Remarks With French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
October 7, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Hey. Good – I mean, good morning. (Laughter.)

My great pleasure to welcome Jean-Marc Ayrault to Washington, and I’m really very happy to have our French counterpart here with us. France, of course, the oldest alliance and relationship with the United States, and a great friend and partner in everything that we undertake, ranging from Iran nuclear agreements to Africa and unrest and terrorism, to the Middle East, to Israel-Palestine, Syria – there really isn’t an issue of importance in the world today where we are not engaged and working together.

I very much appreciate France’s partnership with respect to Syria and its shared, profound, deep concern about what is happening in Syria today. Last night, the regime attacked yet another hospital, and 20 people were killed and 100 people were wounded. And Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities and children and women. These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes. And those who commit these would and should be held accountable for these actions. They’re beyond the accidental now – way beyond. Years beyond the accidental. This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives.

So we look forward today to a very frank conversation about what potential next steps are, and we intend to jointly figure out how best to be able to deliver the strongest message possible about the actions that might be taken to deal with this bombing of Aleppo, this siege in the 21st century, this entire siege of innocent people.

We also need to keep the pressure up on Russia with respect to the implementation of the Minsk agreement. And we – I think it is important for us to make it clear publicly that if we cannot implement Minsk in the next months or arrive at a clear plan as to exactly how it is going to be implemented – which we are working on – then it will be absolutely necessary to roll over the sanctions, which is not our desire, but becomes the only thing left to do if we’re not able to move forward.

I also want to thank France for its leadership on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I encourage France to work very closely with the EU 28 member-states to reach a political agreement as fast as possible. We’re all concerned about the violence, we’re concerned about the constitution and adherence to it, and it is important to be able to proceed.

And finally, let me just extend my very best wishes on behalf of our country to one President Juan Manuel Santos for winning the Nobel Prize for his courageous efforts to try to bring peace to Colombia. And we obviously all hope, having been there during the process and invested in it, that this can still work out and get over the hurdles that remain. And I will be talking later today with former President Uribe in efforts to try to find out how we can help encourage that.

So a warm welcome to my friend Jean-Marc. Thank you for being with us. Merci.

FOREIGN MINISTER AYRAULT: Thank you very much, John. I’m very happy to see you again and to have this meeting with you, with a colleague, but a friend too. We are the two countries, the best old allies – so important in many so difficult situation, yet like you, you explain in your speech. And my first issue is the situation in Syria. I was yesterday in Moscow. I met Sergey Lavrov to speak with him to find a solution.

You mentioned, John, President Santos. It’s a very good example of another method, as we’re to find a solution – is the negotiation to find the solution to peace – for peace. And in the case of Syria, we have now a tragedy – human tragedy. It’s not inacceptable for human conscience when you have to do anything to find a solution through a new possibility of negotiation. And we prepared a draft for the Security Council. We spoke together about this project when we – we continue the discussion now with this meeting, John. It’s very important.

(Via interpreter) And tomorrow will be a moment of truth – a moment of truth for all the members of the Security Council – do you, yes or no, want a ceasefire in Aleppo? And the question is in particular for our Russian partners, like I said to Sergey Lavrov yesterday.

Today’s (inaudible) we’re tabling – of course, it is open for discussion, but there are two strong pillars. The first one is the ceasefire and a no-fly zone over Aleppo. And the second pillar is access for humanitarian aid. We’re not giving up, just like Staffan de Mistura, the special representative of the United Nations. We’re not giving up and we cannot accept that Aleppo will be totally destroyed by Christmas. This is the reason why I traveled to Moscow, this is the reason why I came to Washington, D.C. to see you, and I’m looking forward to continuing this discussion with you because I know, John, that we do share the same goals and the same values.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. Minister, can you draft a resolution acceptable to the Russians in order to save the people of Aleppo?

FOREIGN MINISTER AYRAULT: This is our goal, the first only one.