginning of this year to express, first of all, my solidarity with the Iraqi people in the battle they’re fighting against terrorism. And also to welcome the progress that has been made in this war against Daesh [so-called ISIL].

I was actually here more than two and a half years ago, in September 2014, and you, Prime Minister, had just taken office.

The situation was especially serious and dangerous, because Daesh was in a position of strength, had captured towns and cities, particularly Mosul, and was at the gates of Baghdad.

Along with your government and the Iraqi forces, and with the support of the Peshmerga, you managed to recapture towns and cities and restore hope. And today, although there are still terrorist attacks – you’ve said there’s been an attack here in Baghdad as we’ve been speaking –, Daesh is in retreat, and Daesh will be beaten.

We’re seeing it in Mosul, where the battle under way is enabling us to recapture the city district by district. I wanted to tell the Prime Minister that we welcome this success, that we admire the fighters’ bravery and that we’re by their side.

France, in the framework of the coalition, is backing, advising, supporting and intervening. Intervening with its air force and intervening, too, with an artillery battery that is enabling Iraqi forces to penetrate Mosul.

But we’re doing it with one precaution, with one requirement, namely to protect civilians. You yourself are personally very committed to this. That’s the contract we’ve reached, because we want to liberate Mosul and eradicate terrorism, but at the same time respect human rights and ensure that civilians fully adhere to the goal we’re pursuing. And that’s the case.

This battle will be lengthy, as I said; it will be victorious, I repeat; and it will then have to be continued not only at political level, to enable unity and reconciliation, but it must [also] be continued to the end in Iraq to ensure that no part of the territory can be occupied by Daesh, but also in Syria. The next goal is Raqqa, because if Daesh is eradicated from Iraq but remains in Syria, we’re well aware that actions will still be carried out here in the Middle East but also on our own soil in Europe, in France. So we must see the operation through to the end, and France is taking part in the international coalition in both Iraq and Syria.

Hence the need also to work for Syria, for a political solution which itself enables us to combat Daesh and terrorism.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I came to express to the Prime Minister: our total solidarity, our actual, effective support, our participation in this action against Daesh and our confidence in victory, because we’re going to win the war against terrorism. Thank you.

Q. – (…)

THE PRESIDENT – It’s the Iraqis who are going to win the battle against Daesh. It’s the Iraqis who are fighting Daesh on the ground. France, in the framework of the international coalition, is lending air support – I’ve said this, too – by means of the advice and training we can give, but it’s the Iraqis, it’s the Iraqi authorities who are the fighting forces on the ground.

Ultimately that’s what we ourselves decided together: that it should be the Iraqis on the ground and the international coalition lending the necessary support.

That’s why I think there must be legitimate pride and great confidence in the Iraqi authorities’ ability to succeed in this fight against Daesh.

It’s true that our destinies are also bound together. What’s going to happen in Iraq and Syria is also the future in Europe, so for the sake of our security we must play an active role, and we’re doing so in this form.

I’m also answering your question in relation to Syria: we, France, would like there to be a political transition in Syria and a government that brings together all the components, and this will subsequently make it possible to fight terrorism much more effectively. But between now and then we’re also taking our responsibilities in Syria, and our planes are striking, and only yesterday they struck Daesh in Palmyra, because the only adversary for us is Daesh.

Q. – You said this morning that you hoped for a victory against terrorism here in Iraq this year; what can we expect in Mosul, in your opinion? In what timeframe? Is it a matter of weeks, months? And also, what role does France want to play in reconstruction, and in which field exactly? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT – I think the battle being fought in Mosul, first of all, is being won. Only today we’ve had confirmation that a district has been recaptured, following others. So how long will the total recapture of Mosul take? Weeks! But we’re no longer saying years; I’m saying weeks. And the sooner the better.

When we’re in the position where the Iraqi forces are winning the offensive, we must further step up the effort. This is what we’re doing in the framework of the coalition.

