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A Conversation with Bernard Kouchner [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, France
Moderator: Felix G. Rohatyn, Senior Adviser to the Chairman, Lehman Brothers, and Former U.S. Ambassador to France
September 25, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations

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Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, New York

September 25, 2007

FELIX ROHATYN: My name is Felix Rohatyn and I have two announcements to make. I've forgotten the second one, but the first one -- (laughter) -- is that the Hamid Karzai meeting for tomorrow has been canceled. So once you stop sobbing about that, then we can -- .

I'm here for the great honor and the great pleasure of introducing my long-time friend, Bernard Kouchner. There are lots of people in the world who have ideas and who have principles, and there are other people who have action. And there are very few people who act according to their principles. Bernard Kouchner acts on his principles, and that's a very rare virtue, especially in a politician.

Bernard was therefore the most popular politician in France. And I don't want to compare him with Mr. Sarkozy now, because that might not be good for his career, but it's very close -- very, very close. (Laughter.)

Bernard has now joined with another man of action, President Sarkozy, in trying to change France, both domestically and internationally. And I'm sure that he will tell us how he proposes to do that with his partner, and we look forward to it. And we welcome here a man of principle and a man of action, Bernard Kouchner. (Applause.)

MINISTER BERNARD KOUCHNER: Thank you, Felix.

Yes, I'm the man trying to follow President Sarkozy all the day long, then yesterday, et cetera. It was a hard mission. I'll let you know about it after.

So, ladies and -- dear chairman, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it's nice to be with you again for the fourth time. Today the challenges that Europe and United States confront raise the same questions than when the Council on Foreign Relations came into being in 1921: How do we serve peace in a world that's now global? How do we shape our collective future in the best interest of the role of mankind? How do we build a balanced world order, an integrated world order, to use your expression, dear Richard, in your latest book I know about.

For nearly 40 years, I have seen the whole range of conflicts. This experience has left me with two feelings -- a sense of my responsibility, of course, when expectation runs so high regarding France, a permanent member of the Security Council, a committed actor in the European Union, and a stout champion of multilateralism, but also a realization of the many questions that lie before us, given the enormity of the stakes, the power plays, the conflicts of interest and, unfortunately, also the apathy.

Apathy is a threat. The whole world, including to us, the transatlantic partners, faced, for example, with the untenable oppression in Burma today, we cannot afford to look away. We cannot afford to forget that if the military junta resorts to bloodshed in order to silence the voices of the brave Burmese political and religious figures together, it is also our blood that they are shedding, our conscience that they are challenging, and therefore we need to act. How? This is another question.

Optimism of the will has always been stronger in me than pessimism of the intelligence, to borrow Gramsci's celebrated aphorism. Gramsci, huh? (Laughter.) No, but sometimes I wonder if it was really Gramsci, but I -- (inaudible) --- yes, it was Gramsci -- and not Raymond Aron. (Laughter.)

I've always made action on the ground my first business. For me, there is no analytical chart as good as experience in the field. Let me start with a key challenge of our collective decision-making process. On one end, we see the limits of any lateralism today. On the other hand, we also realize the weakness of multilateralism to which France is so attached.

Yet multilateralism has never been so needed in our chaotic world. The number and complexity of current peacekeeping operations are proof enough. At the same time, it has never been so decried in the north and south for its alleged ineffectiveness, unfairness, even for being an instrument in the hands of the major powers.

So we come to the difficult question of the effectiveness of action and its legitimacy in the world in which there is no longer multilateral evidence, no certainty. My trips since taking office have made me realize this another time.

I've been in the Middle East several times, the region where all the world's problems seem to be concentrated, which I know well. In Lebanon, in Iraq, in the Palestinian territories, in Israel, in Jordan, in Egypt, my aim was to listen to everybody -- everybody -- political leaders and actors of civil society, and above all, to encourage people who weren't talking to each other anymore and to re-establish dialogue.

In Lebanon, as in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories, too, dialogue is the key today to a political solution in the current standoffs. Only dialogue will build confidence and set in motion a political process capable of restoring hope to people who have been deprived of it for so long.

