Q. – Was the visit by our four members of Parliament to Syria known about? Did you know that those four members of Parliament were going to visit Syria, and three of them to meet Bashar al-Assad?
THE MINISTER – I had been told there was an initiative of that kind. I didn’t know the details and I’d made it known that I entirely disapproved of it.
Q. – So you knew about it?
THE MINISTER – Yes, people had talked about it to me.
Q. – Does “people” mean your staff?
THE MINISTER – My parliamentary attaché told me that certain members of Parliament wanted to go there, and I said it was ridiculous.
Q. – Did you try and deter them from leaving?
THE MINISTER – They knew my position, the French government’s position. Are you asking about my reaction? My reaction is condemnation and dismay, because France has a policy. Members of Parliament are absolutely free, but ultimately – to put it a bit crudely – to go and suck up to Bashar al-Assad is ridiculous, when you’re aware of the reality of the Syria situation. At the outset, three or four years ago, there were demonstrations by young people, and things were handled in such a way by Mr Bashar al-Assad that 220,000 people are now dead.
What you really have to understand is that Bashar al-Assad and the Daesh [ISIL] terrorists are two sides of the same coin; they support each other. Moreover, at the outset, it was by releasing prisoners that Mr Bashar al-Assad encouraged the terrorist movement. So to believe that Bashar can be the alternative to terrorism is completely ridiculous. How can you imagine a people who have suffered, with 220,000 dead and millions displaced, suddenly saying: “Bashar is our saviour”? It makes no sense. So I condemn that initiative. (…)
Q. – Must they be sanctioned?
THE MINISTER – No, that’s not my business.
Q. – Their explanation is clear: ultimately, they’re saying: “Assad is our enemy, OK, he’s an enemy, but is talking to an enemy, to one’s enemy, prohibited?”
THE MINISTER – You well understand – and you saw it immediately, in this case publicized in the press – that he makes use of this. Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the situation. He doesn’t embody Syria’s future. I also wrote an article recently with my British colleague, the British Foreign Secretary, explaining all this.
What’s the solution there? The solution is political. What’s needed, what we’re working on, with other countries – you mentioned the Russians, but also Arab countries – is a solution which preserves Syria’s unity – that’s very complicated – and respects the communities. That solution will have to include not Bashar, who is absolutely ruled out, but certain elements of the regime, plus the moderate opposition; we’re going to meet the moderate opposition in France this week, incidentally. You may have seen – it was a dispatch yesterday – that the opposition, bravely, has said: “France’s policy is an exemplary policy.” From the outset, we’ve been pragmatic people. We’re well aware a military solution won’t prevail, and so there will have to be an agreement, but not with Mr Bashar al-Assad. (…)./.