Q. – In Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara is calling on his supporters to march on the television and government headquarters in Abidjan, today and tomorrow. Do you fear the worst?
THE MINISTER – We never fear the worst, but we do fear violence. We’d like this transition to go ahead without violence.
That’s why we’ve been calling on M. Gbagbo for several days – and not only us but the whole international community – to accept the results of the election, at the end of which Ivorians very clearly chose M. Ouattara as their president. We’re also calling for restraint on both sides.
Q. – You’re calling for restraint. Are you calling on Alassane Ouattara to cancel this march, this demonstration, to hold back his troops?
THE MINISTER – I think we must indeed avoid any violence: Côte d’Ivoire doesn’t need that. It’s obvious today that the results are clear-cut. The results of the election which was held have been validated by the United Nations. M. Ouattara has been recognized as President of Côte d’Ivoire, by the UN – he was recognized first by ECOWAS: that is, all the States in West Africa – by the African Union, by the whole international community; the United States and France themselves have said it.
Q. – Do we now have to be patient?
THE MINISTER – It’s not a question of patience: M. Gbagbo must stand down and hand over power to M. Ouattara. Moreover, for the first time for 10 years there’s been an election organized by M. Gbagbo; he’d gain in stature by accepting this result.
Today we must indeed act. The European Union also said very clearly on Monday that if some people didn’t accept these results there would be individual sanctions.
Q. – Can M. Gbagbo’s accounts in the European Union be frozen?
THE MINISTER – The European Union is currently examining those sanctions and has said the principle of sanctions is acceptable.
What are sanctions? They’re several things like, for example, a refusal of all visas. They can also be, for example, the freezing of accounts or assets in a number of other countries. They’re a unanimous reaction; there was an election with results and, once they’re certified as being both democratic and transparent, they must be accepted.
Q. – Alain Juppé has been very clear: there’ll be no French intervention between the two parties if violence occurs. Why? Isn’t it our duty to step in between the two camps? We did so with Operation Licorne.
THE MINISTER – No, it’s the international community’s duty, and I remind you that the UN is present, through UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire] – that is, the international forces, who are there to try to prevent violence. But what I’d like, and what I urge the different sides, is for it not to have to intervene – in other words, for everyone to respect a result that’s democratic, so that we avoid provocation. It’s true that this risk exists today.
Q. – Do you have an evacuation plan for the 15,000 French people in the country?
THE MINISTER – That’s the case everywhere, if I may say so. As soon as there’s a crisis somewhere we ask ourselves, in coordination with the military, what it would be necessary to do if there were a risk for French people. I’m extremely mindful of their protection, just like all the members of the international community.
There’s no specific threat today. There may be concerns but there are no specific threats. Of course, our embassy is in contact with the French people on the ground; it passes them certain security instructions, and I asked that to be done even before the elections.
If anything were to happen, protecting our fellow citizens is one of our fundamental missions and it would be set in motion.
Q. – This evening and tomorrow it’s the European Council – aimed at finding a lasting solution to the crisis, we’re told. Isn’t it time to launch eurobonds, as they’re called, as Luxembourg is asking? Shouldn’t we persuade Germany to accept this solution?
THE MINISTER – That’s not the problem today and we can’t do it, if only because there’s no European fund that we all share.
Today we need to stop speculators who’ve decided to attack one country after another in an attempt to exploit the weaknesses of several countries. It’s true there were surprises when Greece was attacked, and we’ve learnt lessons from it. When the speculators went for Ireland we reacted much more quickly. What’s going to be decided on in Brussels today is the establishment of mechanisms that can be applied systematically in such a way as to protect the euro, because we’re committed to its stability. It’s essential in today’s competitive world; we need to strengthen ourselves. It’s our jobs, our businesses which are at stake, through the euro.
So we’ll have this mechanism, which will enable us to react in the same way and systematically, extremely quickly, in such a way as to discourage the speculators, who must know that we won’t allow the euro to be weakened or attacked.
Q. – You stated that France wasn’t set to remain in Afghanistan for a very long time. What does a “very long time” mean in terms of a timeframe: 2012, 2014?
THE MINISTER – There’s no precise timeframe, if only because we mustn’t give a signal to people who then might want to destabilize Afghanistan and plan something for two years’ time so as to make a more effective comeback. (…) [The troops will leave] as and when we’re able to hand over responsibility for security and economic development to the Afghan State.
We’ve been doing this for years. Since 2004, for example, we’ve been helping train a genuine Afghan army. We, French, began by training special Afghan forces with the Americans. We trained Afghan army officers, then the soldiers of that army.
At the same time, with the Germans, we’re training police and gendarmes in order to ensure the security of that country, in order to fight drug trafficking in particular – which is one of the factors enabling Taliban terrorism to receive financial support – and in order for the Afghan State to have the means to shoulder its responsibilities.
In the same way, we’re going to help the Afghan State establish a justice system worthy of the name and we’re gradually handing over powers, elements of the State’s authority or provinces, when these are whole provinces which can govern themselves with due regard for the authority of the Afghan State. (…)./.