Q: France drafted this particular resolution but it seems that the US got its way on the resolution because they wanted to have a two-phased mission in Mali, there is more training of the Malian troops and African troops, that’s not what France wanted.
There was a legitimate debate between the US and France because we both had the same objective. The Americans wanted to be sure that when there is a military offensive, if there is ever a military offensive, everything would be right. But there was a total agreement on the objective.
We are going to follow a two-track policy. The priority is not the military track but the political track: the reconciliation between the authorities in Bamako and the armed groups in the North which dissociate themselves from terrorist groups. It will take several months. During this period we will rebuild the Malian army with the support of the African force. At some point, when the political process is right, the Malian army will go north to go back to its barracks there. Maybe at some moments, the Malian army will have to fight the terrorists, which means Al-Qaeda.
Q: How soon might this military intervention take place considering the training has to come first?
The training will take several months. I am not a military expert but I am told it is very difficult to fight in the summer in this part of the world. So I think we have ahead of us between six months and one year to train the Malian forces, to create this African force, which is good because it gives us space for negotiations. I want to insist on our goal which is to have a political process between the people in the north and Bamako.
Q: What about the humanitarian situation, I know that the humanitarian agencies are very worried, saying that 700,000 people could be displaced from the North once the military action takes place. Are there any plans in place to help ordinary people in Mali?
We are extremely worried that the military operation could lead to violations of the Human Rights or to the worsening of the humanitarian situation. We are aware of the risk. But the situation of the civilian population in the North right now is awful: the terrorists groups and the radicals are stoning and cutting hands. The Human Rights situation is terrible. The humanitarian organisations have difficulties to access. The situation is bad. We don’t want the military operation to worsen the situation. If you look at the resolution, we have clearly stated that the UN have a specific responsibility first to monitor the Human Rights situation, to monitor the behaviour of the Malian forces, of the African force to be sure that they respect Human Rights. The UN will also have to take all the measures to avoid the humanitarian problems you were referring to.
Q: The resolution calls for the international community to provide troops and assistance which might be necessary for the Malian army. It’s quite vague. What sort of assistance are we talking about? For example, could we see French troops going into Mali?
No, the President of the French Republic has been very clear. There won’t be any French boots on the ground. The Malian army collapsed one year ago because there were political problems in Bamako. So first we have to rebuild the Malian army, which means equipping and training the Malian army. We have the same problem with the African force because they have to get used to fighting in a very difficult environment. So it will be rebuilding and training the Malian army. We are not going to rebuild all the Malian army. We will try to have a contingent which will be able to reoccupy the North of the country. It will take some time.
Q: You are talking about helping and training the Malian army, which itself was responsible for a coup in the capital; that makes it all very complex doesn’t it?
The situation is very complicated. The problem is that we cannot simply accept to have a terrorist hub in the Northern part of Mali. To speak frankly, we have to work with what we have. We have a legitimate Government; we have a President; we have a Prime Minister recognized by the international community. We are working with these people. Our ultimate goal is to have, as soon as possible, when it is technically possible, general elections in Mali to restore full constitutional order.