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Syria – Libya – Islam – Iran

Published on March 14, 2012
Excerpts from the interview given by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, to Europe 1, I-Télé, Le Parisien and Aujourd’hui en France

Paris, March 11, 2012



THE MINISTER – I find what’s happening in Syria hugely frustrating. (…) Despite all the efforts we’ve been making for weeks, the massacre is continuing.

After Homs, it’s now the turn of Idlib in Syria.

What are we trying to do? What was the purpose of this resolution? It was to achieve a ceasefire, a cessation of the violence and, at last, the access to humanitarian assistance currently being refused by the regime. What we can’t accept in this resolution is for the regime, which is murdering its citizens, to be put on exactly the same level as the insurgents who are trying to defend themselves.

Q. – For you, are there no other solutions than the departure of Bashar al-Assad?

THE MINISTER – For us, there are no other solutions today than to implement – and this is the second point that is problematic in this resolution – the plan for a political settlement of the situation in Syria which was put forward by the Arab League and which we support.

Q. – But he’s having none of it! He repeated that to Kofi Annan, whom he’s seeing again today.

THE MINISTER – Just because he’s having none of it doesn’t mean we must give up. We’d like this plan to be implemented, and we won’t give way on this point, because we have the support of 13 of the 15 Security Council members, 137 member states at the General Assembly, and the whole Friends of the Syrian People Group, who met in Tunis and will soon meet again in Turkey.

The second point is this: a plan for a political settlement that envisages – as in Yemen – the sidelining of the current president, the creation of a coalition government including the opposition, and the organization of free elections.

What’s the goal in Syria? It’s to enable the Syrian people to emerge from dictatorship and move towards democracy. We haven’t got there yet, and we’re going to continue our efforts to that end. (…)
Why isn’t an intervention possible?

Firstly, for a crystal clear reason, which is legal and which I’ve been repeating tirelessly for months: because we rule out engaging in a military intervention if we don’t have a green light from the United Nations Security Council.

Q. – And it couldn’t be done under another kind of mandate?

THE MINISTER – You know as well as I do that China and Russia are currently using their veto. That’s the first reason, which I think is very simple.

The second reason is that we’re looking at an opposition that isn’t at all organized, as the [Libyan] National Transitional Council was; it’s divided. Within the opposition, some are calling for a military intervention and others object to it.

The third reason is that there’s the highest possible risk of civil war in the event of a foreign intervention in Syria. As you know, there are different communities in that country – Alawites, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds etc. – and they’re not all on the same wavelength. That’s why even the Arab League, in the official line it’s adopting today, isn’t calling for military intervention. (…)


Q. – You mentioned Libya. Benghazi is still – and it’s a tradition – opposed to Tripoli. Benghazi wants autonomy for Cyrenaica, etc. Must we agree to Libya being carved up, and agree to a federal solution? Have those who contributed to Libya’s liberation got any say on this?

THE MINISTER – No, it’s not for us to vote in the place of the Libyans, if you’re trying to make me say that.

Q. – No, but you must have a little influence with those you put in power!

THE MINISTER – Of course we’re very vigilant about respect for human rights and a number of principles, but it’s for the Libyans to choose their future. It’s not for France or the international coalition.

Nevertheless, we’ve always said that we’re strongly committed to Libya’s territorial integrity and that separatism in Libya would be a very bad thing.

You talk to me about autonomy for Cyrenaica; that’s another matter. Whether there are any autonomous systems in tomorrow’s Libya is a decision for the Libyans. What I’d like to say above all is that we must stop pointing the finger at those people who are trying to emerge from 40-year dictatorships. After 40 years of a very harsh dictatorship, how could anyone imagine things suddenly being stabilized and the situation in Libya resembling that of the United States or Europe, with a peaceful democracy?

It’ll take time and it’ll be difficult, of course. Our role is to help them, not constantly to condemn them; it’s to help those who really want a democratic process. That’s what we’re trying to do, just as we’re doing in Tunisia and Egypt. (…)


Q. – Aren’t you worried about what’s being done in certain countries, with the rise of a severe form of Islamization? (…)

THE MINISTER – (…) Islam in itself isn’t a danger; we really must get that into our heads. (…) I look at what’s happening in French society: there’s a very worrying form of Islamophobia. Islam in itself isn’t a problem. The problem is extremist distortions of Islam, just like those of other religions. So we must strengthen the moderates: those who accept, for example, the principle of equality between men and women. (…)


Q. – On Iran, is it true that Hillary Clinton – whom you often see and whom you’re going to see again in New York this evening and tomorrow – has disclosed to you Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to strike Iran’s military installations soon?

THE MINISTER – No, Mrs Clinton hasn’t disclosed that to me. She and I have excellent relations and we’re following the situation very closely and even with great concern, because the Iran crisis is perhaps the most dangerous crisis, not only in the Middle East but more generally for world stability. We can’t tolerate Iran violating all her international commitments by obtaining a nuclear weapon. It would be an extraordinarily dangerous escalation throughout the region. (…)

In reality, Iran today isn’t playing by the rules, even if she’s just expressed readiness to resume the negotiations; hence the measure we took – in full agreement with our allies: the Germans and British, all the Europeans, and the Americans and Russians too – to impose very tough sanctions in order to force Iran back to the negotiating table and avoid the military option. The goal hasn’t been achieved yet, but as I was saying, Iran has started to budge a little by offering to return to the negotiating table. We’re going to continue this policy, which is coherent and which I hope will bring results./.

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