I also went to Iraq in mid-August. I went there resolved to listen and to engage in dialogue another time with all the parties, whether they were Shi'ite, Sunnis, Kurds or Christians. It was the first visit to Baghdad by a French foreign minister in 20 years; of course, the first visit by a French official since Saddam Hussein was deposed.

I tried to imagine what could be done by the U.N., the European Union and France to break the impasse in the country. There, too, I remain convinced that the solution is, first of all, political and that it lies above all in the hands of the Iraqis themselves, and not between those regional actors who have seen, in the collapse of Iraq, as a Sunni Arab state, an opportunity to intervene.

When the Iranian regime now claims to be leader of the rejectionist front, its message unfortunately is heard by Muslim public opinion, which, rightly or wrongly, unusually attributes responsibility for conflicts to an American policy perceived as intrusive, biased and destabilizing.

We must take this threat seriously. We have to speak to civil society, explain our actions, and avoid putting people and their leaders on the same plain. It is essential today. The conflicts I'm mentioning are fueled by these complex influences and sectarian fantasy and by regional interference. In Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the risk we run is seeing these conflicts form a Gordian knot that we might perhaps have to cut.

This summary is admittedly schematic, but explains why the Gulf monarchies and certain countries in the Middle East now find themselves caught up in conflict situation and forced to take part in what we want to avoid at all costs; namely, a generalized conflict leading to irreconcilable opposition between Sunnis and Shi'ites, secular and religious, nationalism and identity.

What can France do in this situation where so much is expected of it but where its means of action may seem limited? First, to show our ambition, show that we are not resigned. "Never give up" more than means it is often the will which is lacking. Ours is intact to mobilize all the political leaders. That is the purpose of the initiative we have taken in the past four months with respect to Lebanon and Darfur.

With regard to that tragedy, the meeting of the enlarged group of contact in Paris in June brought together the Europeans and involved the United Nations and the Chinese. All of us had the same wish, roughly -- (laughter) -- to help the civilian population and sow the seeds of original solution with the support of the African Union and the United Nations.

Next we need to shed rigid and paralyzing attitudes. This frame of mind now prevails in relations between Paris and Washington. It was also my frame of mind when I went to Iraq; stop thinking of ourselves so as to think more about others.

Thinking about others is thinking with others. This is what guides our European action and more generally our wish to include as many actors as possible in finding solutions to conflicts.

In Iraq, as in Darfur and Afghanistan, we will only make our action completely legitimate and effective by involving the countries concerned, involving the regional stakeholders, getting states to recognize their responsibilities, and working as much as possible at the European level.

I have made this point repeatedly with my European counterparts, telling them every time that the United States should not be left to extricate itself from Iraq alone and that Iraqis' problems are also our problems.

Our European commitment also guides France's mobilization on the question of Kosovo, a European problem for which a European solution has to be found. But in Kosovo, as elsewhere, how do we convince people to live together when recent history has told them to hate each other? How do we rebuild without security? How do we pacify without development? And lastly, how do we integrate our military engagement into a comprehensive political strategy?

We know now that unilateralism doesn't work. The painful experience of the United States failure in Iraq is proof. No one country is able to face alone the complex problems of our age. Multilateral action is obviously the answer in spite of its weaknesses, the fragility of the current system, and its constant need for reform.

In other words, multilateralism is the key, but it is not persuasive enough to impose itself as the best means of collective action. So we must be clear-sighted and ask outright the real question of the extra touch of soul multilateralism lacks today so that it can become something more than a simple tool for global ambitions and national importance.

So it becomes, in a word, a renewed political project attractive enough to gather us all. So while multilateralism, to paraphrase a well-known saying, is the worst of systems except for the others, we must, above all, build an effective multilateralism; that is to say, grounded in a few solid principles: First of all, a vision that reaffirms the central character of the United Nations; the second condition, the redefinition of operating principles based on collective debate, international solidarity and justice, the responsibilities and prerogative attached to sovereignty, the role of international law and human rights; third, the need to rethink changes at the U.N., the WTO, the Bretton Woods institution, transforming the G-8 to the G-13, and so on.

