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Russia

Published on May 20, 2014
Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to BBC World News

Paris, May 16, 2014

(…)

FRANCE/RUSSIA/WARSHIP CONTRACT

Q. – You’ve said how responsible Russia is for some of the difficulties in Syria and Ukraine. And yet, France has agreed to sell two warships [to Russia].

THE MINISTER – The situation you describe is very difficult. At the same time, there are facts. You say the French have signed a contract: that’s absolutely correct – three years ago now, and three-quarters of it has been paid for.

Q. – Was it a mistake?

THE MINISTER – No. It was three years ago. A contract which has been signed is absolutely not banned by law. Just as there are many Russians who have investments in Britain, it’s not banned. Just as many European countries buy their gas from Russia, for the moment it’s not banned.

Q. – Yes, but a warship…

THE MINISTER – Those are the facts: for the moment we’ve adopted two levels of sanctions, and of course it’s a unanimous decision. We’re going to see what happens. If, for example, the Russians blocked the elections in May and June, we’d probably all move onto the third level of sanctions. Then the problem all the countries would face is, for example, in Britain – I’m taking a random example –: must you refuse all Russian investments in Britain? For example, in this or that country you must stop buying your gas…

Q. – We’re talking about a warship. Are you going to cancel the sale?

THE MINISTER – Legally, today, there’s no possibility. But we’re going to decide on this, as we’ve said, in October.

Q. – France is in a very difficult situation, because you’re about to sell two Mistrals and, legally, you have no possibility of cancelling the delivery.

THE MINISTER – Of course, it’s not an easy position. But it’s no more difficult a position than when you welcome large-scale investments by people who turn out to be criminals.

In any case, as far as we’re concerned, we abide by the law: today’s law and tomorrow’s law. And we ask everyone to do the same thing.
But for the time being, we’re not at that stage.

RUSSIA/NATIONALISM

Q. – Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was imprisoned in Russia for 10 years, was released a few months ago. In his view, the nationalist feelings aroused in Russia could lead to problems, particularly in the former Soviet republics like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; he even talks about the Balkans.

THE MINISTER – I’d like to make two observations.

My first observation is along the lines you’ve just indicated. When you look at the map, you see that the best protection for peace is to be in the European Union, and I say this for everyone to hear. Countries like Poland and the Baltic countries are countries – I’ll take the example of the Baltic countries – which have many Russian-speaking minorities, as you know. But they’re protected, particularly because they’re in the European Union. I hear people here and there saying, “Oh, the European Union!”, but the European Union is the guarantee of peace.

Q. – When have we experienced such a dangerous situation?

THE MINISTER – Probably not since the Cold War. I think you’re right: it’s a very dangerous situation. (…)./.

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