Interview Given by Alain Juppé on Syria, Iran and the Arab transitions
Q. – Is the work being carried out by the Arab League observers in Syria anything more than a sham?
THE MINISTER – I’m concerned about what’s happening in Syria and, as you know, I have continuously denounced it as a veritable scandal. More than 5,000 people have died and the international community is still doing nothing, at least at UN Security Council level, for reasons that you’re aware of. We therefore welcomed the Arab League initiative, because it was up to the Arab countries, particularly those in the region – those surrounding Syria – to assume this responsibility.
The conditions under which this observer mission is now taking place deserve to be clarified: do they really have unrestricted access to information? We’re waiting for the report that they’ll be making in the next few days in order to get a clearer picture of the situation.
Q. – Isn’t it already a lost cause?
THE MINISTER – I’m sceptical, but I can’t say it’s already a lost cause. The Secretary-General of the Arab League expressed his determination to see the investigations through to the end. The truth must be established and the regime must not be allowed, in the end, to brainwash the observers on the ground.
Q. – After this episode, will you increase the pressure on the Security Council again?
THE MINISTER – The Security Council cannot remain silent. It’s obvious that there’s an absolutely savage crackdown going on, that this regime no longer really has a future. It’s therefore up to the international community to speak out.
As you know, France has been making regular efforts for weeks. Russia is continuing to be obstructive, but the time will come when the regime will be completely isolated. In any case, we’re continuing to maintain regular contact with the Syrian National Council, with the opposition, in order to support them in their very courageous uprising. (…)
TRANSITIONS IN THE ARAB WORLD
Q. – You’re travelling to North Africa at the end of the week. You’ll be in Tunisia on Thursday. The election is coming to an end in Egypt. Are you concerned by the shift towards Islamism throughout North Africa?
THE MINISTER – I’ve always said that you can’t want everything and its opposite. We wanted this huge aspiration of the people for freedom to be expressed, particularly through elections. Those elections have taken place in Morocco and Tunisia; they’re under way in Egypt, under satisfactory conditions. It’s therefore not for us to criticize the results of those election processes, which reflect the choice of the peoples concerned. What we’re simply saying is that we’ll be vigilant in terms of respect for certain principles: the rule of law, respect for minorities – for all minorities, particularly religious minorities – and respect for the status of women. That’s the message I will convey to our Tunisian friends.
Q. – Is this merely an Islamist phase, because the people are able to express their views, or are we talking about a long period?
THE MINISTER – No, it’s not an Islamist phase, it’s a very far-reaching revolution which is shaking up the entire Arab world and beyond. I think we have to prepare for a transition period.
The state of the economy, particularly in Egypt, is disastrous today. We must therefore take action on the economic dimension of this transition, particularly in the framework of the announcements we made in Deauville.
Q. – Iran, meanwhile, claims to have tested enriched uranium fuel rods. Is the arrival of the Iranian bomb a lot closer than we think?
THE MINISTER – The experts are discussing this. In any event, Iran is continuing to develop her nuclear weapon; I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency is quite explicit on this point; that’s why France, without closing the door to negotiations and dialogue with Iran, of course, would like tougher sanctions to be imposed.
President Sarkozy has made two concrete proposals on this: firstly, freezing the assets of the Central Bank of Iran, which would be a very severe measure, and secondly, an embargo on Iranian oil exports. The US Congress voted in favour of this and the President of the United States has just approved the law. We hope the Europeans will take equivalent measures by 30 January in order to clearly demonstrate our determination.
Q. – And again, it’s at United Nations level that things will stall?
THE MINISTER – I don’t think so. These will be European sanctions and American sanctions. We have the ability to take action in this area. (…).