Skip to main content
Minister Laurent Fabius Talks to CNN, CFR

Minister Laurent Fabius Talks to CNN, CFR

Published on September 22, 2014
New York, September 23, 2014

- Laurent Fabius’ Interview with Christiane Amanpour

- Council on Foreign Relations – Statements by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

Transcript of Laurent Fabius’ interview with Christiane Amanpour, September 23

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Fabius, welcome to the program.

FABIUS: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: You have an enormous task here, you and allies, to try to gather and form a coalition against ISIS. How serious is it for France to fight ISIS?

FABIUS: Well it’s very serious, because we have to defend ourselves. We call them Daesh by the Arab word.

AMANPOUR: Why is that? There is ISIS, ISIL, IS, and now you’re the first ones to call them Daesh.

FABIUS: In French they want to be called Etat Islamique (Islamic State) but it’ is a double mistake. They are not a state, they would like to be a state but they are not and they are not representative of Muslims.

AMANPOUR: So, you have made a moral political judgment.

FABIUS: Well you have to name things correctly but afterwards we have to fight because we have to defend ourselves because they are murderers, they are throat cutters. I have seen many people that have been chased by them and all explain that when they come, they say: "you either join us or we kill you, we rape you, we crucify you." And it’s not only Iraq and Syria and the region, it’s all of us, U.S., France , Europe, and we have to defend ourselves.

AMANPOUR: But now that you’re trying to build a coalition to fight them, they’re trying to frighten you by killing your nationals. Is that going to frighten you?

FABIUS: Not at all. But you know, it’s the way they are acting, they want to frighten us. They are terrorists, in terrorist you have terror, and we have to stand firm.

AMANPOUR: France has started bombing and air raids in Iraq. It’s the first time you’ve done that in fifteen years.

FABIUS: We have been asked by Iraqi people to do that.

AMANPOUR: Right. What about Syria, will France take the fight to Daesh / IS bases in Raqqa, elsewhere in Syria?

FABIUS: So far as Syria is concerned - because Daesh can be in Iraq and in Syria - we shall concentrate on helping the moderate opposition. We cannot do everything. Since the beginning we have said that we have to support the moderate opposition because we have to fight against Daesh and against Bachar el-Assad as well but our own task is to support the opposition.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that you can actually raise a good FSA, an affective ground force?

FABIUS: You remember maybe that since the beginning, two years, three years ago, we have said that - at that time there were no terrorists in Syria - we have to support the moderate opposition. It has not been done for different reasons, and now we have terrorists. But by a very strange phenomenon, Bachar and the terrorists are helping each other, and we know that Bachar has helped, practically, the terrorists, and we cannot say to this country: you have only the choice between dictatorship or terrorism. And therefore, we shall make our best with other partners in order to foster this opposition which has been strong, which has become weak, but which can again become strong.

AMANPOUR: All our countries are very concerned about nationals going over to fight this Jihad. France has implemented some new rules and regulations. What are you doing and how will it make a difference?

FABIUS: We had to change our rules in different ways. First, we decided that the government, the administration, would be able to suspend not only passports but also IDs for people whose intention is to go to Syria. We have the possibility of getting in touch with families, or rather families with us, because we have many cases where families do not agree with the youngster. At the moment, they are aware that the young people want to leave, and therefore they have to get in touch with us in order to have a reaction. Well, we have to be very, very strict, and to explain to these young people, especially the younger ones—13, 14 years old—that if they’re going there, maybe some of them think that it will be a new life, but in fact they are prostitutes, they are sexual slaves. And for the young people, they are utilized, and many of them are killed. Therefore, it’s a very difficult work, but necessary work—not only for France, not only for Belgium, Italy, Germany and so on—but for all of us.

AMANPOUR: We’ve been shocked. Many of our colleagues have been killed, in brutal public manner, having their heads chopped off. Several of my friends, French friends, have managed to be liberated. There’s obviously a big debate about paying ransom. And certainly France, it is believed that your nation has paid tens of millions of dollars for the freedom of your citizens. Whether in Mali, or captured by ISIS, or whoever.

FABIUS: I know that it has been said, but I can confirm to you, the President as well, that France does not pay ransoms. We are discussing, but France does not pay ransoms.

AMANPOUR: Are people doing it on your behalf?

FABIUS: No. My say is France doesn’t pay ransoms.

AMANPOUR: So the French nationals who were liberated from Mali, my friend Didier Francois and the others, from ISIS-

FABIUS: - there have been a lot of discussions, but so far as France is concerned, no ransoms.

AMANPOUR: Was any money handed over?

FABIUS: I can repeat it, I can repeat it. France pays no ransoms.

AMANPOUR: Laurent Fabius, Foreign Minister, thank you very much for joining us.

FABIUS: Thank you, my pleasure.

Council on Foreign Relations – Statements by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

New York, September 22, 2014


Climate/2015 Paris conference/goals

THE MINISTER – I’ve been told to speak about COP21, because France will chair – next year, in December 2015 – the great international conference about climate change. In fact I’m not speaking about climate change, I’m speaking about climate disruption, because it is disruption. And it is not for 2100, it is for now. Yesterday, there was a demonstration in the streets, and it was very chic: there was Mr Ban Ki-moon and Al Gore and the new mayor of New York. But what was more important is that there were a lot of people, throughout the world. And I think the awareness of the problem of climate disruption is more and more acute. A few years ago, there were discussions on whether it was real or not, from a scientific viewpoint, whether it existed or not. I’m not – well, I was not – a specialist, but I had to become one if I wanted to chair next year. And my belief is very clear: it’s an enormous problem, not for the day after tomorrow but for now, not only because of environmental problems, but also because if we don’t do things it will change, in the worst way, a lot of other things – the economy, immigration, the risk of war – and therefore we have to act. Ban Ki-moon had a very good formula: somebody asked him, “Mr Secretary General, can we have a Plan B?”. And he answered, “There is no Plan B because there is no Planet B”. I think this phrase is very exact, and I asked permission to borrow it, because it is not only an excellent one but also very true.

