Q. – On the Syria issue, which has plagued us since 2011, for a while now conferences have been organized where there’s a big turnout, with commitments and promises, but when the time comes for the money to be produced, nothing is forthcoming. What do you think can be done?
THE MINISTER – There are several aspects to the Syria tragedy. You’ve taken one of the most important, which is the human dimension. When the history of the Syria tragedy is written, people will understand that it’s one of the greatest human tragedies, perhaps even the greatest, of the beginning of this century. The continuously increasing number of deaths – 220,000, 230,000 even – is always cited, but going beyond this there are all the displaced people and repercussions on the neighbouring countries. We know it’s a frightening situation, and to address it – I’ll talk about the political solution in a moment – we must increase, step up the funding – what you call the pledges, which aren’t limited to this issue. In conferences, you hear about huge sums of money, and if you take stock two or three years later, the sums of money are pledged, but they don’t actually materialize. (…)
What we’re working towards (…) is a political solution which creates a union between elements of the Bashar al-Assad regime – but not Bashar al-Assad – and the opposition.
Indeed, we want to avoid what’s happened in Iraq, i.e. a complete collapse of Syria’s system, which already has problems. If we have no prospect of an alliance with these regime elements, Syria will be fragmented for a long time. This doesn’t mean we’re providing names, because if we do that, there’s every chance the person in question will be assassinated a few days later.
We’re working with the Arab countries, the Americans and the Russians to try and come up with this solution. The common factor to these groups fighting each other is a united Syria which recognizes the rights of each community and of each individual to exist within it. It’s very difficult and very ambitious, but in our view it’s the only possible way forward.
There are battles to be waged but the solution is a political one. It can’t be military because there are major powers fighting each other by proxy. You may be able to deal with the specifically Syrian element [of the conflict], but you won’t be able to deal with Iran, Russia or any particular Arab countries or even other major powers.
This is the line upheld by France. There are elements which, despite the tragedy of the situation, are moving towards this. As you’ve seen, an opposition meeting took place in Moscow; there’ll be a general meeting of the opposition which should take place in Saudi Arabia with people who, between them, have differences, but if we can bring this opposition together it’s a good thing. Contacts, or at any rate discussions, are being led vis-à-vis the regime itself, but these can’t involve Mr Bashar al-Assad. (…)./.