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Egypt/transition/Middle East peace process – France/Arab dictatorships

Egypt/transition/Middle East peace process – France/Arab dictatorships

Published on February 8, 2011
Statements by François Fillon, Prime Minister, at his joint press conference with Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (excerpts)

Paris, February 3, 2011



Q. – I’d like to know what you think the repercussions are of what’s been happening in Egypt today, in Tunisia yesterday and in other countries, on the process of declaring a Palestinian State and on the Palestinian side’s position on it? Will you be in a position tomorrow to do what you’ve just said: namely, to declare the formation of a Palestinian State, if the political process is still in deadlock or even non-existent? (…)

THE PRIME MINISTER – A wind of change, a wind of democracy and freedom is blowing, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt; we must seize this opportunity to move the peace process forward. We must seize this opportunity to ensure democratic ideals can be upheld everywhere, throughout the region, and there’s obviously no contradiction between these ideals and the plan to create an independent, democratic Palestinian State which respects citizens’ rights. Obviously we hope that these processes – particularly the one under way in Egypt, given the role Egypt plays in the region and in the peace process – we hope the transition currently beginning will take place swiftly but peacefully, calmly and with due regard for an orderly process that leads to a more broad-based government and free, transparent elections. Like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, I think we must seize this opportunity to accelerate a process which has also – it’s well known – been stagnant for much too long.

Q. – You mentioned the situation in Egypt; can the democratic transition process you and President Sarkozy are calling for take place while Hosni Mubarak remains in power? Don’t the latest events – which resemble civil war, judging from yesterday’s pictures – require him to leave, as the street is demanding? (…)

THE PRIME MINISTER – It’s not for the French government to dictate to the Egyptian people the route they must take towards this shared goal of democracy and respect for human rights. It’s for the Egyptian people – and I’ve said so since the outset of this crisis – to choose the ways and means to achieve a goal we nevertheless share and set together.

We’re extremely worried about the violence that has occurred, particularly yesterday in Cairo. Everyone clearly sees the danger of civil war inherent in the use of violence, at the very time when all the elements are in place for a transition process to begin which nobody seems willing to oppose any more and which must lead swiftly to this opening-up of the government and the establishment of the process which will lead to free, transparent elections. And that’s the spirit of the joint declaration signed this morning by the French President, German Chancellor and British, Italian and Spanish Prime Ministers, which shows, moreover, that there is unity in the position of the Europeans, who stand alongside people fighting for freedom and respect for human rights and who, at the same time, wish to support this process so that it takes place in a peaceful and reasoned way.


Q. – Do you fear – do you see rather than fear – a danger of contagion in the Arab world, to regimes which are your friends? And are you rethinking French foreign policy along the lines of setting more conditions on certain regimes which are your friends and which are dictatorships? (…)

THE PRIME MINISTER – For a very long time, France’s foreign policy has been based on principles which haven’t changed and won’t change. Firstly, the principle of non-interference in States’ domestic affairs. If France were not to talk to regimes that aren’t democratic, that would mean we’d speak to fewer than half the countries on the surface of the globe, and hardly any in the Arab world. So it’s clearly wishful thinking to imagine we could adopt such an attitude. Secondly, in the relations we have with all our interlocutors, we seek to uphold and promote the ideas we value, while not wishing to impose them. And in particular we conduct more in-depth dialogue with the countries helping us advance causes as important as that of solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

And I must say Egypt has been a country that has advanced the cause of dialogue to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. That’s not the case of all the States in the region. And it’s one of the reasons we must also say Egypt plays such an important role in the region’s stability and in undertaking this process. So that’s France’s foreign policy; it will continue in an absolutely immutable way, upholding our universal values, seeking to encourage States to move forward on the path of democratic progress and respect for human rights but never trying to interfere in domestic affairs and never seeking to impose our own model, which we think has universal value: it’s up to each people to decide. (…)./.

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