Syria/sanctions – Iran/sanctions – Albania
THE MINISTER – Our agenda was very full and so I shall not list all the questions we discussed.
A few words on Syria: France wished to reaffirm her desire to avoid double standards and for that reason we attach great importance to adopting a very clear, very firm position on what is happening in Syria, which is totally unacceptable since it amounts to brutal, and continuing, repression. We have therefore made considerable efforts in the EU, as you already know, to obtain strong sanctions and include Bashar al-Assad himself on the list of individuals subject to sanctions, something that we have in fact been able to obtain. We are seeking a further strengthening of those sanctions, and we have received support from all our colleagues, and likewise, as you will see in the conclusions, there is a desire to take action in the Security Council for a pronouncement by the Council.
In my view it would be completely intolerable for the United Nations to be unable to succeed in expressing a strong view on what is happening in Syria. I am well aware that there is the threat of a Russian veto and we are trying to assemble the largest possible majority on the Council, and once that majority has been built up I think we must go for a vote.
I have taken careful note of the most recent statement by the Syrian President and see no reason to take him more seriously now than in the past. This isn’t the first time he has announced a programme of reform, and he has never yet kept his word; indeed, to announce elections while continuing to use tanks against the civilian population is absurd.
In the event, which I find difficult to imagine, that he puts a complete end to the brutal repression of the Syrian people, that would be another matter, but that is not the case at the present time and consequently our position continues to be focused on European sanctions and action in the United Nations for a resolution.
Q. – Otherwise, what other means? Are other sanctions possible? For the moment we are not seeing much being done.
THE MINISTER – There have been sanctions, you are not seeing much being done, but you saw something being done when we applied sanctions.
Q. – It didn’t really work, did it?
THE MINISTER – Yes, it is working, that is to say that the people concerned can no longer leave Syria, they have no visa to enter any European country, and so you can’t say it isn’t working. We’ve never claimed that sanctions would change the situation overnight; it is a long and difficult process, and it is also a process that matches our moral determination to explain clearly what we must do; we can go further and look at economic sanctions, which could be more effective. I certainly recognize that what would be most effective is the adoption of a position by the United Nations Security Council, but there is no movement on that for the moment.
Q. – And is there a reference to stepping up the sanctions in the conclusions?
THE MINISTER – Absolutely, and you will see that in the conclusions. Where economic sanctions are concerned, we have not yet discussed that, but we have support for the idea of reinforcing sanctions.
Q. – With a view to adoption by the end of the week?
THE MINISTER – Oh no, not by the end of the week, and the European Council…
Q. – Surely there are in fact double standards here?
THE MINISTER – No, as we have said, there is no reason, I say again, to have double standards. The repression has caused over a thousand deaths, we do not have the precise figures; it has been incredibly violent and we cannot stand by without reacting. Some consider that there is still time for him to make good and engage a genuine reform process, but for my part I doubt that; I believe that the point of no return has been reached and that in any case the statement made today does not change the context.
Q. – About the sanctions against Syria, should we sanction Iran or the Iranians?
THE MINISTER – No, Iran is another matter; you know that on Iran, France has said things that are extremely clear and extremely firm, and we have also sought stronger sanctions against Iran insofar as Iran does not adhere to United Nations Security Council resolutions and the decisions of the IAEA.
Q. – After the sanctions against Syria, could you include Iranians?
THE MINISTER – I’ve told you that they’re two different issues and I’ve said what we thought about Iran.
Q. – What did you say on Albania?
THE MINISTER – On Albania, we adopted a very clear position. If Albania wants to pursue the path to European membership, she must engage in a political dialogue which allows the parties to be reconciled./.