French Foreign Minister Visiting Chicago and Washington
Q. – Foreign Minister, thanks very much for coming in. You’ve seen those heartbreaking pictures of what’s going on. An Iranian parliament member just said Assad has won in Syria. The regime will stay, the Americans have lost. It certainly looks like Assad, at least for now, has won.
THE MINISTER – Well, I don’t think so. In fact, everything started in Homs. And it’s because of the reaction of Assad, which was a foolish reaction, very violent, that everything has started. And then today, you have 150,000 dead people.
Q. – But he’s still in power.
THE MINISTER – Yes, unfortunately, he’s still in power. Through terror, through the help of the Iranians, of the Russians and of Hezbollah. And what do we have to do? To support the moderate opposition because we don’t accept the fact that a dictator can be the future of its people. Inaction is not an option.
Q. – You know, last week, Mike Rogers, the congressman, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was very knowledgeable. He said that he is most worried about Syria right now because there are thousands of what he called “terrorists involved in a jihadist Disneyland there”.
THE MINISTER – That’s very true.
Q. – Westerners have foreign passports. They are training now, and they’re getting ready to come to France, the United States, and elsewhere.
THE MINISTER – That’s very true. And that’s a tragedy. You have on the one hand, Bashar, who is a dictator, and on the other hand terrorist groups. We can’t support either of them. And therefore we have to support the moderate opposition. President al-Jarba [of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces] was there in Washington a few days ago.
Besides, we have to put these mass crimes and crimes against humanity through the International Criminal Court. France today has asked the Security Council to put them into the International Criminal Court.
Q. – But the Russians will veto any of those resolutions.
THE MINISTER – You will see that. Russia can veto them indeed. But it
means that they have no consideration for any human life, and we cannot accept this.
Q. – All right, bottom line in Syria, Bashar al-Assad at least for now is there to stay?
THE MINISTER – Indeed, in a few days this tragic mockery of the election will take place. Bashar al-Assad is supposed to be re-elected. How can you organize an election under those circumstances?
UKRAINE/SANCTIONS/FRANCE-RUSSIA MISTRAL CONTRACT
Q. – All right, let’s talk about Ukraine right now. That’s a huge mess.
Obviously not on the scale of Syria, but potentially could be a real problem. There’s been some criticism of France because it’s going ahead with military sales to Russia, even at a time of Western sanctions against Russia, including two warships.
THE MINISTER – Well, first, France has done what it has to do. Now, our hope in Ukraine is to organize a presidential election on 25 May because when you have such a crisis, you have to organize an election. Then you know the action of the Russians and therefore, we have decided sanctions. And all of us…
Q. – But you’re going to go – look, we’re showing you pictures of these warships. These are pretty sophisticated. This is a billion-dollar deal.
THE MINISTER – Yes. These warships, the order dates from 2011. And we have a rule: when there is a contract, it has to be implemented.
Q. – So finally Putin is going to get control of these warships?
THE MINISTER – No. The decision will be taken in next October. But if we come to new sanctions, it has to apply to defence, to finance and to energy as well. Not only to defence.
Q. – Are you on the same page as the Obama administration when it comes to future tightening of sanctions against Russia because of Ukraine?
THE MINISTER – I think so, provided that everybody does the same sacrifices. It’s not a sanction against Europe. It’s a sanction against Russia. You must not forget it.
Q. – But there will be a price Europeans will be paying, obviously.
THE MINISTER – Yes. Well, two figures. Out of 28 members of Europe, you have six member states who are depending by 100 percent on Russian gas. And you have seven other countries depending more than 50 percent. That means that you have 13 countries depending on Russian gas – it’s one of the problems, and everybody has to make sacrifices./.
¹ M. Fabius spoke in English.