Wikileaks – Iran– Lebanon – Afghanistan – NATO – Multipolar world – French foreign policy
Q. – What’s your reaction to the Wikileaks affair? Is France protected from a leak of diplomatic telegrams?
THE MINISTER – I find these revelations totally irresponsible and condemn them unreservedly, because I believe international relations depend on the ability to say certain things – things which may evolve, moreover – as well as on a relationship of trust.
Revealing diplomatic documents is a breach of States’ sovereignty, and that can weaken international relations. It can also endanger the lives of individuals - in particular, in certain countries, people who’ve talked about their leaders. I was alerted by American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I expressed to her our total solidarity on this point. We shall also have to examine the consequences of it together.
Q. – Consequences for France?
THE MINISTER – For France, they’re not considerable. A few publications on the Internet won’t be enough to change our long-standing and close ties with the United States. Besides, I’ve asked for checks to be carried out on all the places where documents might have been filed, to ensure that we’ve taken as many precautions as possible. According to the indications gathered to date, we’re well protected.
Q. – What are you expecting from the meeting between Iran and the great powers scheduled for 6 and 7 December in Geneva, which is to focus on the nuclear programme?
THE MINISTER – The new sanctions have, it seems, shaken the government in Tehran. We’re going to put all the problems on the table. It’ll be an opportunity to make Iran understand that we won’t give in and that the sanctions won’t be lifted on the basis of mere words.
Q. – The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is preparing to present its bills of indictment. You recently held a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Is the priority the functioning of the tribunal or, as Saudi Arabia seems to think, the stability of Lebanon?
THE MINISTER – Threats are made by some in Lebanon, in particular Hezbollah. We must remember one thing: the tribunal was created by the international community. Nobody can stop it. It’s independent and must function. That is France’s position. We also think Lebanon’s unity must be preserved and her institutions strengthened. The tribunal’s work and the fact of being able to say individuals are responsible – and not a whole community – must enable that unity to be strengthened on solid foundations.
Q. – In Afghanistan, is France locked into withdrawal? By 2014?
THE MINISTER – France is locked into the transfer of responsibilities to the Afghan government. Our goal isn’t to be there permanently but to allow Afghanistan to have institutions and a government capable of functioning throughout the territory. That’s the reason why we contribute to training the Afghan security forces. We must be very cautious when we talk about dates. We’re not in the business of giving indications to those who want to fight the Afghan government.
NATO ANTI-MISSILE SHIELD
Q. – NATO has adopted a plan for an anti-missile shield to protect Europe, in particular from the Iranian ballistic threat. Isn’t France putting herself under too strong an American umbrella by agreeing to this plan?
THE MINISTER – NATO always issues rulings on a unanimous basis. To talk of American domination is wrong, since there are ways of opposing it when you have the political will.
Q. – That’s coming from a Gaullist.
THE MINISTER – Absolutely. At the time of the Iraq war, I had discussions with Donald Rumsfeld – then American secretary of defence – because there was a wish to engage NATO in this operation.
Remember, whether it’s then or now, it’s the same rule of unanimity that applies. I can also tell you there’s a better sharing of responsibilities today than there was previously. In particular, when France rejoined NATO’s integrated command, we obtained, on behalf of Europe, one of the major commands, which had previously been refused.
Q. – On taking office, you declared: “We believe in a multipolar world.” In that world, is there a “Western family”?
THE MINISTER – I think there are poles, including a Western pole. But I’d say a European pole rather than a Western pole. Because there’s also a North American pole. The big challenge of the coming decades is the emergence of great demographic blocs – economic and cultural. Each one represents around a billion inhabitants: China, India, Africa, the North America group and the South American one, centred around Brazil.
All these poles have their specific characteristics and the problem is what their relationships will be. It’s in this framework that questions must be asked about the size of Europe and possibly on the place of Russia. Europe today has 450 million inhabitants. If we want to be able to pull more weight, how do we go about it? We have two options: one is in the East and the other is in the South. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.
Q. – On the strategic challenges, are the American pole and European pole different?
THE MINISTER – The United States defends its interests, which is entirely natural. So do we. That must not make us forget what we have in common or prevent us from working together. At the same time, we can’t ignore the fact that we’re also competing in the economic sphere, on a technological level…
FRENCH FOREIGN POLICY
Q. – What changes can be expected at the Quai d’Orsay?
THE MINISTER – My concern is not to stake my position in relation to my predecessors. My main priority will always be our compatriots in difficulty abroad, and first of all hostages. Secondly, I’d like to make this ministry a special centre of expertise for forecasting and anticipating the world’s great problems. That’s how we can play our full role of helping the President’s decision-making.
The third point is to have a strategy for France’s influence, both economically and culturally. I want to create a real international culture, in the regions, the cultural world, the media and even in the union world - for example, by giving diplomats attachments to companies or local authorities, for periods of two to three years. (…)./.