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South African President’s State visit to France

Published on March 4, 2011
Statements made by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa (excerpts)

Paris, March 2, 2011



Q. – I have a question about the situation in Libya. According to the Libyan League for Human Rights, the crackdown in that country has already claimed more than 6,000 lives. Libyans are rushing towards their borders at a rate of 10,000 to 15,000 people a day, we’re told.

Have you discussed this subject? What do you intend to do – what can you do – to end this situation?

And we’ve just heard that the Mistral helicopter carrier has been sent towards the Libyan coast. What’s the significance of this decision, and are we approaching the moment when we should intervene militarily in Libya, even if it means requesting a United Nations mandate?

THE PRESIDENT – The situation in Libya right now is a tragedy. France’s position has been expressed many times, particularly by the Ministre d’Etat, the Foreign Minister. Mr Gaddafi must go. There’s no ambiguity about it. The vessel you mention has been made available to evacuate those foreign nationals in Libya whose home States didn’t have the means to ensure evacuation as we’ve done for our nationals. So the French navy is involved in a humanitarian operation.

There are foreigners in Libya who are stranded, risking their lives, and France’s duty is to help with the evacuation of those foreigners to the adjacent countries.


We’re greatly concerned about the development of the situation. France and Britain have obtained an extremely important Security Council decision on referral to the International Criminal Court and sanctions; that decision is all the more important because it was voted for by – among others – countries which hitherto haven’t recognized the International Criminal Court.

France and Britain have jointly requested a meeting of the European Council, which will be held on 11 March, devoted to the Libya situation but also, more broadly, to the situation in the Middle East. We’ll make joint proposals with our British friends. The Ministre d’Etat is working on it with his counterpart. We’ll have an opportunity to set out the broad lines of an ambitious plan.

As for the internal security problem, it’s a subject which must be discussed at the Security Council level [and] which we’ll have to talk about. You’re aware of France’s reservations about the principle of military intervention. We don’t think it’s a decision that would be appropriate, but of course we’re closely following any decisions the Security Council might make that could change the scenario in this respect, at least partially. Moreover, we obviously can’t ignore the innocent victims of the killing frenzy of Mr Gaddafi and his clan.

In the current state of affairs, and bearing in mind the developments in the situation, I think the best thing is to stick to this position. (…)./.

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