Interview: Laurent Fabius Comments on Global Security Hotspots
Excerpts from the interview given by M. Laurent Fabius,
Minister of Foreign Affairs, to CNN¹
Paris, March 11, 2013
Q. – North Korea sounds more menacing by the day, last week threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against America and today saying it’ll abandon the 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War. And Seoul is worried, uttering the unutterable now: saying that it too might develop its own nuclear arsenal. Meantime, in Syria, it is not enough that the West is looking away as the country collapses and burns or that the refugee crisis has reached the 1 million mark: now word that the UN cannot even get enough humanitarian aid distributed properly in opposition strongholds. And then there’s Mali and the ongoing French fight against a resurgent al-Qaeda franchise. So what is the world to do about all of this? We turn for answers to my exclusive guest, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, key member of the UN Security Council, which often seems caught like a deer in the headlights of disaster, and often unable to forge solutions.
So with that, Mr Minister, welcome to the programme.
THE MINISTER – Thank you very much. I am pleased to be with you.
Q. – Let me go straight to North Korea, which you and your Security Council partners are having to deal with. Do you believe that this is rhetoric now – these increasing, belligerent threats coming out of the North – or are you worried that it might happen?
THE MINISTER – We are worried because with North Korea nobody ever knows. And we have to be very serious about it, and to take sanctions, and to say to North Korea that we cannot accept its behaviour. No, we have to take it very seriously.
Q. – So, Mr Fabius, how do you actually resolve this? Because there are sanctions and then more sanctions and more sanctions, and that triggers North Korean outbursts, but it also doesn’t affect their ability to keep building their nuclear programme. What is the solution when it comes to North Korea?
THE MINISTER – Well, I think we must have very accurate talks with China, in particular, because you know the influence that China can have on North Korea. It’s not really a question of China, but they are… they can be active in the solution, and we have to consult with them very closely. Not only them – Russia as well, and the different members of the Security Council. But we have to explain very directly to North Korea that it is serious this time, and that we don’t accept them to go on… their foolish behaviour.
Q. – So… which brings me to Syria, because we do seem to see so many differences within the Security Council that it’s hard to have a straight policy. We’ve talked many times about what the solution is in Syria. But now the shocking news is that the United Nations can’t even get enough food and medicine, basic humanitarian aid – forget about ending the fight – to the opposition, because of playing by the rules, which means you have to go through the Bashar al-Assad government. Is this not, Mr Foreign Minister, a clear-cut case for a safe area? Surely Syria needs a safe area now in order simply to have basic humanitarian aid for the opposition.
THE MINISTER – It is clear that it is a real humanitarian catastrophe – I mean, bloodshed – not only in Syria but also in the surrounding countries: Jordan, Lebanon and so on. And therefore we have to act on many, many issues at the same time: the humanitarian aspect, the political aspect, and an embargo on weapons as well, because the question is now very, very serious. We cannot accept… to have an imbalance between the Bashar al-Assad side, which is supported by Iran and Russia, and the other side, with the National Coalition, which has no real weapons, or the… sufficient weapons. But coming back to your question: we must, and we can, have the means in order to be sure that the humanitarian aid is brought to the provinces themselves, because for the time being sometimes it is brought to the Bashar al-Assad regime, which really doesn’t make sense.
Q. – Let me move on to Mali, where your forces are in full combat with the al-Qaeda franchise there. Are you making progress? Will French forces be out on your deadline of April?
THE MINISTER – Yes, we are making progress. We must remember – you must remember – that we decided to intervene, because otherwise the Malian state would have become a terrorist state. Now, we have intervened with our troops and other African troops, and now the towns are recovered, OK? We are in the northern part of Mali, and we have destroyed a lot of terrorist groups, and that’s a good job. And we have still some progress to do. But, I mean, on the military side, I think we are really performing very well. But – but, because there is a but – we must at the same time make progress on the democratic side, and it’s up to the Malian state who has to determine a dialogue between the north and the south. And, at the same time, there is a third aspect: we must insist on the development side. That… what has been done up to now in Mali is a very good job.
Q. – And when can you confirm or not that one of the leading guys – Belmokhtar and his cohorts – were actually among the dead? Do you believe that they are dead?
THE MINISTER – We are right now having tests – DNA – in order to know who is who. Obviously it’s very difficult, because the bodies are spilled over, and, you know, it’s very hot in this season in Mali, and therefore the bodies are nearly destroyed. But so far as Abou Zeid – Abou Zeid is one of the leaders – is concerned, it’s very likely that he has been killed. For the other guys, it’s not very clear.
Q. – And finally, the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said just this last week that the main rule is, “you don’t go into a country which doesn’t have a government”. How do you react to his criticism of what your government has done in Mali?
THE MINISTER – The best reaction is a reaction of all the African countries. When France had decided to intervene, thanks to a decision of President Hollande, all of them – I mean, all of them – had applauded. And now we have international support throughout the Security Council. I think it’s the best answer that very calmly one can bring.
Q. – And what do you make of his saying that he might be forced to come back into public life, sort of, to save France?
THE MINISTER – How do you say when you are a diplomat? No comment.
Q. – Foreign Minister Fabius, thank you very much for joining me.
THE MINISTER – Thank you. it was a pleasure./.
¹M. Fabius spoke in English. Source of English text: CNN.