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Remarks Following a Meeting With President François Hollande of France in St. Petersburg, Russia

September 06, 2013

President Obama. It's always a pleasure to sit down with President Hollande. France is one of our oldest and closest allies as a critical voice in global affairs. So we very much appreciate President Hollande's leadership and France's partnership in some of the challenges that our countries in the world face together.

I thanked France and President Hollande for their outstanding efforts in Mali. We congratulate the Malian people on successful 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 P-5-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 actions 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 Asad 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 Asad 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 G-20. 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 I—one last comment: We had a discussion about how the Syrian situation poses significant risks to Lebanon as well as Jordan, and we heard directly from Prime Minister Erdogan, 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, all 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 François for his outstanding leadership and partnership in managing a whole 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.

[At this point, President Hollande made remarks in French, which were translated by an interpreter, but the transcript was not provided by the Office of the Press Secretary.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:53 p.m. at the bilateral meetings pavilion of the Constantine Palace. In his remarks, he referred to President Bashar al-Asad of Syria.

Barack Obama, Remarks Following a Meeting With President François Hollande of France in St. Petersburg, Russia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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