Syria – Arab League
Is the work being carried out by the Arab League observers in Syria anything more than a sham?
I’m concerned by what’s happening in Syria and as you know, I have continuously denounced it as an absolute scandal; more than 5,000 people have died. And the international community is standing idly by, at least at the UN Security Council level, for reasons that you’re aware of. We therefore welcomed the Arab League initiative, because it was up to the Arab countries, notably those in the region – which surrounds Syria – to assume this responsibility. The conditions under which this observer mission is now taking place should be clarified; do they really have unrestricted access to information? We’re waiting for the report that they will issue in the next few days in order to have a better idea.
Hasn’t the game already been lost?
I’m skeptical, but I’m not satisfied that the game has already been lost. The Secretary-General of the Arab League expressed his determination to see the investigations through to the end. The truth must really be established and the regime must not be allowed, in the end, to brainwash the observers on the ground.
After this episode, will you reassert pressure on the Security Council?
The Security Council cannot remain silent. It’s obvious that there’s an absolutely brutal crackdown going on, that this regime no longer actually has a future, and that it’s therefore up to the international community to speak out; as you know, France has been making regular efforts for weeks now, Russia is continuing to block any action; the time will come when the regime will be completely isolated. In any case, we’re continuing to maintain regular contact with the Syrian National Council, with the opposition, in order to support them in their very courageous uprising.
Transitions in the Arab world
So, you’re travelling to Africa, to North Africa, at the end of the week. You’ll be in Tunisia on Thursday; the elections are coming to an end in Egypt. Are you concerned by the shift toward Islamism throughout North Africa?
I’ve always said that you can’t want everything and its opposite. We wanted this immense aspiration of the populations for freedom to be realized, to be reflected through elections; these elections have taken place in Morocco, Tunisia, they are under way in Egypt, under satisfactory conditions. And therefore it’s not our place to criticize the results of these elections, which reflect the choice of the people concerned. What we’re saying is that we will be careful to respect certain principles: the rule of law, respect for minorities, for all minorities, religious minorities in particular, respect for the status of women, and that’s the message that I will convey to our Tunisian friends.
Is this an Islamic episode simply because the people are able to express their views, or are we talking about a long period?
No, it’s not an Islamic episode, it’s a very far-reaching revolution which is shaking up the entire Arab world, and even beyond that, and so this revolution won’t result in a peaceful solution very quickly; I think that we have to be prepared for a long and difficult transition period.
And also, with respect to the economic aspect of this transition, the state of the Egyptian economy is now appalling and we should take action in this respect, notably within the framework of the announcements that we made in Deauville.
So, Iran, meanwhile, claims to have tested enriched uranium fuel rods. Is the development of an Iranian bomb a lot closer than we may think?
The experts are discussing this, but in any event, Iran is continuing to develop its nuclear weapon – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. The IAEA’s latest report is quite explicit on this point, and that’s why France, without closing the door to negotiations and dialogue with Iran, of course, would like to impose tougher sanctions. And President Sarkozy has made two concrete proposals: firstly, the freezing of the assets of Iran’s Central Bank, which would be a very harsh measure, and secondly, an embargo on Iranian oil exports. The U.S. Congress voted in favor of this and the president of the United States has just approved the law. And we hope that the Europeans will take equivalent action by January 30 in order to clearly demonstrate our determination.
And again, it’s at the United Nations that things will get stalled?
I don’t think so, these will be European sanctions, American sanctions; we have the ability to take action in this area.