The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Remarks by President Obama and President Hollande of France after Bilateral Meeting
G20 Summit Site
St. Petersburg, Russia
4:53 P.M. MSK
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (in progress) -- I thank France and President Hollande for their outstanding efforts in Mali. We congratulate the Malian people for their special presidential elections. And our countries will continue to work with the international community, including the United Nations, to help Mali to strengthen its democratic institutions and pursue reconciliation.
We had the opportunity to discuss how we and our P5-plus-1 partners remain prepared to engage diplomatically with Iran to resolve the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program. We recognize there have been new elections in Iran. We hope that they take the opportunity to demonstrate in action and not just in words that they, in fact, are committed to not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
With regard to Syria, obviously a topic that President Hollande and I have had extensive discussions about, both our countries have concluded the same thing, that chemical weapons were used in Syria, that they were used by the Assad regime against civilians, that the chemical weapons ban is a critical international norm, and that it needs to be enforced.
I value very much President Hollande’s commitment to a strong international response for these grievous acts. Any action that we contemplate and partners like France might contemplate would be limited, proportionate, and appropriate and would be focused on deterring the use of chemical weapons in the future and degrading the Assad regime’s capacity to use chemical weapons.
We recognize that there is an underlying civil war that cannot be solved by military means alone, and so we continue to be committed to engaging in the Geneva II process to bring about a transition that could actually bring stability, prosperity, peace, and legitimacy to the situation in Syria.
We discussed our extensive engagement with our European and global counterparts, including here at the G20. And it’s clear that there are many countries in the world that agree with us that international norms must be upheld, and we're going to continue to consult closely with each other and with other leaders in the days to come.
So -- one last comment. We had discussion about how the Syrian situation poses significant risks to Lebanon as well as Jordan, and we heard directly from Prime Minister Erdogan of the impact that it’s having on Turkey. So even as we are looking at specific actions to enforce the international norm against using chemical weapons, we very much welcome and are participating with other countries in the humanitarian effort to ensure that we do not see a destabilizing situation that gets worse for neighboring countries in the region, as well as to provide just basic relief -- food care, health care, other -- the basics for the Syrian population, millions of whom have been displaced by this terrible civil war.
So, again, I want to thank very much Francois for his outstanding leadership and partnership in managing a full range of very difficult situations around the world, but ones that ultimately, when like-minded countries get together, potentially can have a positive impact on.
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: (Translation simultaneously and inaudible.)
4:59 P.M. MSK