Syria – Greece/Euro Area
Q. – Alain Juppé, after Homs it’s Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city, which has been shelled. It happened last night. How long is the international community going to go on letting this happen?
THE MINISTER – So long as we remain paralysed at the Security Council by Russia and China; that’s for sure.
Q. – Are you going to try and exert pressure on Russia?
THE MINISTER – Of course, it’s what we’re trying to do. Let me remind you that we have already done so several times. We did so last week; I myself was at the Security Council to try and convince the Russians and Chinese. We all had a go at it, 13 out of 15, which means that the Security Council was almost unanimous and Russia cast her veto, followed by China.
We’re going on doing so of course by supporting the only initiative today on the table capable of creating the conditions for ending the crisis peacefully – that of the Arab League. We got concrete substance given to an idea President Sarkozy put forward for a meeting of The Friends of the Syrian People group. The Arab League jumped at the idea and the meeting will take place on 24 February in Tunis; Naturally, I’ll be there.
The idea is, by bringing together the largest possible number of countries, to exert maximum pressure on both Russia and the Bashar al-Assad regime.
On our side, we’re in the process of renegotiating a resolution at the Security Council to see if we can get the Russians to give in. Tomorrow we’ll have a vote at the General Assembly.
Q. – Is it symbolic?
THE MINISTER – It’s symbolic, but if we have more than 130 or 140 countries in the world saying “stop the massacre, enough is enough, the Arab League plan has to be implemented”, I think it will be a powerful symbol.
Q. – A word on Greece. We’ve seen that things are at a complete standstill since the European Union has decided to postpone its decision on financial aid. What can be done genuinely to help Athens save Greece?
THE MINISTER – To get through this we have to go on negotiating. We’re asking the Greeks to make some extremely painful sacrifices, admittedly, and I understand the irritation or even revolt on the part of the Greek people.
You have to recognize that Greece has made mistakes in the past.
She’s had a lot of help and, unfortunately, she hasn’t always submitted accurate accounts; you have to recognize too that we are going to give her massive help. The banking sector is ready to wipe out up to 70% of her private-sector debt, and the European Union with the IMF are going to inject €130 billion if the agreement is concluded.
Q. – If it is!
THE MINISTER – It’s going to be concluded. You know how things are done, the negotiations are always very tough right up to the last moment. It has to be concluded because if Greece went bankrupt and left the Euro Area, that would be very bad news and I think the chaos would be even more terrible for the Greek people./.