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Iran – European Council

Iran – European Council

Published on June 21, 2009
Press conference given by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Brussels, June 19, 2009

THE PRESIDENT – (…) I would like to say that I’m very happy to see Europe standing together as one to make strong and unambiguous statements about the Iranian situation. It is up to the Iranians to choose their government, but we can’t help but be extremely concerned by the violence of the current regime’s reaction. The courage of the Iranians who are taking to the streets to ask for what? For the right to freely choose their future. The fact that they aren’t giving up is something that should make us extremely optimistic. Europe unanimously condemns the violence. As for the recount, the votes should either be recounted correctly or not at all, but you know that I’ve always taken a very strict view of this.

(…)

Q. – To come back to Iran, this morning the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, issued an extremely virulent statement in which he said that the results were final and that those who didn’t take part in the victory celebration would be denounced by the guardians of the people, which foreshadows an extremely difficult period. Beyond condemning what’s currently going on in Iran, what can Europe do if there’s a bloodbath?

THE PRESIDENT – First of all, we don’t want to give the impression that foreign countries, with everything this implies, are meddling in Iran’s domestic elections. But we have values, we have convictions. When you see images of people being massacred because they are demanding a recount, when you see results that are so inconsistent, remaining quiet would not be true to European values. As for France, I believe our position has always been very consistent. M. Kouchner and I have always supported strengthening sanctions in the context of the nuclear issue.

What is being expressed in Iran? The unhappiness and protests of Iranians who wonder why their lives are increasingly difficult even though theirs is a country rich in resources, a country with a great history and great civilization. That’s because the sanctions, the fact that a number of countries consider it unacceptable to speak of the Holocaust as though it were a joke, have helped awaken a portion of Iranian society that doesn’t appear as trusting and satisfied as the Supreme Leader would like to maintain.

One can say all this and still hope that Iran will regain her full place in the region and in the world; that the Iranian people will have the means to bring about development; that talks will resume. But we’re also sending a message that Europe and the rest of the world isn’t prepared to accept everything. Otherwise, what would be the point of some of your colleagues doing their jobs in such extremely dangerous conditions? What must we say? I always urge dialogue with Iran, but when we have something to condemn, we must condemn it. But still, the emergence of an Iranian “street” demanding greater transparency and a better future is good news.

I hope Iran’s current leaders won’t commit the irreparable. We can only admire the aspirations of the Iranian people, when they express themselves with such courage and such dignity. We won’t keep quiet, in any case; that isn’t France’s policy. I’m not saying this to attack anybody, even though you know what I think of the many repeated statements by Mr Ahmadinejad, who adores provocation. I’ve had the opportunity to convey this in particularly candid terms to the Iranian Foreign Minister, because I want good relations with Iran. But I don’t go along with accepting statements and attitudes of this kind. So what will happen in the future? Who knows? I hope Iran will be spared violence and that Iran’s current government will respect the Iranian people.

(…)

Q. – Have you had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Iran with President Obama, and how do you explain the American reaction, which seems more reserved than that of the EU?

THE PRESIDENT – I’ve often discussed it with President Obama. I even said to the Iranian Foreign Minister: “Take President Obama’s outstretched hand, show your good faith.” And I think that was the intelligent thing to do. It’s true our reaction on Iran was more vigorous; we don’t have to do exactly the same on every point. I was shocked by Mr Ahmadinejad’s repeated statements. I think that in the twenty-first century, there is no reason to accept such statements on the Holocaust or various other things. For the rest, we’ll see how things develop.

I also understand President Obama’s position, as it reflects my own concern to avoid giving the impression – which would do Mr Ahmadinejad a favour – that we want to interfere in Iranian affairs, as you know quite well. But at the same time, we have convictions and we support Iran, we support the Iranian people. But where are the Iranian people? Today they are in the street. And think about this: in Iran, people are in the street to demand greater moderation and more reason, which shows that people take to the streets in this part of the world not just to ask for a more closed system. In this instance the opposite is true, and that’s good news.

Q. – Did you talk about the situation with President Obama this week?

THE PRESIDENT – We didn’t talk about it this week; we talked about it when we were in Normandy. (…)./.

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