Visit to Russia
THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen, I in turn would like to say what a great pleasure it is for me to be with Sergei Lavrov. We’ve already met several times, notably in Paris for the G8 ministerial summit, but it’s the first time I’ve come to Moscow in my capacity as Foreign Minister. I’d like to thank my counterpart for his excellent welcome and our substantive discussions this morning, since we’ve been working for nearly two hours and are going to continue over lunch.
I’m here at a time when relations between our two countries are excellent. These are apparent, among other things, through close contacts between our two presidents, our prime ministers and also between the foreign ministers. I was saying to Sergei Lavrov that I wanted us to see each other as frequently as possible to exchange information and, whenever possible, establish common positions together.
ECONOMIC RELATIONS/VISAS/ENERGY/SECURITY/SYRIA/LIBYA/MIDDLE EAST/IRAN
We discussed our bilateral relations. I said they were excellent, especially in the economic sphere, since trade between France and Russia over the past 10 years has increased threefold and today our market share, here in Russia, is 5% in a large number of areas: transport, energy, aerospace, etc. I won’t list them all. We’re determined to forge ahead; I’d particularly like to draw attention to the major project of planning and developing tourism in the North Caucasus, to which France is ready to contribute and bring her expertise.
We also discussed European issues: relations between the European Union and Russia. I assured Mr Lavrov that France is determined to resolve the visa issue as swiftly as possible: we must be able to abolish short-term visas quickly, which involves further efforts on both sides, but we’ve good reason to think that we’ll manage to do so by the end of the year.
We also talked about Europe and Russia’s relations in the area of energy, and I said that France was committed to compliance with the long-term gas supply contracts.
We spoke about security issues, and relations between NATO and Russia. For France, it’s very important for Russia to be able to be fully included in the anti-missile defence project. Moreover, we share concerns on certain points regarding this.
Security also involves security right across the continent; the Astana OSCE summit affirmed our desire to build a common area of security and prosperity and we agreed that France and Russia could make proposals on this to their partners in order to turn this fine intention and fine project into a reality.
And then we discussed the crisis situations. Sergei Lavrov has just talked about a few of them – Syria for example, where we very much agree first of all on encouraging a halt, as quickly as possible, to every form of violence, and the pursuit of a genuine programme of reforms. On this point we don’t have exactly the same approach as regards the intervention of the United Nations Security Council, but we’re ready to continue working on this.
As far as Libya is concerned, our differences are known, and we haven’t of course hidden them. We differ on the interpretation of the Security Council resolutions and their implementation but, these differences on the methods aside, as Sergei Lavrov said, we share similar views on the political objectives. We can, we want, we hope to work together on defining a political solution guided, in particular, by the principles laid down at the G8 with President Medvedev’s support.
Regarding the Middle East, a Quartet meeting is planned in Washington in a few days’ time, on 11 July, and I’m sure we’ll be able to combine our efforts to encourage a resumption of the negotiations between the two sides.
We also discussed the Iran issue, where, as Sergei Lavrov said, we can work together to stop this militarization process that’s currently under way in Iran and oppose a proliferation that would constitute a threat to the region and even beyond.
There you are: it’s not an exhaustive summary, because we discussed many other matters very positively, and I’m therefore delighted with this working session, which was both fruitful and very friendly.
Q. – A question for Alain Juppé on the delivery of French weapons to the Libyan rebels. France believes this complies with the UN resolutions; others think not, including Mr Lavrov in particular, if I understood rightly what he said yesterday. What I’d like to know is: did France take this decision unilaterally or consult her partners?
And my second question is: are other weapons deliveries of this kind planned to other countries – for example, Syria, Yemen etc.?
THE MINISTER – Mr Lavrov has received a reply. I don’t know whether it satisfied him. But we talked about it, of course. To be brief, I’d say that from the French viewpoint – we’re not the only ones to think this way – we’re acting exactly in the framework of UNSCR 1970, and of UNSCR 1973, Article Four of which states that, contrary to UNSCR 1970, all means may be used to help the civilian population protect itself.
So we acted in that framework. We informed our NATO partners and the Security Council of it. The question of whether we intend to do the same thing elsewhere strikes me as quite surprising. There are no Security Council resolutions, as far as I know, that apply to Syria, Yemen or elsewhere. As I’ve said, we differ on this point; there’s no point concealing it. That doesn’t prevent us working together towards a political solution, the only solution that can enable the Libyans to build the new Libya they expect – that is, a democratic Libya. (…)
Q. – A question for Mr Lavrov, please. France says a UN resolution will in no way lead to military action. In that case, would Russia be ready to support the resolution? And if not, what measures would Russia be ready to take to exert pressure on Damascus to resolve the situation?
THE MINISTER – A word on Syria, if you’ll allow me. France agrees, of course, that political solutions may prevail in Syria too. She’s in favour of an ambitious programme of reforms to take the Syrian people’s aspirations into account. I’ve just said Syria, yes. As far as we’re concerned, it seems to us that the Security Council can’t not speak out about the situation: [it must] call for an immediate cessation of the violence under way in Syria and demand that an effective reform programme be implemented.
Several announcements have been made so far and nothing has come of them. We can also see that the situation in Syria is starting to threaten the region’s stability: more than 10,000 refugees have entered Turkey; there are tensions in Lebanon and in the Golan Heights. This seems to me to justify the Security Council taking a position, in terms and conditions that of course bear no resemblance to UNSCRs 1970 and 1973 on Libya. The circumstances are different even though, for us, the prohibition or non-use of violence, including state violence, against public demonstrations is a constant we want to see asserted everywhere.
Q. – I have a question for the French minister. In your opinion, how far is the issue of the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement topical again? To what extent is the issue of Georgia, the occupation of Georgia, on the agenda of your talks? And in your view, how is this agreement being respected by Russia?
THE MINISTER – As I’ve told you, we discussed all subjects of common interest, particularly Georgia. For us, the agreements reached in August and September 2008 remain valid and must be implemented.
We’re committed to Georgia’s territorial integrity. We are of course totally opposed to the use of violence in any form to achieve that goal. We want the dialogue and discussion process under way in Geneva to be the place where the solution can emerge and where an agreement can be concluded in a stable and effective manner./.