Q. – Syria: 80,000 dead, a very serious crisis that threatens to destabilize the whole region, and Russia and the United States planning to organize a conference to resolve the crisis. All the players in the Syria issue would be invited to the conference, including the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, despite the blood he has on his hands.
THE MINISTER – No.
Q. – Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian government, won’t be present at the conference?
THE MINISTER – The idea is to create a transitional government that takes over Bashar al-Assad’s powers, so Bashar al-Assad will in fact be kept away.
Q. – It’s not as clear as that in the minds of the organizers, particularly the Russians.
THE MINISTER – Yes it is. I often speak to Sergei Lavrov on the phone…
Q. – There’s a lot of ambiguity on the issue…
THE MINISTER – There’s ambiguity, but there was already ambiguity in the conclusions of the “Geneva I” meeting last June. We reached an agreement – I was one of the people who held the pen – and then we had different interpretations. To get back to “Geneva II”, I’m entirely in favour of it, but it’s very difficult. Firstly, the parties involved must be brought together; that’s not easy. You have to bring together people in the opposition as well as people close to the regime who don’t have blood on their hands; so it’s very complicated. Secondly, we absolutely must come up with a solution for the next stage so that the transitional government can take over all the powers; that’s what was already provided for in “Geneva I” but didn’t succeed. Thirdly, the conflict must be prevented from spreading to the neighbouring regions. Today the Syrian conflict is threatening to become international – it’s already an international conflict. So France is clearly in favour of “Geneva II”; even though it’s very difficult, we’re working on it. I had a conversation yesterday with John Kerry and a whole series of other colleagues, and we’re making progress. France is playing her part in that.
Q. – To be precise, perhaps not Bashar al-Assad directly but no doubt people who are very loyal to him – shouldn’t they be present at this international conference?
THE MINISTER – Certainly not. The Geneva text which is the basis for “Geneva II” says there will be a government with full powers, formed by mutual consent. That means three things: a government different from the current one; a government that will have full powers, so without Bashar al-Assad; and a government established by mutual consent. The resistance fighters will never agree to Bashar being in it. The Russians have budged a little, so have the Americans and so have we. We’re all trying to find a solution.
Q. – It’s not very clear, in fact, to tell you the truth…
THE MINISTER – There’s still work to be done; that’s why I’m telling you it’s very difficult.
Q. – We understood, on this point, during John Kerry and Mr Lavrov’s press conference, that John Kerry had, on the whole, moved closer to the idea that Bashar al-Assad’s departure wasn’t, in principle, being asked for.
THE MINISTER – It isn’t, in principle; we’re not asking him to resign before the conference begins. However, the moment you’ve got a transitional government with full powers, Bashar no longer has any power. That said, I repeat, it’s highly desirable, because the massacre must be stopped, but it’s very difficult.
Q. – A conference possibly in June if it can...
THE MINISTER – We’re trying to work for the end of May. There will be intermediate stages. Theoretically, we should see each other at the end of next week, probably in Jordan, then maybe in Paris.
Q. – Another crisis, the Mali crisis. A donors’ conference tomorrow in Brussels: what’s this conference’s goal?
THE MINISTER – The goal is the following: by and large, security has been restored; there now has to be democracy – i.e. dialogue and development, which go together. For that, we need money. Europe, France and Mali have convened an international conference which will be chaired by José Manuel Barroso, François Hollande and Dioncounda Traoré. The aim is to find about €1.9 billion. Things are looking good, roughly 100 countries will be represented, 10 or so heads of state, and I think we can say here that we’re winning the war and now we’ve got to win the peace, and for this there has to be economic development.
Q. – €1.9 billion to help Mali develop, and the prospect of elections in July is maintained?
THE MINISTER – Yes, it’s essential and, moreover, these sums of money won’t be released if there isn’t democratic progress at the same time. (...)./.