Paris, January 19, 2012
THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to welcome to Paris my colleague and friend, Kevin Rudd. I haven’t forgotten the extremely warm hospitality he offered me in Canberra last September while he was completing his recovery. I’m happy to welcome him, in full health, to Paris. (…)
I’d like once again to reiterate how much importance France attaches to this bilateral relationship, but also to our exchanges of views on the regional and international situation. We’ve already discussed regional issues in the Pacific, in the Indian Ocean, regarding China and in Burma. Kevin Rudd was recently, I believe, one of the first ministers to go to Burma. I was there myself a few days ago. (…)
I obviously talked to Kevin Rudd about the Euro Area situation and the decisions we’re currently taking to restore calm to the economic situation in our area.
We agreed to make our contacts regular and to have a meeting at our level at least once a year. We’ll also ask our colleagues to meet more frequently than is customary to exchange views, because I believe France and Australia have many things to say to one another on a lot of subjects of international importance. (…)
Q. – The delegation of Arab League observers is going to issue its report in the coming hours. Many NGOs and opposition members are calling for it [the mission] to stop because, according to them, it’s ineffectual.
What’s your view about the delegation that has gone there, about the deadlock at the Security Council and about the current situation in Syria?
THE MINISTER – You know what France’s position on the Syrian tragedy has been from the outset. We’ve taken an extremely clear and strong position in calling on the international community to do everything to stop this massacre. From the start, we’ve supported the Arab League’s plan for resolving the crisis. However, today we see that the conditions under which the observer mission’s work is being done are unsatisfactory. Syria isn’t respecting the commitments she made to the Arab League – for example, sending the troops back to barracks. Indeed, at this very moment the troops are in the process of bombarding certain Syrian towns.
What we’d like is for the Arab League to prepare, swiftly, as full and objective a report as possible on what’s been seen. I think this report should then be sent to the United Nations Security Council for it to consider. We’re being obstructed at the Security Council by Russia’s attitude, and I don’t tink we should give up trying to move things forward.
We’re also continuing our contacts with the Syrian opposition to urge it to organize itself more and be more open to all Syrian strands of opinion so as to take forward this the Syrian people’s liberation movement.
Q. – (On Iran)
THE MINISTER – As you know, for both France and our European partners – for the United States too – Iran’s development of a programme that would lead that country to gain a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. We’ve always told Iran we’re ready for dialogue, and the path of dialogue is permanently open. Mrs Ashton, on behalf of the European Union, made some very specific proposals to this effect; unfortunately, to date, Iran hasn’t engaged transparently and cooperatively in this discussion process. That’s why, to prevent what would very probably be irreparable – namely, a military option – we think the sanctions must be toughened, to bring about a change on the Iranian regime’s part. In particular, we’ve proposed toughening these sanctions in two areas: on the one hand, an embargo on Iranian oil exports and on the other, a freeze on the Iranian Central Bank’s assets.
The United States Congress has already taken some decisions to this effect; they’ve been validated by President Obama. We’re currently working on it in the EU, and I think next Monday we’ll be able to agree on a programme of sanctions in the two fields I’ve just mentioned.
There have been discussions, it’s true, because certain countries are highly dependent on their [the Iranians’] oil supplies, but we can find solutions, and the French government will do everything to ensure a clear agreement can be reached on these matters among the Twenty-seven./.