President meets Syrian delegation to discuss Aleppo situation
Syria – Situation in Aleppo – Press briefing given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, with Mr Raed Saleh, Head of the White Helmets, and a Syrian delegation from Aleppo (excerpts)
Paris, 19 October 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wanted to have a meeting here at the Elysée with the head of the Syrian White Helmets, who, every day with his organization, fights not to destroy but save lives. And who, with at least 3,000 volunteers, manages – despite the merciless barbarism against Aleppo in particular – to find people alive in the rubble.
The White Helmets organization has also been able to supply some of the population with water and make it possible to live.
I also wanted to welcome Aleppo’s democratically elected local committee chairman, who, too, is working to ensure, with the services he can mobilize, that life goes on in Aleppo, once again by providing water, medical care and schools which can give people the means to survive.
I again want to alert – even beyond France and Europe – the international community. What’s happening in Aleppo – but also more broadly in Syria – because of continual bombing by the regime and its supporters is unacceptable, inadmissible, intolerable.
Since the start of the revolution and war, 300,000 people have been killed. There are also millions of displaced people and refugees. We know these figures, they’re repeated. But bombing is still going on as we speak.
So a truce has been declared, that’s true. It has been going on for just over 24 hours now. I’ll do my utmost this evening, with Chancellor Merkel – since I’ll be in Berlin for a meeting, which is on Ukraine admittedly, but will also towards the end of the evening or night be devoted to Syria –, I’ll do my utmost to ensure this truce can be extended and can help get humanitarian aid delivered, i.e. assist the White Helmets, the population, those representing it, so there can still be a city that continues to function.
There’s no question of the people of Aleppo being made to leave. There’s no question of putting them on a path leading to exile or camps. There quite simply needs to be the truce, humanitarian workers need access to the city and then there needs to be a process of negotiation and political transition.
What it comes down to in the end is the international community’s honour or shame. You know what France’s position has been since 2012 and particularly since 2013, when there were many crucial developments. Today, we’re not just talking about what could have been done. We have to shoulder our own responsibility: what must we do?
France, and Europe – because I’ll also have to speak to the European Council – will not only provide an account of what the White Helmets and Aleppo’s local committee chairman tell us, it will also exert every bit of pressure it can, particularly on the regime’s supporters – I’m thinking of the Russians – so that the truce can be extended, humanitarian aid can be delivered and a there can be a political solution.
The foreign ministers of the countries most involved will be having a meeting with Jean-Marc Ayrault this week, and next week there will be a meeting of the defence ministers.
But today’s meeting is to talk about what is most essential, i.e. humanity: what remains of humanity in Aleppo? Humanity in Aleppo, if I may say, is represented here in France by you.
They’re going to continue discussions with the Foreign Minister. (…)
I’m not forgetting, either, what the terrorists are doing, what crimes they’ve committed in Syria and what they’re doing in France too. But in Aleppo, there are people who want to live. They aren’t terrorists, they’re Syrians who want peace and democracy and quite simply freedom.