Secondly, as regards the reconstruction, the Prime Minister and I talked about this. First of all, we want to expand intelligence cooperation because even after Mosul has been recaptured, there will be information to be exchanged about groups which still won’t have been entirely eradicated, about individuals and about the risk of things starting up again, so we absolutely must have very high-level intelligence cooperation between Iraq and France, but again, in the framework of the coalition.

We must have cooperation on logistical, humanitarian and economic reconstruction. Again, we mustn’t waste time – i.e. the post-Mosul period, or more precisely the post-victory period in Mosul, must be very quickly followed by reconciliation, political unity and then the implementation of a massive plan for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Mosul. And France will play its full part in this.

Q. – Is it possible to talk about an international conference for the reconstruction of Iraq and for organizing and channelling aid to Iraq after the liberation? Many areas have been liberated and we’ve almost reached the end of Mosul’s liberation; can such a conference be talked about?

THE PRESIDENT – In October 2016 there was a meeting in Paris on France’s initiative to lend full political and humanitarian support for the stabilization of Mosul, as soon as Mosul has been liberated.

What we’ve been able to do to prepare for the recapture of Mosul we must also do, on France’s initiative, for the reconstruction of Mosul. So we’re totally ready, when the victory has taken place and the political process has been established, with our partners to carry this initiative through and ensure that a conference can attract all the funding necessary for the reconstruction.

Q. – Among the jihadists under siege in Mosul are many foreign jihadists, including a few dozen French. What must be done with them?

THE PRESIDENT – There are French jihadists in Mosul. There are also some in Raqqa, and we’re fighting them as we are all the other jihadists, whatever their nationality, because they’re attacking us, they’re planning attacks on our soil and they’re waging war against us.

If these foreign fighters – who happen to be French – are captured by the Iraqi authorities, the matter will be dealt with by the Iraqi authorities and they will be brought before the Iraqi courts. If they try to return to France – some with their families – we’ll be compelled at that point to arrest, apprehend, try and sentence them under the French judicial system, since they would have returned to France.

As for children – I’ve already talked about this – there are very young children, some have been press-ganged, conscripted in an appalling way, and we had confirmation of this only today: children are being used in Mosul. So again, if these children return to France they will absolutely have to be dealt with, supported, supervised and deradicalized, and we’ve already prepared for their return and they will – as you can imagine – have to be given this very special treatment.

That’s our responsibility. We’re waging a war against terrorism, there are French people who, sadly, are siding with the terrorists, and we’ve got to ensure that they can’t do any harm and, when they’re arrested, that they’re sentenced by the Iraqi or – if they return – French courts./.

Iraq – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, in his joint declaration with Mr Fuad Massum, President of Iraq (excerpts)

Baghdad, 2 January 2017

Mr President, I want to thank you here for your welcome and recall, as you’ve done, that two years ago, just over two years ago, I was in Baghdad and the situation had got especially bad. Daesh [so-called ISIL] had taken up positions, particularly in Mosul and several towns and cities in northern Iraq, and there was a major danger for Iraq, the region and the international community.

So France shouldered its responsibilities, at political level – at the conference we organized in the autumn of 2014, and you were there, Mr President – and at military level, through the commitment of our forces, in two ways. The first is lending support through advice and training to Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga, but also ensuring that, through our planes and therefore our pilots, our artillery batteries and therefore our soldiers, we can support the Iraqi forces, and the results are there. Several towns and cities in Iraq have now been recaptured, Daesh is in retreat and the battle for Mosul is under way.

So I’ve come here to Baghdad, and I’ll be in Arbil shortly, to confirm France’s commitment to stand by the Iraqi forces to ensure victory and enable Iraq’s territorial integrity to be guaranteed.

But I’ve also come to send a message about reconstruction and reconciliation, because France intends to be a stakeholder in the phase that will begin after the military victory, and particularly to ensure that the confidence which has been created between our two countries can be harnessed to encourage this movement of reconciliation among the population, in Mosul, with an administration that will have to take every community into account, and also to ensure we can work to rebuild Iraq, particularly at economic level.

It’s true we’ve got a common enemy: terrorism, Daesh, fundamentalism, and we must hunt down this enemy wherever it is – in a country, in Iraq, in Syria – but also fully understand the links existing between this terrorist group and a number of individuals it manipulates, who organize attacks in many countries.