What do we expect for next year? There will be intermediate steps. This week is Climate Week, which is probably why we have chosen this topic today. And tomorrow we will have at the UN a lot of presidents, prime ministers – more than a hundred –, a lot of CEOs, a lot of governors, and it means that there is a growing awareness. We shall have a series of meetings afterwards, and at the end of this year we will have an international conference in Peru, in Lima, which is supposed to go ahead. Then we shall prepare for Paris next year, and in between – next March – all the nations are supposed to deliver their commitments for the future.

The problem, as you know, is that today the risk is that if we do not act in a very powerful way, the warming of the climate will not be only 2˚C but maybe 4, 5, 6ºC. When it comes to these figures it is a real catastrophe. Today we already see that because there are more and more extreme phenomena – when it is a question of rain, when it is a question of typhoons, when it is a question of drought –, if you compare things today to previous times, they are more and more extreme. Therefore we have to act in order to go to a low carbon economy if we want to remain under 2˚C, which will already be difficult. (…)

As I see it, we shall try to have four pillars to the conference.

The first one, which is very very difficult, is to have a universal agreement about what is legally admitted and what is not. It is very difficult, because obviously the position of different countries – developing countries, developed countries – and different continents are not the same, but if we want to keep control of this climate phenomenon, we have to come to an agreement. It is precisely because it is difficult that it is not left only to ministers of the environment but to ministers of foreign affairs, because they are supposed to be good at finding agreements – I don’t know if it is true.
The situation is much better than before. You have probably heard about failure in Copenhagen and other conferences. But today the situation is, to a certain extent, better, because we have the two major emitters – I mean the US and China – which, as I see it, have decided to go in the right direction. The US – at least the government, President Obama, John Kerry, a series of people, a series of governors, a series of CEOs – have understood what all that is about. I think the US is dedicated to going ahead. At the same time, the Chinese authorities are in the same mood. Why? Because – and most of you have been to China – it is a real catastrophe. In Beijing, in other cities, towns, it is sometimes not possible to go in the streets because of the pollution. It is not only an economic problem, it is a social and political problem, because there have been riots, and you have a growing number of people in international companies who do not want to work in Beijing or other towns, because it is now impossible for reasons of health. And therefore the Chinese have decided, as I see it, to go ahead. There are conversations between China, the US, ourselves and other partners to see what can be done. Therefore the first pillar is to try and have an international agreement, especially a differentiated one: obviously what will be required from a developing country will not be exactly the same as from a rich country. First pillar.

Second, before next March, it was decided at the previous international conference in Warsaw that all the nations must give their proposals and even their commitments for the coming years: 2020, 2030 and so on. It is not legally binding, but it will give everybody an indication as to what the prospect is, and how we can remain, through national commitments, under 2ºC.

The third one is about finance and technology. When you discuss these matters with poorer countries, they say, “it is good, but how can we finance it and what is the technology?” We have to coin elements: probably you have heard about the Green Climate Fund, which was decided a few years ago but is not yet capitalized, and probably tomorrow, when the heads of state and government will intervene, some of them will say, “we shall put in $500 million, $1 billion”. The figure may seem enormous, but it is doable that in 2020, when you add public contributions and private contributions – because more and more private companies are going in that direction – $100 billion a year can be dedicated to the environment and climate betterment.

The fourth element, which is rather new, is that we shall establish a sort of book about the actions, initiatives, which are taken by local authorities, governors, great cities, private companies, financing agencies and economic sectors going in that direction, because more and more people are understanding that it is not only a moral necessity but also an economically good investment, because it is the place where the improvements and productivity and rates of return can be excellent.

When you add these four elements – international agreements, national commitments, finance and technology, different sub-governmental and economic sectors – you have the conditions of success. Obviously it will be very difficult to convince the international community to go in that direction, but it is probably one of the most important challenges we have to face. (…)

You may wonder, why ask ministries of foreign affairs to deal with that? The answer is simple. It is not only a question of environmental technique, it is a question of peace or war, of water, of migration because of the extension of deserts; it is a question of being able to give food to people, because if you have a 5ºC temperature rise, it is a catastrophe for a whole series of things. Therefore as citizens it is a real challenge, and each of us in our different positions has to to consider what we can do. Obviously – and we were talking about it – you have to combine ideals and reality, because we are dealing with real things. But I think this challenge is one of the greatest ones which is proposed to us, and I am happy that France will chair the conference next year. (…)

It was a real problem; there is a difference between Copenhagen and now. The second point – and I will learn the lesson – is that in Copenhagen it was difficult to prepare. The idea was that, in the end, if political leaders were coming, they would have a conversation together and find a solution. They went together and they did not find a solution. Well, they were able to deliver a paper, but they came back to the Assembly and the Assembly said no. Therefore the modest lesson I have drawn from that is that we have a lot of work beforehand. On my agenda, I have put a series of meetings – it is terrible! – next week, international meetings, because everyone has to be able to express what their difficulties are, and you have to take into account these difficulties and try to find a solution. And the idea that the supreme political leaders can solve the question at the end of the day is wrong. Therefore we will put in a lot of work, try to be modest; if the political leaders can help us, with statements, it is excellent, but the job must be done beforehand. That is the reason why this year, in this Climate Week, it is important to work well; it is important that in Lima we make progress, and step by step, in the G7, the G20, in special meetings, to have progress. It does not guarantee success in Paris but maybe it will permit it.

      top of the page