Alain Juppé - Interview
Q. – Christine Lagarde is beginning a tour of the emerging countries tomorrow, starting with Brazil. Is it really wise to present the candidature [for the post of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund] of Christine Lagarde, who is at risk of going on trial for abuse of authority in the Tapie case?
THE MINISTER – In the interview you’ve just shown, I heard a journalist say “let’s imagine that…”
Well, let’s get away from imaginary scenarios: Christine Lagarde is an honest woman – I’m absolutely convinced of it.
Moreover, nobody can question her competence.
In the past two days I’ve been in Deauville, because President Sarkozy included me in all the meetings that were held, and I can tell you that, perhaps not among the journalists, but among the eight heads of State and government who were there, plus the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, there was unanimity – we must tell things as they are – in support of Christine Lagarde. (…)
In my view, it’s also very important that this post should be held by a woman like Christine Lagarde; that was said just now. Europe today is going through very major monetary turmoil, and to have a European, even if it’s not the only argument – the argument about competence strikes me as even more important – will help us a lot. (…)
Q. – As you were saying, you were in Deauville; there was a lot of discussion about the liberated Arab countries, but not only that. Syria was also talked about: about 1,000 people killed, thousands more arrested… What do you do when a dictator, Bashar al-Assad, continues the crackdown against his people despite the sanctions? (…)
THE MINISTER – On Syria, people say there are double standards. No, France hasn’t got double standards. We’ve said exactly the same thing about Syria as we’ve said about Libya: namely that a head of State who fires on his people is discredited and must step down.
Our position is exactly the same.
Q. – Except that in this case, it’s been weeks and months.
THE MINISTER – In the case of Libya, conditions existed at the Security Council – which were created by France, by the way – and which made it possible to stop and prevent the bloodbath Gaddafi had announced in Benghazi. We’re proud of it and we’re going to continue.
With Syria, the situation is different. Despite our efforts, despite the efforts of the British, with whom we’re working, there’s currently no majority at the Security Council even to condemn Syria, because Russia is opposed to it and because we have no majority within the Security Council. (…)
Q. – The event of the week, anyway, is the arrest on Thursday of [Bosnian] Serb General Ratko Mladic, wanted for genocide and war crimes. An arrest 16 years after Srebrenica, the genocide. Is that satisfying?
THE MINISTER – Sixteen years: no, it’s not satisfying, but the arrest is satisfying. You know, I was Foreign Minister back then too; I experienced the tragedy of the Balkans war and I have two very powerful memories. The first is the day when, with the Americans, we told the Serbs: “stop bombarding Sarajevo or else we’ll bombard you”, and it worked. The siege of Sarajevo stopped. And the other memory – which is tragic, terrible – is that in Srebrenica we were unable to do the same. That appalling massacre occurred, for which we can’t refuse General Mladic the presumption of innocence but there are strong reasons to think he’s responsible. So we hunted him for years. He’s going to be handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal, and that’s important.
Q. – Why now, in your opinion?
THE MINISTER – Because he actually enjoyed protection; it’s well known. I think it’s also important because it proves that the Serbian government, the Serbian regime is determined to play the game of international justice, and this will enable us to open up prospects for Serbia’s subsequent accession to the European Union. So from this point of view it’s also a landmark event. (…)
Q. – And will Gaddafi be taken to the International Criminal Court one day?
THE MINISTER – He already is being, or practically. At least, he’s under threat of prosecution by the International Criminal Court. As you know, this is one of my key concerns today. How can we find a way out of the Libyan crisis? We all share the same goal, and this was said formally in Deauville, including by the Russians. Gaddafi is discredited; he must relinquish power. With this in mind, we’re going to continue our military intervention to destabilize those who are still loyal to him, particularly the troops who are continuing to shoot at the people. But at the same time we’re seeking a political solution. What does a political solution mean? That Gaddafi should step aside, that there should be a real ceasefire with his troops returning to barracks, international monitoring, then national reconciliation around the leaders of the Transitional National Council, who have proven their credibility, and involving those in Tripoli who drop Gaddafi, if I can put it that way. And I think it’s possible.
Q. – But you’ve said he’s finished. What makes you think he’s really finished and will agree to go?
THE MINISTER – Because in the world we’re living in, you can’t remain in power when virtually the entire international community is against you.
