Syria - Serbia
Q. – How does France see the Syria situation following the Tunis meeting?
THE MINISTER – The Tunis meeting was a very positive step. As you know, this idea of a group of friends was floated by President Sarkozy. It has become a reality; we must now keep up the pressure, because unfortunately the regime is continuing a bloody and implacable crackdown. When you see President Bashar al-Assad smile while voting in this referendum, which is an appalling farce, you can’t help being angry, because at the same time bombs are continuing to fall on the population of Homs and other cities. So we’re going to keep up the pressure.
Today we’re going to adopt a new, very strong set of sanctions, particularly on the central bank’s transactions. We’re also making every possible effort to enable the journalists trapped in Homs to be evacuated – particularly Mme Edith Bouvier, who is injured. We’re in contact both with the Syrian authorities, whom we hold responsible for the fate of our citizens, and with the humanitarian organizations, especially the Red Cross and Red Crescent. We hope our efforts will succeed as soon as possible. (…)
THE MINISTER – (…) On Serbia, we were convinced for a long time that we had to move forward and grant Serbia candidate status; that’s been done; we all commended the work of Catherine Ashton, Robert Cooper and also Commissioner Fühle. Conditions were set; they’ve now been fulfilled. This will encourage Belgrade to make progress along the path of growing closer to the European Union; it’s also an encouragement for Kosovo, who has also made progress. We must keep a close watch, but as some of my colleagues have said, candidate status isn’t member status, so there’s still a long way to go.
A few comments on Syria. We’ve adopted tougher sanctions against the Syrian regime, particularly against the central bank; that’s a positive point. It goes without saying that we’re all very frustrated by what’s happening, because we haven’t managed to stop this ever more intolerable crackdown. (…)
We’re going to continue the process that’s been started. The Tunis meeting was a good initiative; next there will be Istanbul and then Paris. The appointment of Kofi Annan is also good news: he’s a highly respected and very wise man. I also hope to have an opportunity to see him in Geneva this afternoon. (…)
Q. – Regarding Syria, did you discuss a possible referral of the matter to the International Criminal Court, as well as humanitarian corridors?
THE MINISTER – I’ll be saying in Geneva this afternoon that I’d like the international community to think about the conditions for referring matters to the International Criminal Court. As you know, it’s a difficult case. Syria isn’t a state party, so it’s up to the Security Council to deal with the matter. So we’ll have to continue gathering the material that would ultimately enable us to make this happen.
On the second point – the humanitarian corridors – it’s a request from the Syrian National Council, from Mr Ghalioun, who also repeated it in Tunis. I think we must work on this issue, on humanitarian access at any rate, which is an absolute priority. So it’s one of the subjects we’re going to work on with Kofi Annan in particular, and it can be based on the United Nations General Assembly resolution.
A word about the Syrian National Council: we recognized it today – as we also did in Tunis – as a legitimate interlocutor. There are other components of the opposition, but I think it’s very important to push this opposition to organize itself, strengthen itself and open itself up to Christians and Alawites, and to this end we need a focal point that takes responsibility for leadership, and we think the Syrian National Council must do that work. So we’re going to continue working with it, too.
Q. – (regarding the evacuations from Syria)
THE MINISTER – As I’ve told you, we’re working with the Syrian authorities; we’ve asked them to facilitate this evacuation. The response wasn’t negative: the governor of Homs is in charge of this, and I repeat, it’s primarily the responsibility of the Damascus authorities to facilitate this evacuation, and we’re also working with the humanitarian organizations, particularly the ICRC, which is there on the ground. That’s what we’re trying to do; as usual, I don’t want to raise any premature hopes, but I think we’ll get there. (…)
Q. – Is there any reason to believe a new set of sanctions could affect a regime ready to kill so many of its own people?
THE MINISTER – Sanctions are effective; we can see this, for example, today in Iran, where the regime is doing everything possible to try to shake them off, which proves it finds them uncomfortable. We’ve started on Syria too; it’s not enough; we must also continue the political pressure to implement the Arab League plan, but I think it’s a new step./.