Paris, March 19, 2011
Q. – France has sprung into action. She’s the first country to have done so. Was this a choice, a decision on France’s part?
THE MINISTER – As you know, France has been committed from the outset, first of all to win the diplomatic battle, and that took a long time because we had to achieve consensus.
Q. – On that level, do you see it as a victory for France?
THE MINISTER – It is indeed a victory for France, because we were particularly active diplomatically, under the impetus of President Sarkozy; but it’s also a collective victory. It’s a victory for the United Nations, because it’s first and foremost a United Nations operation with a mandate to enforce the decisions and protect the civilian population; the goal is just that.
We also had to bring the Arab countries very much on board, and this was absolutely crucial for us.
It’s not an operation by Europe or the West: it’s an operation by the international community, with the participation of Qatar and probably also the United Arab Emirates.
Q. – Will the operations continue tonight?
THE MINISTER – The operations will continue throughout the coming days, until the Libyan regime accepts the United Nations resolutions – that is, halts all violence against the population. It must withdraw its troops from where it’s moved them and allow the Libyan people’s aspiration to freedom and democracy to be expressed.
Q. – Just to be clear, when Nicolas Sarkozy says Colonel Gaddafi can avoid the worst, does that mean the aim isn’t to topple Colonel Gaddafi?
THE MINISTER – No, the aim – even if certain countries have said he must go – is to enable the Libyans to choose their future. There’s a National Transitional Council, there are Libyan players. It will be up to those Libyan players – who want to introduce the democracy and freedom the people hope for – to decide what the future regime will be.
We’re not going to impose a regime on Libya: we’re simply going to help the Libyan people liberate themselves.
Q. – Is Colonel Gaddafi not Saddam Hussein?
THE MINISTER – He’s currently unleashing blind violence on his people, to the extent that – let me remind you – the matter has been referred to the International Criminal Court, because we believe he’s the perpetrator of veritable war crimes against his people.
Q. – It’s often said of Colonel Gaddafi that he’s unpredictable. What are you expecting him to do in the coming hours?
THE MINISTER – We’ve said it; it’s very simple. We expect him to comply to the letter with the two successive Security Council resolutions. Unfortunately, if you want my personal sense, there’s not much hope. Just look at what happened yesterday: the announcement of a cease-fire and at the same time the continuation of the offensive against Benghazi.
So I think Colonel Gaddafi has lost all his credibility, and in any case the international community won’t be taken in by positions which are really only smokescreens.
Q. – Have the lines been cut? Are you currently in contact with Gaddafi?
THE MINISTER – No, not at all; besides, we don’t know where he is, if I’m to believe your broadcasts. There’s currently no contact with Colonel Gaddafi.
Q. – Is it true that you’ve been working hand in hand with David Cameron?
THE MINISTER – Hand in hand from the outset: cooperation between our two countries has been total, and the Security Council resolution passed yesterday was tabled by France and the United Kingdom.
I’ve heard talk of British or French soldiers. I want things to be quite clear: there won’t be a disembarcation on the ground and there won’t be a ground intervention. This is also very clearly stated in the Security Council resolution.
As for the Americans, they too are participating fully in the operation. We’ll see them in the coming hours or days.
Q. – A word about the insurgents, the opposition: France was the first to recognize this transitional authority. Who are these insurgents, these opposition members?
THE MINISTER – They’re men and women who represent the people who are fighting for freedom. They’ve spoken out, regrouped and created this National Council, and we decided they were valid interlocutors politically. We’re told some of them have held posts in the Gaddafi government, but in every revolution you’re obliged to work with people who change sides and accept their responsibilities.
I think they’re excellent people to talk to; they’re not the only ones. If others want to take part in rebuilding Libya, it will of course be up to the Libyan people to choose them.
Q. – You were telling us the military intervention wasn’t directly aimed at toppling the Gaddafi regime…
THE MINISTER – It’s not written in the Security Council resolution that he must go. But it’s quite clear – let’s not beat about the bush – that the goal of all this is to enable the Libyan people to choose their regime, and I don’t get the feeling today that the choice would be for Colonel Gaddafi.
Q. – In wars, in conflicts, the first day is generally quite “clear-cut”. It’s the day afterwards that’s often more worrying. How long could this go on?
THE MINISTER – I can’t answer that question. I’m fully aware we’ve taken on a heavy responsibility, and of course risks. But I’d simply like you to think what you’d be asking me tonight if we’d decided to do nothing.
You’d probably be asking me what’s left of my sense of honour, when we allow the people of Benghazi to be massacred. We’ve decided not to let that be done. Clearly we’re taking risks; they’re calculated and controlled risks.
I think it was a question of duty and honour for us to do it, together with the UN, the Arab countries and all our partners.
Q. – Regarding Côte d’Ivoire, we’re seeing an exodus taking place from Abidjan due to the violence perpetrated in the Ivorian capital in recent hours. The United States has again condemned the blind violence of Laurent Gbagbo against unarmed civilians.
The impression is that the international community has put the situation in Côte d’Ivoire rather on the back burner. We’re intervening in Libya; why aren’t we intervening in Côte d’Ivoire?
THE MINISTER – In Côte d’Ivoire, the African Union has accepted its responsibilities: it’s called on Gbagbo to leave. There’s also a United Nations force in place.
Q. – Is it doing its job?
THE MINISTER – I think it should doubtless do its job more effectively, because it has a mandate allowing it to use force in the event of confrontations or violence.
The net we’ve cast around Laurent Gbagbo is working. He must go and the sole legitimate president, President Ouattara, must take office.
I’m well aware that there’s unacceptable violence at present and that we must therefore step up the pressure on Gbagbo to go./.