Liberation of Raqqa - Statement by Jean-Yves Le Drian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (20 October 2017)
The liberation of Raqqa delivers a decisive blow to Daesh which had made it the epicenter from which numerous attacks were launched. My first thoughts are with the victims of this barbarity and their families ; at the Bataclan, in the streets of Paris, Nice and elsewhere. That is why, since the start of its military involvement in the fight against Daesh on September 19, 2014, France has called for Raqqa to be identified as one of the coalition’s priorities, like the other nerve centers that have since been liberated, be it Mosul, Tal Afar or Manbij. France’s resolute commitment to the fight against Daesh - a commitment undertaken in self-defense - has therefore now resulted in another major success.
I am also thinking of all those who, in Syria like in Iraq, sacrificed their lives to defend their freedom, and also of the civilian populations who endured the numerous atrocities perpetrated by Daesh and the fierce fighting. The liberation of Raqqa, the terrorist organization’s self-proclaimed “capital” puts an end to its pseudo-state from which it projected its totalitarian ideology, which made barbarity its modus operandi, and the eradication of minorities, culture and any free thought the purpose of its activities.
I pay tribute to the courage of all forces who fought within the framework of the international coalition against Daesh. I especially commend the thousands of French soldiers who, as part of Operation Chammal, have worked with courage and determination over the last three years - on land, at sea and in the air - to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
The post-Raqqa challenges are considerable. First, continuing the fight against terrorism, which doesn’t end with the fall of the “caliphate.” France remains actively committed to liberating the last Iraqi and Syrian areas still under Daesh control, as part of the international coalition and in cooperation with its partners. We will continue to fight terrorist groups with the utmost determination wherever they may be, including on our own soil.
Then there is the challenge of stabilizing liberated territories. France will contribute humanitarian aid and stabilization assistance in order to meet the most immediate needs of the people and facilitate the safe, permanent return of displaced civilians. To that end, I have decided to release an additional €15 million in credits by the end of the year for food aid, mine clearance, aid to displaced persons, water and healthcare. France also wants the governance of these territories to correspond as closely as possible to the needs and aspirations of the populations and to foster reconciliation.
Finally, the greatest challenge is finding a political solution that brings Syrians together and unifies the country. This is the only possible way to bring long-term stability to Syria, achieve a lasting peace, and prevent the return of terrorism. I will continue to work on these issues with my interlocutors from countries that are part of the solution in Syria. As we come closer to a total victory over Daesh, it is our responsibility to find the path that will lead to the end of fighting and a form of government that is acceptable to all elements of Syrian society.