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Interview: M. Kouchner on the Situation in the Middle East

Interview: M. Kouchner on the Situation in the Middle East

Published on January 5, 2009
Situation in the Middle East – Interview given by M. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, to "France Info"

Paris, 4 January 2009

THE MINISTER – The Troika is formed of the three ministers, the Commission and the High Representative. This is a very traditional [troika] composition, which is even more necessary now that the situation is worsening on the ground. Its action is necessary, if only – and this is already a lot – for reasons of humanitarian access. In Gaza, there’s a lack of everything: food, water, medicines, and fuel oil to operate machines. This is the first reason: what more can we do than we’ve done up to now to deliver the humanitarian aid?

Q. – Israel had refused the humanitarian truce you’re asking for. Do you think there’s more possibility of getting it today?

THE MINISTER – Israel had, regrettably, refused the humanitarian ceasefire, but the aid was getting through. We know this from information we’ve had, particularly from the International Red Cross, but now this is no longer the case. For the moment, I believe – I hope I’m wrong – that all the access points are closed. So our intervention is even more necessary.

There are also political reasons for this mission. The European Union’s objective is to find, or at the very least, help draw up a solution in New York, at the United Nations Security Council.

We are coordinating with President Sarkozy. We’ve got a meeting in Ramallah, at the Palestinian President’s residence, at 5 p.m. on Monday.

Q. – The Israeli government spokesman has just stated that at international level there was much understanding for Israel. What is Nicolas Sarkozy going to ask from Israel?

THE MINISTER – I don’t know what he means by that. We have made it clear, as we always do, that because rockets had been raining down on Israel and the point had come when the provocation was too strong, the status quo was no longer possible. But we’ve also said that the response clearly seemed disproportionate. Yesterday, we condemned, of course, not only the raining down of rockets on Israel, but also the advance of the Israeli forces.

Q. – How do you explain the failure of the Security Council to agree on a resolution condemning what is going on at the moment in Gaza?

THE MINISTER – It’s indeed intolerable. But this is perhaps the world’s hardest problem. The existence of this State, created after the war, after the Holocaust, had to be imposed and a democratic State was created. The States involve did not all see things in the same way and it isn’t surprising that there have been difficulties in finding an agreement at the UN.

There were differences of view between the Europeans at the time of the 30 December 2008 meeting in Paris, under the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, but the 27 of us agreed on the ceasefire, the halting of the rocket fire.

As the Czech presidency has made clear, we are continuing to move forward, in the spirit of the last Paris meeting, we are doggedly maintaining our efforts.

Q. – Tomorrow Nicolas Sarkozy arrives in the region, but with a situation which has changed since his decision to go to the Middle East. Isn’t it going to be more difficult for President Sarkozy to get a commitment from the Israelis and Hamas to stop the fighting?

THE MINISTER – Yes, from Israel, and first of all of Hamas, you are right, but should one give up because it’s terribly difficult? That’s not like President Sarkozy./.

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