Minister stresses importance of Iran nuclear deal
Foreign policy – Spain/Italy/Czech Republic/Iran/North Korea/Syria – Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the weekly newspaper Le Journal du dimanche
Paris, 22 October 2017
Q. – You were on a working visit to Madrid on Friday, and you know Spain well because of your wife, who is Franco-Spanish. What’s your reaction to Mariano Rajoy putting Catalonia under direct rule?
THE MINISTER – The important thing for me in this matter is that the rule of law is respected and that that’s the key reference everywhere in the European enterprise. Otherwise we go back to a situation of dangerous fragmentation. Mr Rajoy has announced elections to be held as soon as possible in Catalonia. I hope they make it possible to clarify the situation and to rejoin the path of constructive dialogue in renewed calm and within a legal framework. (…)
Iran nuclear programme/Trump
Q. – How do you feel about the change of direction taken by Donald Trump vis-à-vis the Iran nuclear issue?
THE MINISTER – Never, since the end of the Cold War, have we known a situation so fraught with tensions and risks. President Trump refuses to take account of multilateralism, yet it’s a necessity for global security and also a historic opportunity for American power. We must adapt to this American presidency, without ever forgetting that the United States is our historic ally and will remain so.
Q. – Emmanuel Macron often makes out that he can persuade Donald Trump to change his mind. Isn’t this a bit vain?
THE MINISTER – Everyone can see that the French President has established a close, frank dialogue with his American counterpart. This is the first requirement for bringing about a change one day in the partner’s position. As regards Iran, we’ve got to persuade the Trump administration and Congress that the prevention of nuclear proliferation is an issue of vital importance to mankind. Non-compliance with the Vienna agreement with Iran would de facto encourage the hardliners in Tehran to resume the bomb-making programme. An uncontrollable spiral of proliferation throughout the region would then be triggered, with everyone else seeking to acquire nuclear weapons as well. For the same reason, North Korea would be encouraged to continue its provocations. North Korea’s neighbours could then also opt to enter the race for a bomb. From then on, the spectre of nuclear conflict wouldn’t be very far off.
Q. – President Trump is advising Congress to adopt extra sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard…
THE MINISTER – Iran’s behaviour, when it comes to ballistic missiles or throughout the Middle East, goes against the rules of international security and our own security interests. They [the Iranians] seem to want to build a sort of territorial glacis around their country. This isn’t acceptable. I’ll be going to Tehran soon to talk about all these points.
Q. – In North Korea, is there really a hope of negotiating anything with Kim Jong-un?
THE MINISTER – The explosion which occurred during the nuclear test in September was equal to 10 Hiroshimas, and it’s now a fact that the North Koreans are able to have an intercontinental ballistic capability. They still have to miniaturize the bomb, and things may move very quickly on from there. This is why it’s essential to bring the North Korean authorities to the negotiating table quickly. The only way to do this is through power relationships. At this stage, this entails a stepping-up of the sanctions and their application by everyone.
Q. – Aren’t you furious to see that the jihadists from Raqqa, some of whom are French-speaking, were able to flee safe and sound, protected by an agreement with the local authorities?
THE MINISTER – I was deeply moved by Raqqa’s liberation and the end of Daesh [so-called ISIL]. Raqqa was the epicentre where barbaric attacks in Paris, which cannot and must not be forgotten, were fomented. The recapture of that city was, for us, one of the purposes of the war. A local agreement has admittedly allowed certain jihadists to flee in return for Raqqa being recaptured more swiftly. But they’ll regroup in a final stronghold which will end up falling too. It’s their swan song.
Q. – Is Raqqa going to end up back in Bashar al-Assad’s hands?
THE MINISTER – Certainly not, because it was recaptured by forces opposed to the regime. The time has come to talk about Syria’s political future, to prevent it from being “Balkanized”. France, for its part, will be a player in Raqqa’s stabilization by paying for its mine clearance by NGOs, as well as access to water and [medical] care for the population. We’re also proposing that substantial discussions be held in November between the major powers involved about an agenda to do with stabilizing the country, writing a new constitution and preparing for free elections. If we don’t manage to do this, it will spell the break-up of Syria.
Q. – In Iraq, is France going to maintain its military effort now that Mosul has been recaptured from Daesh?
THE MINISTER – In Iraq, we’ve already entered the post-Daesh era. We won the war; we’ve now got to win the peace. We’re going to go on training the Iraqi forces in Baghdad and the Kurdish forces in Erbil. We’re also involved in rebuilding work. In this respect, bringing Mosul University, which Daesh made one of its headquarters, back to life is one of our objectives./.