Q. – Including the Russians, then, you say?
THE MINISTER – All the European Union countries are telling him he must go. The Americans are telling him he must go. The Arab league is telling him he must go. The Russians are telling him he must go. Many African countries are starting to tell him he must go. Many heads of State have said so. You know, we live in a world where you can’t endure the pressure that exists in this particular case: quite simply, the pressure of democracy and human rights. (…)
Q. – We’re going to talk about another conflict France is engaged in: Afghanistan. For 10 years, our soldiers have been fighting on a particularly dangerous front. Fifty-eight of them have been killed. Dozens of others have returned wounded. We met these soldiers.
The general in the report was talking about dialogue with the Taliban. Aren’t the Taliban going to return to power in the end, as they said, 10 years on?
THE MINISTER – You can’t let people say that our young are being sent to their deaths by military bureaucrats sitting behind their desks. We’ve no right to scorn the military hierarchy like that, because our military leaders are often on the ground. I was Defence Minister for a few months, and several times I had to go and speak to families who had just lost a child in Afghanistan. Obviously it was harder for them than it was for me, but I can tell you that I’ll never forget those occasions. I tried to explain why their child was there and why he died. Why? Firstly because – I wholeheartedly believe this – we’re upholding values. Not American values – that’s silly – but values we share, i.e. the freedom of the Afghan people, who are asking us to help them, and human rights and democracy. And, secondly, we’re also defending our interests. It isn’t in our interest for Afghanistan to become a hotbed of terrorism. Terrorism threatens us directly; we can see this in the Sahel in particular. (…) When I hear this general, whose point of view I can perfectly respect, telling us that we’ll resolve things only through negotiation with the Taliban: obviously. You find a way out of conflicts only by trying to negotiate with those you’ve fought against, but on certain conditions. And the conditions we’re laying down are the acceptance of Afghanistan’s democratic constitution and the renunciation of terrorism.
Q. – And if they refuse?
THE MINISTER – If they refuse, the operation will go on developing. We have a very clear strategy in Afghanistan, contrary to what people often say. It’s very clear to formulate and much more difficult to implement. This strategy involves us gradually handing over responsibility for ensuring the country’s security to the Afghans themselves; that’s what they asked us to do; it’s the transition. For example, this year France wants to withdraw from one of the regions where our troops are present – Surobi – in order to entrust responsibility for it to the Afghan army. Gradually, by 2014, this is what we’re going to do.
The second element of the strategy is that we must negotiate with those Taliban who accept the rules I’ve mentioned to you.
Q. – Open, moderate Taliban ?
THE MINISTER – Those Taliban who renounce terrorism. As you know, it’s not al-Qaeda that’s leading things in Afghanistan; that’s not true; it’s these groups of Taliban, some of whom are ready for dialogue. And finally, we must work with Pakistan, because we won’t find a definitive solution unless Pakistan gets involved in the search for that solution.
Q. – You’re to go to the Middle East on Wednesday, stopping off in Rome for a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, with a message from Nicolas Sarkozy: “peace has waited too long”. A message, but also mediation, dialogue proposals?
THE MINISTER – Concrete proposals, and I was also struck in Deauville by seeing the G8’s unity on this. What are we saying? We’re saying that the status quo can’t remain. It has to change. Everything is changing around Israel and Palestine: Egypt has changed course, Syria too. The status quo is untenable and if nothing is done between now and September – President Sarkozy is sending a strong message – we’re not ruling out any solution.
Q. – Does this means that France could recognize the Palestinian State with the 1967 borders as the Palestinian Authority is calling for?
THE MINISTER – No decision has been taken; we’ll ask ourselves the question if nothing happens between now and September; that’s when we’ll make a proposal. So what can happen? We want the so-called Quartet, i.e. the Americans, Europeans, Russians and the United Nations, to ask the partners to get back round the table to talk. To talk about what? A very important breakthrough was made on this in President Obama’s speech. To talk about a return to the 1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps.
Q. – Which the Israeli Prime Minister completely rejects…
THE MINISTER – Precisely: the United States President for the first time took a step in that direction. Then there are other elements I won’t go into. And we’re saying, on the basis of these elements proposed by the Quartet, get yourselves round the table and let’s organize a conference in Paris at the end of June to restart the process. That’s the message I’m going to be taking. I wouldn’t give myself a 90% chance of success, but if there’s any chance, it has to be tried. I’d like to add one thing: reconciliation between the Palestinians, between Fatah and Hamas, may be an opportunity which must be grasped rather than brushed aside. Let’s try and get Hamas, which is still a terrorist organization today, to evolve towards renouncing violence and terrorism, and towards recognizing the State of Israel. This is what we’ve got to work towards. (…)./.