Reply by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova to a media question about recent remarks by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
Question: What was the Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaction to the recent accusations made by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius live on the Canal+ TV channel that Russia had allegedly violated international law by agreeing to fulfil the will of the population of Crimea, which was clearly manifested at a referendum, to reincorporate the peninsula into Russia?
Maria Zakharova: It is strange that in France, of all countries, the more so at the foreign minister level, we hear allegations that a plebiscite is worthless and that the population has no right to decide its destiny. If so, how would Paris account for its policy towards the territories controlled by France, including the island of Mayotte in the Comoros archipelago and a group of the Scattered (Eparses) Islands in the Mozambique Channel?
As you know, in August 1972 the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation put the Comoros archipelago on the list of territories with the right to self-determination. On December 22, 1974, France held a referendum during which 90 per cent of the population of the Comoros supported independence. But on one of the islands – Mayotte – 65 per cent of local residents voted against it.
After that, the French government held a new referendum, in 1976, this time only for Mayotte, and 99.4 per cent of the island’s population confirmed its choice in favour of France. The UN General Assembly, in its resolution 31/4, passed on October 21, 1976, refused to recognise the results of the vote and condemned the French presence on the island. Moreover, the UN General Assembly resolution dated November 28, 1994 states that Mayotte belongs to the Comoros Islands.
Despite that, France, citing the results of yet another referendum on the island, which it held in May 2009, declared Mayotte its fifth overseas department and region. The results of that referendum have not been recognised by the African Union, nor by the UN, nor by the Comoros Islands, which to this day considers Mayotte its own territory.
The second case is about a long-standing territorial dispute between Madagascar and France over a group of the Scattered (Eparses) Islands in the Mozambique Channel. In 1892 and then in 1897, France proclaimed itself their owner. The decision was enforced by order of the French president in 1960, three months before Madagascar declared independence. And a law adopted in February 2007 included the aforementioned islands into the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.
In the 1970s, Madagascar petitioned the UN, demanding the islands’ return under the Malagasy jurisdiction. The UN found the claims justified (UN General Assembly resolution 34/91 dated December 12, 1979) and urged France to immediately launch negotiations with the Malagasy side on handing back the Scattered (Eparses) Islands, which had been illegally separated from Madagascar. Paris, however, continues to ignore the demands of both Antananarivo and the UN.
I think that the examples I have given are sufficient to understand that France, of all countries, should better sort out its own affairs before judging the actions of other countries.
29 October 2015