Libya – Afghanistan - Euro Area/Greek debt crisis
Paris, July 20, 2011
Q. – No more money, no more fuel; according to the United States, Muammar Gaddafi is running out of steam. Have you got the same information?
THE MINISTER – The National Transitional Council and its troops are making progress, particularly in the Brega region, but also western Libya. The ring around Tripoli is tightening again. So things are moving forward, even though there still isn’t any dramatic change. (…)
Q. – “The countdown has begun” was Defence Minister Gérard Longuet’s expression yesterday. Are you in turn repeating this?
THE MINISTER – I’ve said several times that it isn’t a matter of whether Gaddafi must or will go, but when and how. And as I’ve told you, international consensus on this has come a long way. The African Union itself has realized that the regime’s leadership had to be changed. And this is what we’re working on. There’s the military part and there’s also the political part, on which headway is being made with contacts which haven’t yet come to anything but are being coordinated by United Nations [Special] Envoy Mr al-Khatib.
Q. – Are you hoping for a ceasefire before Ramadan, at the beginning of August?
THE MINISTER – But for the ceasefire to happen there has to be a formal, clear commitment from Gaddafi to abandon his civil and military responsibilities. In Istanbul, I heard several leaders of Muslim Arab countries say that there was no reason why the military operations to protect civilians shouldn’t continue during Ramadan.
Q. – Are negotiations with the Gaddafi clan taking place at the moment in Paris?
THE MINISTER – No! At the moment there are no contacts in Paris. And as I told you, there may be tomorrow – obviously we’re open to [discussion with] all emissaries, provided these contacts are coordinated. And we decided, in the Contact Group framework, that the United Nations Special Envoy will coordinate all these negotiations.
Q. – Gaddafi’s residence kept under watch, for example, on Libyan territory, as is the case with Mubarak – would that be negotiable?
THE MINISTER – I hear that he doesn’t want to leave Libya, but one of the possibilities envisaged is, indeed, that he stays in Libya on one condition, which – I repeat – is that, very clearly, he keeps away from Libyan political life. And this is what we’re waiting for before triggering the political process of the ceasefire and a major national convention with all the players in Libyan society, since it’s up to the Libyans to build tomorrow’s Libya, not us. (…)
Q. – Certain people are uncomfortable about the presence of former pillars of the Gaddafi regime on the NTC’s side. What’s your reply to them?
THE MINISTER – Yes, listen: that always makes me smile. There’s never been a revolution in which there are no members of the previous regime on the revolutionaries’ side. Look at what happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall. (…)
Q. – By supplying weapons to the rebels, aren’t we running the risk of seeing those weapons one day turned against France, particularly if al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb gets hold of them?
THE MINISTER – We’re worried about possible transfers of weapons: not those we have supplied – which are self-defence weapons – but those of the Gaddafi regime itself. And that’s why we want the countries of the Sahel – Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Mali – to coordinate better to fight al-Qaeda. And that’s what’s currently going on.
Q. – Is that the next theatre where we’ll be deploying military forces?
THE MINISTER – There’s no question of France sending forces to the Sahel. It’s up to the countries of the Sahel to defend themselves against terrorism. We can help them do so through training and intelligence – that’s what we’re doing today – but not through troops on the ground. (…)
Q. – Is France mentally working on possibly withdrawing her soldiers from Afghanistan more quickly? Are we talking to our allies about this possibility?
THE MINISTER – The President has set the scale of the withdrawal – 1,000 men between now and 2012 – and he’s set the timetable. And as you know, in these kinds of situations what’s important is to remain calm.
From the outset, we’ve said our goal is to transfer to the Afghan government, to the Afghan troops, whom we’ve trained ourselves – the Afghan army, the Afghan police – the responsibility to guarantee their country’s security, and that’s happening.
Q. – Will they ever be up to the task? Won’t they just get swept away? They’ve been infiltrated by the insurgents.
THE MINISTER – No, that’s a pessimistic view of things. We’re continuing to train them, and they’re fighting, and they too are suffering many casualties. (…)
EURO AREA/GREEK DEBT CRISIS
Q. – There’s a very important European summit tomorrow. Angela Merkel has warned we mustn’t expect any spectacular progress. Are you disappointed by this attitude on the part of the Germans?
THE MINISTER – Everything depends on close understanding between France and Germany, and I’m convinced we’ll find agreement.
President Sarkozy is showing very great energy and determination.
As you know, he’ll be in Berlin this evening to talk to the Chancellor. We’ll find solutions. There are the technical aspects – which I won’t go into the details of – the participation of the private sector and the practicalities of aid to Greece, who must also continue to make the efforts we’re asking her to make; but behind all this there’s something political at stake. The collapse of the euro, which a few speculators would grow rich from on the markets, would quite simply mean the collapse of the European edifice. And there isn’t a single political leader in Europe today who’s ready to take that risk.
Q. – But is there a crisis of solidarity even so?
THE MINISTER – No! There are difficult technical details, there are delays in the decision-making process, but on the goal I think there’s broad agreement. Look at France: there’s political consensus among the main parties in government, and in Germany a lot of political leaders remember that what we’ve built over the last 50 years is an absolutely priceless asset that we mustn’t squander.
Q. – You’ve always been very European, in a political family that hasn’t always been as much as you. Do you think the [European] Central Bank must today buy back the states’ debts, Europeanize the debt?
THE MINISTER – I don’t want to get into those technical details. I am indeed Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, but there are finance ministers who talk about these problems. What I know is that today we have – and I know the word is hackneyed – an historic choice: either we go backwards, in other words let what we’ve built collapse, and that would be an absolute disaster for all our countries, or we take a step further. And I think we must take a step further in the integration of the Euro Area.
Q. – Almost federalism?
THE MINISTER – Federalism: I’m not afraid of the word, and I’ve already uttered it. Moreover, we’re on that path. Look at what’s happening today: the council of Euro Area heads of state and government, the Seventeen, couldn’t have been envisaged two years ago. Everyone said, “It has to be decided among the Twenty-seven.” Today we’ve gained acceptance for the idea of an economic government of the Euro Area. We’ve gained acceptance of the idea of coordinating budgetary policies; we must do the same thing on taxation. I think the only path in the future is to go further and not to stop. (…)./.