Japan/France/nuclear power – Libya – Côte d’Ivoire
Paris, March 15, 2011
Q. – Everything now suggests that, on the scale of Japan and the planet, Fukushima is and will remain a major nuclear disaster. What do you think about it?
THE MINISTER – The situation is extremely serious. Yesterday evening in Paris I had a meeting with the Japanese [foreign] minister, who was there among us and provided all the information he has available. The risk is extremely high. We assured him of our solidarity and also our technical support; the International Energy Agency is mobilized, as are all our experts. (…)
Q. – According to what he’s told elected representatives of the UMP [Union for a Popular Movement], President Sarkozy rules out the idea of France giving up nuclear power. Do you agree with this idea, which is controversial?
THE MINISTER – We must of course have a debate about nuclear energy. On nuclear safety, we must remain vigilant 24/7. Our Nuclear Safety Authority must do its work with the maximum rigour, but to tell French people we’re going to give up nuclear power would be to lie to them. In the next 20 or 30 years, we won’t completely give up nuclear energy. Of course we must boost renewable energy: that’s what we’re doing, with a big offshore wind energy programme at sea and with photovoltaics, which we could develop still further. We must also be aware that today we build completely differently from the way we did before. We make buildings with low energy consumption.
Q. – Are we safer here than in Japan?
THE MINISTER – Hold on, M. Elkabbach: all this, this whole renewable energy programme, will be 20% of our needs at most in the coming years. So we can’t do without nuclear power in the coming decades. Of course we must be extremely vigilant; we must strengthen safety measures further. We must be sure to be ever more demanding about safety levels at our power stations – some of which are old – and that’s what we’re doing. (…)
Q. – You’re chairing a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Paris. Are you going to persuade them to decide on an intervention to destroy Gaddafi’s airports and planes? Or is it too late?
THE MINISTER – I haven’t persuaded them yet. Along with Britain, France has been constantly taking the initiative in this matter. What’s the situation today? Gaddafi is scoring points. If we’d used military force last week to neutralize a number of runways and the few dozen planes he has, perhaps the opposition’s current reversal of fortunes wouldn’t have occurred; but that’s in the past. I’d simply like to point out that France wanted it and many of her partners showed more caution.
Q. – And were they wrong?
THE MINISTER – What’s happening today shows we may have missed a chance to restore the balance. What happened yesterday evening is much less negative than I’ve heard in various places. We agreed on two points which are very important: firstly, immediately resuming – and it’s under way today – a discussion at the United Nations Security Council to issue a new resolution to step up the pressure on the Gaddafi regime. We’re going to do that. Everyone agrees.
Q. – But how? How, against the Gaddafi regime?
THE MINISTER – We’re going to talk about it in New York. There are several ways of stepping up sanctions: imposing a maritime embargo, for example, and possibly envisaging what could be – even if there’s no consensus on it – a no-fly zone, even though it’s not a panacea. In short, there’s consensus there. And the second point we agreed on yesterday was that it can’t be done unless the Arab countries fully accept their responsibilities.
There was a declaration by the Arab League last week – very encouraging in this respect – but we’re going to continue dialogue with them. As the European Council decided last week, President Sarkozy is going to organize a meeting with the Arab League and the African Union, to ensure that the countries most directly concerned accept their responsibilities.
Q. – But it’s a real race against the clock?
THE MINISTER – That’s true.
Q. – Do you think it must be acknowledged this morning that the insurgents have lost?
THE MINISTER – I certainly wouldn’t say that. They’re in a difficult situation, and that’s why what’s going to happen in New York is important.
Q. – But can we prevent Gaddafi’s armed forces retaking Benghazi?
THE MINISTER – Today we don’t have the military means to do so, because the international community hasn’t decided to provide them.
Q. – And if Gaddafi regains control of Libya and launches a bloody crackdown on the opposition and an arbitrary settling of scores, can the international community act?
THE MINISTER – It would be an extremely negative scenario, first of all for the international community, because I remind you that everyone has said: Gaddafi must go. I also think it would push Libya into a long period of political instability, because those who refuse Gaddafi’s dictatorship won’t admit defeat.
Q. – So are you telling us nobody at international level will accommodate Gaddafi, even if he reconquers his territory?
THE MINISTER – Look at what’s happening all over the Arab world and even beyond: people are no longer tolerating dictators. After all, I’d like to remind you that the Security Council has asked the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to initiate proceedings against Gaddafi, who is therefore regarded today as the suspected perpetrator of crimes against humanity. So you can see clearly that things have changed and that being a dictator today has become a high-risk profession. (…)
Q. – France has promised an ambassador in Benghazi; does the promise still hold?
THE MINISTER – We’re in the process of seeing under what conditions our diplomat can travel to Benghazi; there are security conditions to be met, of course.
Q. – Do you still reject the idea of diplomacy and parallel diplomacy being conducted by a single person?
THE MINISTER – All that’s absurd. There are institutions; within those institutions, it’s the President who defines the broad lines of our foreign policy. He defines them in full association with me, and my work is then to apply that policy and implement it using the tool of diplomacy, which is an excellent one. The way I’d rather put it is that diplomats today are fully mobilized in their work.
Q. – In Côte d’Ivoire, the civil and ethnic war is in full swing; the deposed president, Laurent Gbagbo, is having civilians killed. Are the United Nations, Europe and France going to abandon Côte d’Ivoire to herself?
THE MINISTER – We haven’t abandoned her. We’re constantly saying that we don’t want Gbagbo, that he’s illegitimate and that the only legal, legitimate President is Ouattara. And there too…
Q. – And how do we get Gbagbo to leave?
THE MINISTER – Listen, we’ve taken a whole series of measures that are gradually taking effect. Financial sanctions don’t take a fortnight, they take several months. And today we can see clearly that Gbagbo is gradually being stifled. There too, what counts is the African countries’ commitment. You can’t ask France or Europe to deal with everything and interfere in every country’s affairs. And the African Union has taken on its responsibilities, in Addis Ababa. The African countries have said: the sole legitimate President is M. Ouattara, and M. Gbagbo must go. And I think we’ll get there.
Q. – Are M. Gbagbo’s days numbered?
THE MINISTER – I’m not going to make any predictions, but in any case we’ll do everything to ensure the law prevails and M. Ouattara, who is the legally elected President, really exerts power; that’s what is gradually happening in Côte d’Ivoire. (…)./.