Syria-UN – Libya
Q. – You said this morning that France doesn’t rule out going further than the mere statement adopted yesterday evening, if nothing changes on the Syrian side. Clearly nothing is changing, so why are you waiting to go further, and what does “going further” mean?
THE MINISTER – As you know, France now has a perfectly clear strategy. We’ll no longer remain silent when authoritarian, dictatorial regimes launch bloody crackdowns on popular movements that aspire to freedom. That’s what we’re doing in Libya; it’s also what we’re doing on Syria.
The very same people who accuse us of getting bogged down in Libya are asking us why we don’t intervene militarily in Syria. The situation is obviously completely different. We can intervene only if the international community wants it and supports it; that hasn’t been the case as regards Syria. The Arab countries themselves don’t want it, and we had a lot of trouble getting the Security Council to speak out. The Security Council’s silence was unacceptable.
Q. – So what’s going to happen now?
THE MINISTER – We got the Security Council to speak out, but as you know, things aren’t that simple. The Security Council making a statement isn’t enough to put everything right again. We’re talking about a repressive regime, so we’re going to continue stepping up the pressure.
Q. – What pressure?
THE MINISTER – All the pressure we’ve been exerting from the outset. We, the European Union members, decided on certain sanctions against individuals, banning them from travelling to Europe, for example, freezing their assets… It’s pressure that’s going to be exerted over time.
Yesterday, in the official statement, the Security Council also decided to meet again in a week’s time to try and see the Syrian regime’s response to what we’ve called for.
Q. – At what point are you – you, France, the international community, the UN – going to say too many people are dying and Bashar al-Assad is massacring his people?
THE MINISTER – I don’t fully understand that question. At what point are we going to say too many people are dying? We’ve been saying it for three weeks. We’ve been saying enough is enough; we’ve said it very clearly. Too many people are dying, but having said that, it’s not our role to intervene militarily everywhere.
I think our position in this area has been very clear. We’ve condemned these actions from the outset. France was the first to do so, and we had a lot of trouble getting movement from the Russians, for example; for reasons it would take too long to explain here, they don’t want us to condemn Syria. We started doing so and we’re going to continue exerting this pressure, hoping it will be more positive. In any case, the Syrian regime’s response – which consists in saying: we’re now going to authorize a multi-party system – clearly doesn’t match what we’re calling for. What we’re calling for is an end to the violent crackdown.
Q. – You were talking about Libya a moment ago. Some people are accusing France of getting bogged down.
THE MINISTER – You see: when we don’t intervene, we’re criticized for not intervening, and when we do, we’re accused of not succeeding fast enough.
Q. – But France was expecting a “war” – at any rate a fairly swift and clear intervention. Can’t we, in your opinion, talk about getting bogged down today when we see that Gaddafi’s troops are still there, that they’re fighting every inch of the way and that there are deaths, over there as well, every day?
THE MINISTER – You can’t talk about being bogged down. We intervened five months ago and no one has ever talked about a lightning war. We undoubtedly underestimated the resistance from Gaddafi’s forces, but we aren’t bogged down. And I remind you that it’s the National Transitional Council and its forces which are fighting on the ground and they’re making progress. They’re making progress in the south and west of the country; southern Libya is practically under NTC control. They’re making progress in the west towards Tripoli. They’re also making headway in the Brega region. We’re going to continue exerting this military pressure.
Q. – You were talking about the NTC a moment ago; there’s the feeling that there are dissensions among the insurgents themselves. Does that worry you?
THE MINISTER – I don’t think you can talk about dissensions. There was General Younis’ assassination, the causes of which still aren’t completely known, but his replacement is guaranteed and we have confidence in the NTC, whose legitimacy, I remind you, has been recognized by virtually every major country today.
We’re going on working with them just as we’re also working to find a political solution, because it’s obvious that the solution in the end won’t be a military one. Gaddafi simply has to understand – and this is a red line for us – that he’s no longer destined to hold power in Libya. There’s very broad consensus from the international community on this and we’re going to get there./.