FRANCE/EU HUMANITARIAN EFFORT
Q. – Laurent Fabius, France has begun providing humanitarian aid in Iraq. What’s the situation regarding military aid? You said you wanted this done in a European framework. Where are you on this in your discussions with our neighbours?
THE MINISTER – Let’s take things one at a time, if you don’t mind. On the humanitarian front, last Sunday I sent a convoy of 18 tonnes to Erbil. In the next two days, there’s going to be a new consignment of 20 tonnes of equipment, water purification kits and medicines. That’s going to go in the next two days and will also arrive in the Kurdish region. In the following days, a third consignment containing provisions is scheduled. That’s the French humanitarian effort. At European level, immediately after my visit I asked Europe to establish a European humanitarian air bridge – so that this isn’t France all on her own, or France and some other country in a piecemeal way, so that all Europe’s countries can coordinate their action. This very day, there’s a meeting of what’s called the PSC (Political and Security Committee), i.e. the different countries’ representatives at European level, to organize this and I hope it’s going to be done. This is the humanitarian effort.
Q. – For the moment, no country has given you its agreement?
THE MINISTER – The aim of today’s meeting is to coordinate the various European countries’ action. I very much hope they’re going to agree. We can’t just stand by and watch hundreds and thousands of people, children and women dying of hunger. This is what’s happening.
Q. – And as regards military aid?
INTERNAL IRAQI POLITICS
THE MINISTER – Secondly, there’s the politics and thirdly, there’s the military side. At the political level, you’ve seen what’s going on. I’m very glad to say that the former Prime Minister, Mr al-Maliki, who was to a large extent responsible for this disaster, has been replaced by Mr al-Abadi, whom we’re supporting. President Masum, the Iraqi President, is telling Mr al-Abadi: “You are in charge”, but Mr al-Maliki is hanging on in there, if I can put it like that. France’s position is absolutely clear: we’re supporting the Prime Minister who’s been duly nominated and we very much hope there will be a national unity government. That’s the internal political situation.
Q. – And the third point, the military level.
The third point is the military aspect. There’s an obvious imbalance, because, on one side, this horrible Islamic State terrorist group has very sophisticated weapons, a large part of which has in fact been taken from the Iraqi army which they routed. On the other side, the Peshmergas, i.e. Kurdish combatants, are extremely brave but haven’t got the same weapons. We can stand by and say: “it’s heartbreaking, we can’t do anything about it”, but that isn’t our position. This is why I asked Mrs Ashton to convene as quickly as possible a meeting of the [EU] Foreign Affairs Council, all my colleagues, so that on this point we take decisions at European level.
Q. – For the moment, there’s no agreement with other countries?
THE MINISTER – There’s no date set yet and I’m asking again for this to be done as a matter of urgency. I’m well aware that it’s the holiday season in the Western countries, but for goodness sake when people are dying, you have to cut short your holidays! I’ve asked – and Mrs Mogherini, the Italian [Foreign] Minister has too – for this to be done as a matter of urgency and I expect it to be treated as such.
Q. – What would be the objective? To halt the progress of these Islamist combatants, i.e. to contain them within a specific region or destroy them and prevent them from building their Islamic State?
THE MINISTER – You know, when you see what these people are doing and what they intend doing, i.e. basically to kill all those who don’t think as they do, don’t recant their religion, and engage in torture and systematic rape – come on, they are absolutely inhuman people! –, you can’t just say: “It’s regrettable, but it doesn’t concern us, we’re not getting involved”. We have to help the Kurds and the Iraqis get the means to resist and, if possible, defeat them. Since their objective is what they call the Islamic caliphate, it isn’t just Iraq, it’s Iraq, it’s Syria, it’s Jordan, it’s Israel, it’s Palestine, no less. That’s the aim. And we, all of us, who don’t think like them, whether we’re in the Middle East or Europe, we are dogs to be crushed and destroyed. When you’re in this situation, you must obviously keep calm, but we must also give those involved the means to resist and if possible neutralize [the Islamists].
All the same, let’s be careful about one point, I draw your attention to it. The Kurds are engaged in a lot of fighting in northern Iraq, but you may perhaps have seen that while yesterday the Kurds managed to retake two villages, by contrast the Islamic State has captured a town not far from Baghdad. When you look at the map, be careful not to look just at what’s happening in northern Iraq. There’s Baghdad too. On Sunday I was in Baghdad, which is a city totally in a state of war, you’ve got tanks at every street corner, and the front is 120 kilometres away. (…)./.