Q - We have a first reaction from one of the senior members of the US-led coalition bombing ISIS-held territory in Syria and in Iraq, that is France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, joining me live. Thank you very much for joining me.
So your reaction to Russia bombing today : did France, as a member of the coalition, get any advance notice?
R - Bonsoir. Today there have been two initiatives by Russia. The first one is to present a resolution to the Security Council. And the second one is to strike.
The general idea, what they said, is « we want to strike Daech – ISIL ».
I said at the United Nations : if you want to join the coalition, it is alright but there are three conditions :
- a) to strike Daech and the terrorist groups, and not the civilian people or the opponents
- b) to stop what we call barrel-bombing
- c) to have a political process in order to have a solution, which cannot be Bashar
From the first informations we have - but we have to check that - it seems that in fact they haven’t really struck against Daech but mostly against the population, civilians and opponents. If this is the case, and again we have to check, it would be unacceptable because it would mean to use Daech in order to fight opponents. And we shall see that, let’s wait for now.
But the conditions we put are obvious conditions and we have to be very strict about them.
Q - You heard all of these people - Senator McCain, General Breedlove, the Head of NATO, the opposition leader, M. Khoja - saying that they believe Russia’s game is to prop up the regime of Bachar al Assad. What do you think Russia is up to, if it’s not, as you say, hitting Daech, ISIS yet?
R - You know we have our own information and France, as you know, is an independent country, so as far as the military is concerned, the informations we have, at the moment when we are having this interview, are going in the same direction. If it is the case, it means that this Daech attack is a pretence and that in reality the only aim is to support M. Bachar al Assad. And we have a very precise position about this.
We think that supporting Bachar al Assad and presenting him as the solution for the future is unacceptable not only from a moral point of view, because he is a criminal against humanity, but even from an efficiency point of view. Because if we want to have a Syria united, free and respecting the different communities, you cannot present as the future leader the man who is responsible for the chaos.
Q - But now you are in a bind, because that is clearly what you are doing, you are, and certainly Philip Hammond the British Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State John Kerry said «well for now, we do have to have Assad as a part of the transition government, even though we said «he must go» more than a year ago.»
R - No. So far as France is concerned we are very clear. The idea is to have, and it is the Geneva communiqué in June 2012, a transitional body. With whom ? Elements of the regime, yes - not Bachar but elements of the regime - and moderate opposition, not terrorists. And we have to build that. It needs negotiation. But it must be said that at the end of the process it cannot be M. Bachar al Assad, because, not only from a moral point of view, but from an efficiency point of view, it would be completely contradictory.
Q - Mister Foreign Minister, we have also some statistics and graphics that show that actually even in the past year the vast majority of the killings in Syria has been by the Assad regime…
R - 80%. And therefore it is the reason why we consider that to put Bachar as the future leader is to put the Syrian people in the arms of Daech, because if the solution is the one who is responsible for the chaos, they will go to Daech.
Q - So driving them to the very side you are trying to deny.
R - Yes.
Q - So then what is the solution, because right now Russia has the cards on the ground, military, their diplomatic initiative, their intelligence…? So what is the solution, where is it going in the next month or two months?
R - No, they don’t have the cards. First, the coalition, France and a lot of nations, we have to strike very firmly and with a better organisation Daech and the terrorist groups (Al Nosrah…). We have to be really tough. Secondly, we have to create a «rapport de force» with the Russians, saying «if it is to strike Daech it is ok, if it is not, it is not possible».
Q - But how do you stop them?
R - We have different means because obviously they don’t want a confrontation. And thirdly, we have to enter a political process, that is diplomacy, around M. Staffan De Mistura, the P5 and some other regional countries. That is our plan.
Q - You mentioned the UN Envoy to Syria, can I ask you, you said one of the conditions to the Russians was to stop the Assad barrel-bombing which he has been doing with impunity for the last more than two years. What did they say to that and how will they stop it?
R - They say «everybody does that». No. And here we have to intervene in the Security Council. It is not acceptable and people must be confronted with reality. We don’t need «media coup», we need people who honestly are favouring a solution otherwise the Syrian people will blow into pieces.
Q - You have also, separately but related, started in France a criminal probe into what Assad has been doing domestically. We broke on our programs more than two years ago these terrible pictures by Caesar, a defector.
R - That is related but that is a different story. You know that Caesar, who before was a member of the military police, has a series of photos of more than 10,000 people tortured, jailed, killed. That is really awful. We got them. In the legal procedure in France, when you have in your possession, and it is the case for the Quai d’Orsay, a document which means that there has been a crime, you have to seize the justice. We have done that. There will be an inquiry in France, but it could be an inquiry in other countries if other countries use the same process.
Q - M. Foreign Minister, thank you very much indeed for joining us. The weather is getting a little bit crazy here probably a lot like the atmosphere regarding the diplomacy over this terrible war.
R - Thank you.