Libya/refugees – Military options - No-fly zone – UfM role
Paris, March 1, 2011
Q. – As we’ve seen in our special correspondents’ reports, the situation is very critical on the Tunisian border, overwhelmed by the floods of foreign refugees. What does France intend doing to help Tunisia?
THE MINISTER – We’ve already acted to avert a humanitarian catastrophe – in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Q. – You’re talking about the two planes sent to Cairo?
THE MINISTER – On the decision of the Prime Minister, we sent two planes which are due to deliver several tonnes of medical equipment, and medical staff to help the Cyrenaica region. Moreover, we’re in the process of looking at how the French Navy could also come to the aid of the Egyptians fleeing Libya and those turning up at the Tunisian border. Here, we have the possibility of helping them return to their country of origin, i.e. Egypt.
As regards the military intervention being talked about at the moment, it’s worth thinking long and hard about this, quite simply because I don’t know how the Arabs on the street, how Arab people throughout the Mediterranean would react if NATO forces were seen landing on southern Mediterranean soil. Let’s think carefully about it; I believe it could be extremely counter-productive. And when you’ve embarked on a military operation, you’ve then got to plan for its consequences.
Before getting to that stage, we’re trying to increase pressure to bring down Gaddafi, and he’s going to be brought down. He’ll be brought down because he’s already very isolated in Tripoli. He’s lost control of the greater part of Libyan territory.
The threat in particular – which was for the first time held up by the United Nations Security Council – to bring him before the International Criminal Court may, I believe, get people thinking.
Q. – That’s France’s position. As is clearly understood, the United States has another option: the US military is deploying its forces all around Libya. Does France agree and will she do the same?
THE MINISTER – I don’t believe we can say that. The Americans are moving their ships; they haven’t decided to intervene militarily. And for us, there’s a rule…
Q. – The White House is preparing for an emergency situation.
THE MINISTER – Yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s decided to intervene militarily. In any case, there’s a very strict rule for us: it’s the United Nations Security Council that has the legitimacy to decide about peace or war, because intervening means waging war.
Q. – Does that mean France would veto an armed intervention?
THE MINISTER – I didn’t say that. We must discuss it and see, also, how the situation is going to develop. We’re being sent reports that aren’t verified. We were told, for example, that planes sent by Gaddafi had bombed the crowd. Apparently that’s not exactly true.
So we must see how the situation develops. Depending on that, we’ll adapt. No option is definitively ruled out, particularly the idea of imposing a no-fly zone.
Q. – Is France in favour of that option?
THE MINISTER – We’re in favour of it being studied, of course.
Q. – But it requires pre-emptive action, as stressed by the Americans, who point out that the anti-aircraft defences would have to be destroyed.
THE MINISTER – Again, in the framework of a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Q. – You’ve insisted a great deal on the relaunch of the Union for the Mediterranean. In what way could this moribund organization help resolve the situation?
THE MINISTER – It’s a visionary idea. It’s clear that today a large part of our destiny is going to be played out on either side of the Mediterranean. Obviously, President Sarkozy’s original initiative must be completely reviewed, because a whole series of revolutions are currently taking place, revolutions that nobody anticipated: no foreign ministry, no government, no international relations expert… So it’s tremendously promising and I, for my part, hope with all my heart that the Arab peoples succeed in this transition towards democracy.
So we must restructure the Union for the Mediterranean while remaining open to these governments and peoples. I can tell you that my first trip outside the European Union and France, of course, will be to Egypt next weekend. I’ll go there to show clearly that France is very mindful of what’s happening over there. (…)./.