The end state, as you say in English, has to be a multilateralism of action and one of the foundations in the promotion of democracy and human rights. I know the difficulties of doing this. Americans and Europeans today are listened to with suspicion as soon as we start talking about democracy and human rights.

We are suspected because many people criticize the multilateral system for being sufficiently democratic. But the chief criticism leveled against us is that we've not been able to rally to our values the peoples of the world to whom we conveyed a message of peace and prosperity.

It is a terrible irony. The risk now is that the messenger may have killed the message, that the very name of human rights entails rejection and suspicion among those very same it should help.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to conclude by emphasizing the value of listening and a debate between us, between the two sides of Atlantic. We can make our differences heard even if they are founded on common interests and values, all the more because they are.

Let us agree to differ on occasion. Let's not be afraid of debate. Europe can set the example and show the way. The European Union, with its unique experience of integration, can offer a world where suspicion is all too often the rule the example of peaceful cooperation, in which differences are respected, compromise and negotiation promoted -- capable, in nutshell, of embodying an harmonious global living together.

Today our common challenge is to establish a framework of rules of the game. It is a major goal of our cooperation. If we are capable of making this effort of ourselves and our comforts, our stories and our inertia, then we will be able to do great things.

We will bring about a just and efficient global system, capable of providing responses to the great upheaval we're seeing at work today, without always understanding them. We will be able to restore to our crippled world the vision of more equitable progress based on the values of democracy, human rights, the dialogues of cultures and respect for differences.

We will be able to take up the flame that lit almost 100 years ago at the time when the Council on Foreign Relations was founded, when determined Utopian visionaries laid the groundwork for a system governed by the mechanism of peace and justice and will be able to prove to circumspect peoples that Europe and the United States have a vital role to play in the invention of global progress through the implementation of real multilateralism of action.

Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.

ROHATYN: Thank you, Mr. Minister. I would like to remind everybody that this is an on-the-record meeting and that when you have questions, which we will get to very soon, we will ask you to identify yourself and your organization and to remember the mathematical certainty that the shorter the question, the more of them will get answered.

So having said that, I would like to ask the minister --

KOUCHNER: I was just making faces --

ROHATYN: To whom? Anybody you know?

KOUCHNER: Yes.

ROHATYN: Yes, he's worth making faces to.

I would like to quote from the very tough speech of your president today --

KOUCHNER: Not bad, eh?

ROHATYN: -- which I thought was quite remarkable, where he said, among other things, "No piece of the international community weak vis-a-vis -- will maintain peace in a weak position. And nuclear proliferation and a nuclear Iran are unacceptable risks to the regional and the world community."

KOUCHNER: Yes. (Laughter.)

ROHATYN: All right, next question. (Laughter.) All right, now we'll take questions from the floor. (Laughter.)

Yes, ma'am.

That was a good way of doing this.

KOUCHNER: He did say so.

QUESTIONER: I'm Lucy Komisar. I'm a journalist. You talked about setting an example, showing the way, working in the framework that has to do with the rules of the game. Well, one of the major international questions is corruption. And in France, of course, the media is dominated often by the Clearstream scandal in which your president, Sarkozy, was accused falsely of having a secret account in Clear Stream --

ROHATYN: Could we get to your question, please?

QUESTIONER: Well, yeah, but I have to explain what the question is.

KOUCHNER: No, no, because I know about it. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Okay, you know about it, but everybody else here doesn't.

KOUCHNER: I will not answer you.

QUESTIONER: Okay, the question then is, the real scandal is that the French company Thomson paid over a billion dollars in bribes and kickbacks connected to the sale of six frigates to Taiwan, and both the past Socialist and Conservative governments have refused to give the investigating magistrate the documents from the customs department that would show where this money went.

If you are going to be the harbinger of change and show the rules of the game as they ought to be done, honestly, will you open these records to the magistrate and expose this terrible bribery, which is convulsing your country, if not yet in the press here? Will you give those documents to the investigating magistrate?

KOUCHNER: Well, thank you, madame, because you have said "honestly." Honestly, I have nothing to answer to you. This is not the question. (Scattered applause.)

