Q. – President Hollande spoke yesterday about a strong, coordinated response to Russia at the European Council. What are these strong responses in terms of sanctions? And it seems to me that we’ve accepted Russia is taking control of Crimea.
THE MINISTER – Ukraine is going to be discussed again in the next few days by the European heads of state and government, meeting on Thursday and Friday. At the beginning of next week, there will also be a meeting of the G7 members so that they can consult each other.
As far as Europe and France are concerned, you know what our position is: one of both firmness, since we can’t stand by and accept a violation of international law, and, at the same time, dialogue, because an escalation must be avoided. We’ve already adopted a number of sanctions. The issue is going to be reconsidered on Thursday and Friday during the European Council.
We made proposals for talks to be established firstly between the Russians and Ukrainians, and then with other countries. But the line being taken is still one of firmness and a desire for talks to prevent an escalation. What would we like? We’ve got to punish the violations of international law, and from this point of view it’s clear that the pseudo-referendum was conducted in contradiction with the Ukrainian constitution and international rules, and that Russia’s annexation of part of Ukrainian territory is absolutely contrary to the law. The arguments contradicting this position don’t stand up.
We want both to punish the breaches of the law and, at the same time, find solutions to prevent an escalation.
Q. – Is there a change of position regarding your countries [Brazil and France] vis-à-vis the BRIC meeting and the G8?
THE MINISTER – The decision has now been taken to suspend the preparatory work for the G8, supposed to be taking place in Sotchi. The question of whether there will be a cancellation and whether a G7 will replace this G8 is going to be decided in the next few days.
We obviously discussed Ukraine; it’s a very important point today. It’s a very complex situation. I highlighted two aspects to my colleague and friend.
The first point is a legal aspect. If we stand by and accept that part of a country, in this case Crimea, can organize a pseudo-referendum, contrary to that country’s constitution and international law, and if we also accept – which is another problem – that a country, in this case Russia, can annex part of another country, you see clearly what a significant international problem this poses. It means, clearly, that borders are no longer respected and guaranteed.
The other aspect which hasn’t been spoken about much so far, but which worries us, is the nuclear issue. France and Brazil are opposed to nuclear proliferation; that’s a very important point. You doubtless know that until the 1990s Ukraine was a major nuclear power. It was even the third country possessing nuclear weapons in terms of [the arsenal’s] size. In 1994 there was an extremely positive agreement.
Ukraine adhered to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and in parallel, in the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine’s integrity was guaranteed. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons and its integrity was guaranteed by the memorandum’s three signatory countries: the United States, Britain and Russia. It meant, specifically, that they [the Ukrainians] were giving up their nuclear weapons but that their integrity had to be guaranteed. Today they’ve given up their nuclear weapons but the integrity isn’t being guaranteed, as proven by the fact that part of their territory has been annexed, and by one of the countries that was a guarantor of that integrity. This worries us a lot, because we’re all making efforts to combat nuclear proliferation; the fact that new states are acquiring nuclear weapons is a danger. If the feeling is given out that a state which had nuclear weapons and agrees to give them up not only doesn’t have its integrity guaranteed but has a part of its territory severed, that’s clearly an incentive for countries that may have nuclear weapons not to give them up, and above all it’s an incentive for the other countries to tell themselves: we must acquire nuclear weapons so that our territory is protected. It’s the complete opposite of what we wish for at international level. This aspect of things isn’t always perceived by observers, but it’s very important in this conflict.
Q. – A Ukrainian soldier was killed yesterday. The Ukrainian government authorized the use of force to protect itself. What do you intend to do, and what can you do practically, to reduce this threat of confrontation?
THE MINISTER – We’re calling first of all for de-escalation. The Europeans, and France in particular, have proposed sending observers from the OSCE, which is a body bringing together the EU countries and other countries like Russia. Those observers, if their presence is accepted, would be very useful because they have a role in encouraging de-escalation. Moreover, we’ve made proposals for negotiation to begin, but this means that both sides, Russia and Ukraine, must be present. The United Nations Secretary-General has also offered to help resolve this conflict. There must also be commitments not to use military means, in order to avoid an escalation in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries.
France will support any initiative enabling dialogue and de-escalation.
Although we have deemed it necessary to adopt sanctions over the violation of international law, we are nevertheless in favour of dialogue. I’m in contact with the Ukrainians, the Russians and the other interlocutors who could enable a negotiated solution to be reached.
And on this point, our position is identical to the one set out by Brazil, namely that the solution can only be diplomatic and can’t be one of force./.