Q. – As we’ve heard, the military option has been ruled out for the time being. Why couldn’t what was done in Libya be done in Syria today?
THE MINISTER – There are at least two reasons. In Libya, from the outset, Arab countries called for the international community to intervene and, moreover, the Security Council agreed to authorize this intervention.
Until now, neither of these conditions had been met for Syria. There’s been a major change with the position of the Arab League, which is condemning the regime and asking it to go. The Security Council remains hamstrung by Russia and China, who – it has to be said – are increasingly isolated.
I’d like to remind you that France has been saying for months that this regime won’t be able to hold out, and there’s growing awareness of this today. This behaviour is unacceptable; the savagery of the crackdown is also completely unacceptable.
So what do we do? Firstly, we’ve got to work more with the Arab countries, Turkey and all Syria’s neighbours, to step up the pressure – and as you can see, it’s mounting.
Secondly, we’ve got to work with the Syrian opposition. I myself have met some of its leaders – notably Dr Ghalioun, when he came to the Paris Théâtre de l’Odéon – to help them and show them some support.
Finally, we’ve got to increase the sanctions. Today in Brussels we added 18 names to the list of figures subject to sanctions and we also asked the European Investment Bank to cease operations [with Syria].
Q. – Will all this be enough, given that Bashar al-Assad has been defying the international community for six months?
THE MINISTER – He’s increasingly isolated. Today most of his supporters are deserting him. It’s taking a long time, of course, and I understand the opposition’s impatience and I’m aware of the tragedy unfolding in Syrian cities, but I think we’ll get there. Sanctions produce results – incremental ones admittedly, but they produce results. (…)
Q. – And will France take the lead in this as she did in Libya?
THE MINISTER – I’m modest. President Sarkozy is taking many initiatives, certainly, but we’re working with our allies and our friends. Today in Brussels, all 27 of us agreed on the same policy of increasing this pressure.
My heart goes out to the Syrian people who are suffering in circumstances which – you’re right to point out – are absolutely tragic.