We are talking about the international relationship and transatlantic relations. And let me tell you something. It was completely false, (that we have said ?). Okay, thank you.

ROHATYN: Bill vanden Heuvel.

QUESTIONER: Your Excellency, will France take the position that any military action against Iran has to be approved by the Security Council?

KOUCHNER: Strange question. It has not been approved. And for the time being, nothing has been said in relation with any military intervention. On the contrary, the French position was clearly reaffirmed by President Sarkozy today.

On one hand -- and I'm just out of real talk with the Iranian minister of foreign affairs -- on one hand, we approve -- we don't have to denounce or approve the mission of Mr. ElBaradei. This is a technical mission coming out from a U.N. agency, and it will take at least one month, two, three months; I don't know.

So this is a technical control on the past. You know that. We don't have to go into details. And we are in favor of that, because this is impossible not to be in favor of that, even though we must be firm on the other hand.

So negotiation, negotiation, negotiation, talk -- as I told you, I'm just out of one of these talks. And we were -- European Union, represented by Javier Solana, and for months and months and months, we were talking to the Iranian.

But as you know perfectly, one resolution was unanimously voted, then two other resolutions with sanctions. And I want to remind you that European Union played a very important role. We were the three -- P-3 -- the Germans, the Brits and the French -- offering to the other three -- United States, China and Russia -- to be together to start talking and asking the Iranians to stop the enrichment of uranium; three resolutions unanimously voted that didn't stop the enrichment.

So now, we are facing not a dilemma but a period of, let's say, uncertainty. In the same time, we have to wait -- not to wait, but to consider the mission of Mr. ElBaradei. But we decided, and we'll see on Friday, to work on national sanctions, not only on U.N. sanctions. That is to say that some European Union, United States -- I don't know for Russia; for the moment, they refuse -- and China, we have to work together on precise and efficient sanctions. We'll see in the coming weeks and months.

And there is a sort of difficult balance between those who are in favor waiting for the ElBaradei mission before going back to the Security Council and those who are in favor of working in sanction and trying to go back to the Security Council. This is a delicate position for the time being. But we are, as Nicolas Sarkozy said, very firmly determined not to accept Iran to get atomic bomb. This is the main very important certitude.

In the middle of such a very dangerous area, close to Iraq -- and they are playing a very strange role in Iraq, the Iranian people -- and with Lebanon in this process of electoral process, let's say, and a drop of hope in between the Israelis and the Palestinians, we don't want them to get an atomic bomb.

You know that the experts are more or less all together in agreement. This is a strange position and a strange way to get civilian power, nuclear power, the way they did. So there is this perspective of offering force resolution with particular sanctions, through the U.N. Security Council or without the U.N. Security Council. And we decide, more or less, in the Friday meeting here in New York.

Was it clear? (Laughter.) No, huh? But this is unclear. (Laughter.)

ROHATYN: Yes, sir.

KOUCHNER: And difficult too, let's say.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Foreign Minister, my name is Roland Paul. I'm a lawyer. For some time I was general counsel of an American subsidiary of a large French company.

Your government is evidently much closer to the United States than your predecessor was. Does that also mean you'll be more sympathetic to Israel's position in the Middle East than your predecessor's government?

KOUCHNER: We are not, the new government, basing our diplomacy on anti-Americanism. Is it a change? Yes. (Laughter.) Is it enough? No, because in the same time, we have to be very sincere with France. France must be sincere, transparent and clear. We are not always on the same position, on the same base, on the same certitude basing our policy.

And it happens that with my good colleague Condoleezza Rice I have been in agreement, and sometimes I have been in disagreement, total disagreement; not a total disagreement, but a disagreement is that not participation but acceptance of this Mohammed ElBaradei mission. We are in favor of it, because this is difficult. This is a U.N.(agency ?).

Remember that Mohammed ElBaradei was right on Iraq, and he's now Nobel Prize for Peace. So he's a sort of important man. And just to undermine his action is, according to my opinion, absolutely helpless. So we are not in agreement on that.

