Q. – So you were just talking about Syria. The rebels are losing ground; do they have to be armed? The Americans seem ready to do so.
THE MINISTER – Balance must be restored. Over the past few days, weeks, Bashar al-Assad’s troops, and above all, those of Hezbollah and the Iranians, with the Russian weapons, have recaptured a considerable amount of ground. We must be able to halt this progression before Aleppo – Hezbollah and the Iranians’ next target. It must be stopped because there won’t be any peace conference in Geneva without balance being restored on the ground; the opposition won’t agree to take part in it. And yet there must be a political solution.
So we must be able to halt Bashar al-Assad’s troops and move, if possible in July, towards a political conference; this is what we’re pushing for. The resistance soldiers must have weapons to be able to defend themselves. Bashar al-Assad has planes – over 500 – and powerful guns and has used chemical weapons in a shocking way. It’s not a question of arming the opposition for the sake of it, but balance must be restored.
Q. – So who is going to arm them? Europe, the United States, France?
THE MINISTER – Arms are being supplied by Arab countries. As you know, we’re complying with the European regulation that says powerful weapons can be delivered from 1 August onwards. For the moment we haven’t decided.
The Americans, in fact – I spoke to my colleague, Mr Kerry, yesterday – are currently examining their own position. I think there are different positions in the American administration. The Americans would have liked to keep out of all this, but the conflict is no longer local: it’s a regional and even international conflict. Jordan is affected, Turkey is affected, Lebanon is affected and Iraq is affected; in Syria it’s a disaster. It may have repercussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So nobody can say the Syria conflict doesn’t concern them.
WESTERN MILITARY INTERVENTION
Q. – Is a Western military intervention needed?
THE MINISTER – No, nobody is asking for troops to be put on the ground in Syria: that would be a disaster. But the resistance fighters must have the means to defend themselves. Moreover, let me add that this conflict is becoming a religious conflict between Shias and Sunnis. It’s a dreadful mess, with real threats to the whole region. Behind the Syrian regime, there’s clearly the Iran issue: will Iran be able to acquire a nuclear weapon next year, yes or no? France’s position is this: if we’re not capable of preventing Iran from taking control of Syria, what credibility will we have in demanding she doesn’t acquire a nuclear weapon? So it’s all linked. (…)./.