Ambassador Araud on Bloomberg TV
PETER COOK (BLOOMBERG TV) : Let me ask you first of all about a big story, an issue in France right now, a tragedy, the death of the Total CEO Christophe de Margerie. I wanted to get a sense from you, first of all how this might impact French-Russian relations going forward. We already have the tensions over Ukraine. Is there a chance that this could also add to those tensions or do you see this simply as a tragedy on its own?
AMB. GERARD ARAUD: No, I think this is a tragedy on its own. I think Christophe de Margerie was a charismatic “wider than nature” CEO for Total and so his death is a personal tragedy. As you know, Total has chosen a new President immediately who actually was the previous CEO. So now Total is in a transition period to adjust to this new reality.
PC: Mr. de Margerie made a lot of headlines in the United States as well because he was among those CEOs who questioned sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Does France at this point see any reasons to ease up on the sanctions against Russia?
GA: No. It’s very, very clear we have said that we will accept easing sanctions against Russia only if Russia takes significant steps on the ground in Ukraine. And for the moment, unfortunately we are not seeing them. Weapons are still flowing to Ukraine. There are still bloody incidents between separatists and the Ukrainian forces, so we are still far from it.
PC: What is the sanctions impact on business in France right now? We’ve had so much attention paid to the helicopter carriers, the mistrial carriers, the sale not so far going through to the Russians and what’s going to happen with that deal?
GA: The French President has said, again, it will depend on the situation on the ground. We have put the delivery of the mistral system on hold for the moment. So we are looking at the situation. As we have said there is no reason to ease the sanctions so for the moment, right now, there is no reason to deliver the mistrial.
PC: There’s a number of issues that you’re dealing with in the United States right now including the fight with the Islamic State, France is part of the coalition taking on the Islamic State ISIL in Iraq, but not in Syria. What’s the distinction in France? Why is France not part of the coalition when it comes to Syria?
GA: Because we considered that it’s not possible to strike in Syria without having a Syrian strategy. You can’t think that striking, conducting a military operation in Syria doesn’t have a consequence on the Civil War, and especially in the situation of Assad. So we want to know what is down the road. Are we going to, at the end of the slippery slope, become de facto allies of Assad? No, its not possible. What are the roots of the ISIL? Actually ISIL is the son or the daughter of the civil war in Syria. So if you want to defeat ISIL, first we are convinced you have to solve the civil war in Syria, which means you have to get rid of Assad.
PC: Are the airstrikes the United States is conducting in Syria counterproductive, do you think?
GA: No, they are not counterproductive, but the problem is, you know, it’s necessary to disrupt, to weaken the ISIL. But again, these strikes are going to be conducted on the long term, it has been announced by the American authorities, so it will have consequences on the civil war sooner or later, so we want to have a strategy, we want to be clear about what it means.
PC: President Hollande and President Obama spoke recently not only about the fight against the Islamic State but also about the situation, the Ebola crisis, in West Africa. I wondered if you could give us perspective: how is the Ebola crisis being received in France versus the United States? You have the unique vantage point, you’ve been there, you’ve seen the reaction here, some question of panic in places like Texas, what’s your assessment?
GA: So again, maybe because we don’t have cases in France, we only have one worker that we have repatriated from Africa. So there is no panic in France. We are serious about it, we have put in place an organization to face it, we will have a national exercise about Ebola, but for the moment there is no panic. But again, maybe because we have not faced the epidemic on our territory.
PC: What about the President’s call here in the United States for the International community’s should do more to stop Ebola at the source in West Africa.
GA: What the American President told my President, but also the other members, the British, the German, the Italian leaders is that we have to break the exponential curve of infections, which means isolating the infected persons. So the US is doing it in Liberia, the British are doing it in Sierra Leone, and so France is doing it in Guinea. So that was in a sense the advice, the request of President Obama and we are doing it in Guinea.
PC: Let me end really quickly on the economy. There are questions about a slowdown in Europe, questions about whether there can be steps taken in France and in Germany to boost economic growth. The United States is even delivering that message. Is that helpful for the United States to be offering that advice at this point?
GA: Yes, it’s very helpful because you are not the only one. The IMF is also delivering this same message. And there is as you know a dialogue between the German and the French government, the new French government. The French government which has announced significant reforms in the labor market, but also telling the Germans to do their part of the job in terms of expenditures, in terms of investments. We need to boost the demand in Europe.
PC: Will we see a trade deal between the United States and the European Union in 2015?
GA: I hope so. Actually the French are committed to it.
PC: Alright, Mr. Ambassador, welcome again to Washington, thank you for joining us.
GA: Thank you very much.