We’ll also have to deal with the issue of the return of foreign fighters: those who [have] come from quite a few countries, particularly European countries including France, to wage a battle, who have engaged in acts of violence, who have brought their families, sometimes very young children. We must ensure those individuals can be neutralized, apprehended if they come back, and then that we can embark on deradicalization, particularly for the children. We talked about it because it’s a job we must do jointly, and there too we must share our experiences.

Finally, the last reason for my visit – in addition to what we can do in terms of military support, humanitarian support and political solutions – is to properly coordinate our intelligence services too, because we need them; we’re doing this in the coalition framework and we’re doing it in a spirit of great responsibility with the Iraqi authorities.

I want to finish, Mr President, by telling you that your role has been outstanding in this period; you’ve managed to bring people together, you’ve managed, with the Abadi government, to ensure Iraqis can regain confidence, but I can tell you that you have a long-term ally in France, that we’re bound together by the battles being fought, by our soldiers working together, and that the friendship between France and Iraq is also the reason why I’m here this morning, in this new year. I wanted the second day of the year to be dedicated to the action we’re taking here in Iraq, with our service personnel but also with you, the Iraqi authorities, because we can’t act without your full acquiescence, your full consent and full respect for what you represent. (…)

These soldiers have been here for several months; some are on their second stay here in Iraq; they’ve spent the festive season here in your country, and particularly Christmas, which is symbolic for many people, because I never forget that yours is a country where there are many faiths, including Middle Eastern Christians, and it was also very important for me to be able to recall, here, the battle we’re engaged in to protect religious minorities, including Middle Eastern Christians and Yazidis./.

Iraq – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mr Masoud Barzani, President of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq

Arbil, 2 January 2017

Mr President,

I wanted to be here, as this New Year 2017 gets under way, to wish you all the best in the undertaking you have made to fight terrorism. As you recalled, I was here back in September 2014, a time when Daesh [so-called ISIL] was at the gates of Arbil. You called on France to show solidarity, which it did. It decided, in the framework of the international coalition, to lend you full support, which explains the presence of French military detachments here and also with the Iraqi forces not far from Mosul. But it wouldn’t have been possible to repel Daesh without the courage and sacrifice of the Peshmerga.

A few hours ago we went to the front line. All the territory we passed through is territory you liberated, and in the distance we could see villages and towns that the Peshmerga also liberated by driving out Daesh. For the religious minorities which may have feared for their own future in the region, it was very important that you allowed villages to live their lives again.

Earlier you gave me a present depicting a Peshmerga saving the world. Ultimately this responsibility is incumbent on you, but on the whole international community as well. There comes a time when you have to get involved; you did, and if we want to eradicate terrorism, everyone will have to take the right decisions.

You also presented me with a photo showing Peshmerga re-erecting a cross in a village which was liberated with humanitarian organizations, and it’s also a fine symbol reminding us that the Middle East is rich thanks to all its diversity, all its minorities – I’m thinking of the Christians, Yazidis and Shabak – and it’s also on behalf of these minorities that you led the fighting against Daesh.

You have also taken in many displaced people and I wanted, again, to provide immediate assistance. We’re going to provide this to humanitarian organizations present here and make sure these displaced people can not only be supported but also get back to their towns and villages.

So what remains for us to do? Liberate Mosul, make sure Daesh can be combated here in Iraq and also in Syria, so that this terrorist organization disappears; we’ll need time. What we also have to do is prepare a political solution for the period after the liberation of Mosul and ensure that the city and region can live together and have an administration which makes it possible for people to have a common destiny.

That’s why I’m here: to express gratitude for what you – the Peshmerga – are doing at the moment, what we’ve got to do in support of the Iraqi forces to liberate Mosul, and tell you that we’ll go on expressing to you our solidarity in concrete terms, through this military cooperation, through this humanitarian cooperation and through this political cooperation. That’s why I wanted, as this New Year gets under way, to be here with you, in the spirit which has always united France and the Kurdish people.

Thank you, Mr President./.

Published on 26/01/2017

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