Speach of the Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Gulf Defence Conference 2013 in Abu Dhabi (GDC)
Speach of the Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Gulf Defence Conference 2013 in Abu Dhabi:
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first thank our host, the President of INEGMA, for his warm welcome this morning. I highly appreciate it, as well as I am glad to inaugurate this new conference on the occasion of IDEX show 2013.
It is, indeed, a great pleasure for me to be in Abu Dhabi again, in orderto, next to our proceedings, go further in the strategic partnership that the Federation of the United Arab Emirates and France initiated together. In this respect, let me commend His Highness Sheikh Muhammad Bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, who has been playing a key role in the high quality of our relation. I want to reiterate here our friendship and our confidence.
History has conferred France strong links with the Arab world, that find expression today in privileged relations (security interests, major strategic interests), and also in responsibilities and duties. Over 40 years, France has become one of the major partners of the Gulf Cooperation Centre in terms of defence, and this role has steadily risen, due to the increasing regional crises, as highlighted by the reinforcement of our numerous defence agreements.
Setting up a joint military base in Abu Dhabi has therefore been an illustration of the responsibilities that France, as a global power, is intending to take on, alongside her privileged partners, in anarea that is highly sensitive to the whole world.
This is a contribution by France to the global sound footing. It is France’s calling, and it is a calling that expresses itself in the region through a strong commitment, in terms of naval presence to counter piracy within EU-led operation Atalanta, as well as through refusing terrorism unfailingly and countering nuclear proliferation.
This base, which is the latest base created by France, is a special instrument of presence and cooperation. Its activities are mainly focused on benefitting our hosts and our common vision of security. As a key-element in our global relation, its purpose is to deepen an already long-standing cooperation, reinforced by military exercises as years went by, not to mention our close operational cooperation in more recent conflicts, and also due to the fact that our armed forces are equipped with common systems.
As you understand, this military presence is here the expression of a long-lasting commitment - a commitment to our partners and friends, like the outstanding one with the Emirates. I think that history of the last years has shown that the idea of commitment is neither an empty word nor wishful thinking for France. When a friend State needs France, France always answers “present”.
I am very pleased about the model defence relation existing between our two countries, and I grab the opportunity of my being here for this IDEX Show to remind everyone that, beyond her military cooperation, France is naturally willing to deepen the numerous partnerships already existing between her and the Emirates, especially on the bases of the advanced technology tested on all recent subjects.
Three major crises are a good illustration of the threats we are confronted to in a global world, and where we have to adapt our defence and national security strategies: nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, chemical threats and potential destabilisation of whole areas. Here are the stakes and the three big crisis turning around Iran, Syria, and Mali.
Month after month, the evolution of the Iranian programme only reinforces our concerns, when the perspective of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is more than inacceptable.
There are major stakes in the Middle-East: to put an end to Iran’s violations of their own international commitments and to give guarantees to the world that their programme is exclusively pacific; to prevent them from acquiring the tools for blackmailing their close or remote neighbours in the future; to prevent a series of proliferation that would threaten the Middle-East and consequently the world’s safety.
Our responsibility is to foil this effort and to guarantee the viability of the international non-proliferation regime, for the safety of all. This responsibility justifies France’s strong commitment to foster an approach that combines both necessary firmness and opening to serious dialogue.
The increasingly strong sanctions that we have imposed are only a way to bring Iran back to serious negotiations. The Iranians know that they will only regain the international community’s trust if they tread the path to negotiating, in good faith and without preconditions.
France’s choice to enforce diplomacy goes hand in hand with our firmness on principles. Let me repeat this here: France’s commitment to foster the security and stability of this region cannot be questioned.
About Syria, nothing can be added to how tragic and appalling the tragedy is, which is occurring next to us, because of the relentlessness of a man and his clan who are trying to cling on power and exertviolent acts and slaughters repeatedly. Let me please remind a few permanent features of our action as France never stopped being committed to the Syrian issue.
Along with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, we were the first who recognized the Syrian National Coalition as sole legitimate representative of the people of Syria. Along with the countries of the Gulf, we were the first to provide humanitarian aid. Since then, we have constantly been mobilised to bring direct support to the local populations, both inside the country and also in the neighbouring countries, for example to the cities that wish so, or in the Zaatai camp, in Jordan, where we deployed a military field hospital.
The emergency of this action is threefold: a humanitarian emergency, a political emergency, a material emergency. From the start, we encouraged the political opposition to get unified; it is also necessary to provide them with the possibility to help their population: money, equipment, political assets, in order to strengthen the foundation of tomorrow’s Syria.
In the face of the enormous toll the Syrian people has already paid and is still paying, it is more than ever necessary to act and to get over our discrepancies, to foster a political transition that matches the expectations of the Syrian people, which means a transition where President Assad will no longer have a place.
In this respect, let me please commend again the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis LakhdarBrahimi. His job is very important, and we must strive for a political solution relentlessly.
In all these efforts, France will continue with her close coordination with the Gulf States, which is more necessary than ever to put an end to this crisis that threatens all of us and is an illustration of the security challenges we are faced with together.
As you know, France is fully aware of the nature of the threats we are confronted to, whether possible conventional conflicts, or the proliferation, or asymmetric actions, or terrorism. In our globalised world, terrorism has changed.
As you know, the French armed forces have deployed to Mali since last 11th of January. And it’s because terrorism feeds on the weakness of States, The President has replied to a call for helping the Malian President M. Traoré to halt an unprecedented aggression by terrorist elements.
President Hollande constantly reminded the threatening creation of a terrorist state reach of Europe and the whole world after all. Therefore, the situation had been under scrutiny for months.
The threat consisted ofa terrorist State being set up of within Europe’s reach, taken over by groups whose brutality and fanaticism are world widely well-known: who can ignore the terror exerted over Malian population, the images of amputations, of the destruction of the Timbuktu mausoleums and of the heritage of Malian Islam, which lead up to the murders in In Amenas?
However, the military operation is only an emergency tool, which cannot, on its own, solve the problems that lead to this serious international security crisis. Within the country, a reliable reconciliation process must be initiated.
In this matter, the Malian authorities will have to incorporate the various interests of all the Northern populations, with no exception. Our enemies are not the Arab or Tuareg populations of the North, who have been ruled by terrorist groups.
That is what I wanted to tell you and I would like to draw three conclusions here.
First, all of us here must have a clear and lucid vision of the surrounding threats, which endanger the foundation of our societies. The terrorism we are fighting is one of these threats. There is no possible compromise with it.
Then, we must have a political will to commit ourselves when necessary, in full compliance with international law, to defend our friends, our allies, our partners, our convictions, our word. And France will not shy away.
Lastly, we have to maintain our ability to organise military deployments far away from our borders: stand-off action, in-flight refuelling, Special Forces,… these are the key capabilities that France has devised, has built and has tested in action.
France’s commitment in the Middle-East is durable, sturdy and close. Its purpose is not to establish strictly commercial relations, but real strategic partnerships, underpinned by a common analysis of threats and of the best ways to face them, strategic partnerships on confidence and on coproduction plans, which will cement our armament and defence relations for the future.
In this environment, marked by uncertainty and complexity, where threats and strategic stakes are more important than ever, a set of sturdy partnerships, based on friendship, cooperation and confidence will help us accept tomorrow’s big challenges. This partnership, which has been binding the Arab Emirates and France, the Gulf and France for over twenty years, is indeed one of the best examples of that, and this is why I am so glad to be here with you today.
Thank you for your attention!