Q. – You spoke about an explosive situation in Syria, with, as Bashar al-Assad said yesterday in his speech, the risk of a conflagration in Jordan. Can you confirm that?
THE MINISTER – Bashar al-Assad’s speech was extremely shocking. He said, “I myself was elected” – we’re aware of the conditions under which he was elected – “whereas the resistance fighters have not been elected”, and then he threatened Jordan.
A tragedy is taking place in Syria and Bashar al-Assad is primarily responsible for it; it is imperative that a transitional government be established that will of course mainly include members of the resistance, the National Coalition and possibly also representatives of the regime who don’t have any blood on their hands. This is what we’re working towards.
We have a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday evening with the true friends of Syria, but I can’t hide my concern because if the current situation in Syria continues, with Bashar al-Assad who is continuing his brutality, what’s the risk? There will be more and more deaths, casualties, refugees, and eventually Syria could explode with, on both sides, extremists who may prevail, which would be disastrous both for Syria and for the whole region.
We – Europeans, French citizens and others – are therefore trying to work to get out of this quagmire but it’s extremely difficult.
Q. – So the discussions on the arms embargo are still ongoing…
THE MINISTER – …. they are still ongoing but we have until the end of May.
Q. – And what is France’s position on the oil embargo?
THE MINISTER – From a legal standpoint, the questions are connected. The decision imposing sanctions against Syria is due to expire at the end of May and it’s the same decision that concerns the arms embargo. It’s mid-April now; we have until the end of May to discuss this among ourselves and that’s what we’re doing.
Q. – Indeed, there’s a Russian proposal for joint political negotiation in order to exert joint political pressure; what’s your view?
THE MINISTER – Yes, it’s something that started to be discussed when President Hollande made an official visit to Moscow. The idea was raised during the conversation with President Putin. It’s basically the same idea today: could we not find on both sides, i.e. on the regime’s side – without it being Bashar al-Assad – and on the opposition’s side, some figures to form a transitional government? The figure of five individuals was quoted. That would make it possible to establish a transitional government – this also refers to what we discussed in Geneva in June last year – in order to overcome the deadlock, because the alternative is the continuation of the crisis and therefore more and more deaths, bloodshed and ultimately Syria exploding.
We are indeed engaging in discussions with the Russians and with others. We will see; as you know I am very careful, since we’ve been burned so badly by this issue and every day there are scores more deaths.
Q. – In Mali, on the ground, there are still a lot of technical and political obstacles to the elections in July. There’s the state of emergency and the rainy season. In general, July doesn’t seem to be the right time. Shouldn’t the election just be held in September, which would pretty much amount to the same thing?
THE MINISTER – No, we’ve had a transitional government, an interim president for more than a year already. The Malian National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a road map that provides for a presidential election in July. There’s a whole series of decisions to be taken that only a new government can take; that’s democracy. And since you’re very familiar with the topic, you know that July is still relatively dry, whereas there’s more rain in September. It’s true that elections have already taken place in September but if we delay until September some people would say to us, “it’s impossible because of the rain”. The elections have been planned for July, technically it’s possible, that’s what the Malian authorities want, that’s what all Africans want, so that’s the deadline that must be adhered to if we want things to go well./.