But we are in agreement on the aim, the goal. We don't accept nuclear bomb in this region. So we are not completely -- we are allies, not aligned.

ROHATYN: May I ask you if you consider Russia, in your view of Europe, as a European country or as a non-European country?

KOUCHNER: No, for the time being, Russia is not a European country. It's close to Europe, but partly close to Asia. But we have particular links and a particular position shared by both countries. I'm just out of Moscow, where I had some interesting talk.

On this very important Iranian issue, the minister of foreign affairs, Sergey Lavrov, is certainly also threatened by the prospective bomb in Iran; of, let's say, the eventuality of a military nuclear power. He is, because he's close to Iran. But he's not in agreement with us on sanctions for the time being.

As you know, Russia adopted, since some months and years, a very brutal expression, tone and particular behavior, like if it was coming back with modernization, with market economy, et cetera, and a change. But they are coming out from the communist regime since 15 years, 20 years. This is nothing in the -- they're like -- give time to the time.

So they are coming back to a sort of -- I don't want to say imperialism, but coming back to a very important -- not empire, but big country, and they are looking like if they regret the past and all the Caucasus, all along, et cetera. So we have to take care of that and to take it in consideration and to be serious with them, because, on the other hand, we were not so kind with them. As they were out of the communist regime, we considered that they have to pay the note, the bill. And it was certainly not so clever.

This is a big country. This is a great country. They are coming back very, very rapidly, not only to the market economy but to the modern life. And I'm sure that we are not enemy for the time being, moment. We are not enemies. But they are confronted with the coming more rapidly of China. And you will see.

So European Union has particular relationship with Russia, but in the same time, we cannot accept and we didn't accept the way they spoke to the Polish people because of the (meat ?) problem, the way they spoke to the Baltic people because of this very difficult historical implication and between the German occupation and the Russian occupation, and et cetera. And they didn't accept that we didn't accept neither the way your government imposed these new batteries of missiles in Poland and Czech, and the way the Russians reacted were certainly unacceptable too. We have to be careful. They are partners. Strategic or not, they are partners. And European Union must be considering Russia with a new perspective, I believe.

Sorry to be too long, but your question --

ROHATYN: No, not at all.

KOUCHNER: -- was a huge one, huh?

QUESTIONER: Robin Duke, United Nations Population Fund.

Now I'm wondering, as I've just listened to what you've said, if you think there's any chance that you can turn around the Russians to agree about Kosovo. Do you think there's a possibility there's a negotiating card somewhere?

KOUCHNER: Yes. Of course, yes. There is always a possibility to negotiate. And we have to. But the Russian -- well, I don't want to take your attention too long on Russia, but, you know, traveling there, they are very fast in offering this perspective of market economy, rebuilding the -- Moscow is a huge town now; real -- sort of coming back of modernity. And on the other hand, they are not taking care of AIDS people. They have no health system. People are suffering. But the middle class is rising up, in 15 years, or less than 20 years.

So we have to cooperate. The business people told me that this is heaven for them -- heaven. (Corrects pronunciation.) Sorry. A car producer told me that the growth was 150 percent. So they are very happy. All the business world is very, very, very happy to be investing there.

On the other hand, human rights, NGOs -- (inaudible) -- crimes.

QUESTIONER: The question was about Kosovo. (Laughter.)

KOUCHNER: The question was about Kosovo.

ROHATYN: All right, we'll go to the next --

KOUCHNER: (Inaudible.)

ROHATYN: You did fine.

KOUCHNER: Okay, Russia and Kosovo --

ROHATYN: What?

KOUCHNER: Ah, well, sorry. I didn't hear the word Kosovo.

QUESTIONER: That's all right.

KOUCHNER: Kosovo. They are strongly in disfavor of independence of Kosovo. They are strong in disfavor of having sort of breaking down of the international law, as I said. But they don't accept that international law was also reformed by the decision and resolution of the Security Council. So we have a little 5 to 10 percent of having a consensus at the end of the year in December between the Kosovars and the Serbs. But the Russians certainly will not accept something else than a consensus. They will be strongly opposed to the sovereignty and the independence of Kosovo.

