THE MINISTER – We examined two points today. First what happened in Damascus: France condemns the massacre in Damascus in the strongest possible terms and demands an immediate investigation. Allegations of the massive use of chemical weapons are exceptionally grave. There is a UN team in Damascus at the moment; we must absolutely require the Syrian authorities to allow that team to do its job. That is France’s position. This very evening, I will talk about this to the President of the Syrian National Coalition who will, I’m sure, provide me with details of this chemical aspect, which is extremely serious.
That is, of course, an extremely important item. The other item we talked about was the situation in Egypt. The Europeans have taken a unanimous position – this is a very good thing – both to condemn the violence and to demand political dialogue, because progress must be made as swiftly as possible towards inclusive elections. On the economic level, we have decided to continue our assistance to the Egyptian people, as the population is suffering enormously and it would be disastrous to withdraw aid, even if we re-examine our relations. On the military level, it was decided – and this is France’s position – to suspend all weapons deliveries that could be used internally and to re-examine our cooperation.
But the key points are the adoption of a unanimous European position, the affirmation of our principles and, at the same time, the resolve to maintain dialogue with the Egyptian people and their representatives, because we must get things moving while respecting Egyptian sovereignty. And we – in particular, we French – are extremely longstanding friends of Egypt, are suffering from what is happening there and want to do as much as we can to get things moving in a positive direction, although a lot of work remains to be done.
Q. – If it is confirmed that chemical weapons were used, what will France and Europe’s reaction be?
THE MINISTER – It won’t simply be France’s reaction, I hope, but that of Europe as a whole and the international community. You know that these chemical weapons have been condemned; a few countries in the world haven’t signed that condemnation, among them Bashar al-Assad[‘s Syria] and North Korea, which gives you an idea… but their use would be extremely serious. We know that the regime has chemical weapons, and so first, their use must be established. Hence the need for a swift investigation by the UN, since they’re on the ground. If their use is then confirmed, there will not only be a very strong international condemnation, and certainly individual responses. These are things we’ve been following, not just alone but also with the British, the Americans, the Russians and others, for a long time. We cannot accept massacres, particularly involving the use of these extremely dangerous weapons – we’re talking about mustard gas, sarin, things that remind us of the horrors of war. The last time gas of this type was used on a massive scale was during the Iraq war, by Saddam Hussein./.