Sorry to -- a misunderstanding, madame.

ROHATYN: Way back there.

KOUCHNER: It was a shame. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: No.

ROHATYN: It was fine. It was fine.

KOUCHNER: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Bill Drozdiak, American Council on Germany.

You're an ardent defender of the European idea and a former member of the European Parliament. I wonder if you could share with us your ideas about United Nations Security Council reform. Should countries like Brazil, South Africa and India be brought into the council? And could you foresee one day France giving up its seat in favor of a European Union presence?

KOUCHNER: He started his question very well. (Laughter.)

ROHATYN: It didn't end so well.

KOUCHNER: He was my friend at the beginning and an enemy at the end, I mean. (Laughter.)

I don't know. (Laughter.) We were talking about the reform, the U.N. reform, with Ban Ki-Moon. We had lunch with Nicolas Sarkozy and the secretary-general. And of course we're in favor of reform. But we tried and tried and tried, and unfortunately even the idea of reform is still on the bureau, still on the table. But when it comes to the choice of a representative of the African continent, in between South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, et cetera, this is difficult.

So a resolution is a sort of rotation of some additional permanent -- additional member, permanent member, but temporary member at the same time. This is difficult, huh? I don't know. But we have to reform. This is absolutely impossible to maintain the world institution, the only one, necessary one, in this state.

But some told us that for the time being it works. And this is a very precious instrument. So Nicolas Sarkozy wants to start the reform by the G-8 becoming a G-13, because this is impossible to accept. Last time, in Heiligendamm, they invited -- they, the G-8, the big people; you know, Canada is a big country, yes, but India is not bad; 300 millions; and China. (Laughter.)

So they invited them -- Mexico, Canada, China, South Africa, et cetera -- from so far just to have a lunch together and to offer them three minutes, three minutes of talk. This is not serious. We cannot maintain such a caricature.

So we have to start, according to my opinion, by the G-something, G-13, and step by step, yes, to -- let's restart the process. Kofi Annan was very good. We were just on the verge of the success, but we were not on the good verge!

So, yes, we have to restart the whole process. It is unacceptable that big countries like that were not part, and mainly, of course, the emergent countries. We had a talk about this reform with President Lula today. Brazil is a very strong partner, and we cannot maintain the international law without such evident partners. But we have no recipes.

ROHATYN: Ted Sorensen.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, thanks for your remarks.

At a time when the West is looking for more windows into the world of Islam, more bridges to Islam, would this be a good time for France to welcome Turkey into the European Union? (Scattered applause.)

KOUCHNER: Why are they applauding? I didn't say a word. Is it to you? (Laughter.) Congratulations.

You know that my president's position is not exactly mine. Sometimes it happens, like it happens in between United States and France. But yes and no. (Laughter.) We are -- we consider this is a great country. My president repeated that he is not in favor of the coming in of Turkey in the European Union. He's not in favor. He's in favor of a sort of particular partnership, okay. But in the same time, we -- and your humble servant sometimes was part of "we" -- convinced him not to break the old process.

So the position, French position, president's position, is very clear. We have time. Thirty-five chapters has to be opened by the European Union and Turkey in our negotiations -- 35. Only five (opposed ?) the integration completely inside European Union, and 30 maybe accept it as a sort of integration or partnership. So we'll open the 31st, and it will take years and years.

Meanwhile, we have good relationship with Turkey. We spent one hour and a half with Prime Minister Erdogan yesterday, and we decided we will be in charge, the Turkish minister of foreign affairs and I, to establish a sort of working group to consider all possibilities, relationships, et cetera, and also we have to work on this new chapter of Mediterranean union. So we have time. We don't want to break the old process.

This is the official position. And as it is absolutely public, my position is a bit different. I believe that we have to accept Turkey. But I'm not the master of the game, because, according to my opinion, to reject the moderate Islam to extremism would be a big (fault ?).

So we'll see. We have time. Certainly the president is, according to the constitution -- (laughter) -- the leader of the external policy. I'm only the servant of this external policy. But we have a sort of very good cooperation and complicity.

ROHATYN: While we're talking about membership, could you comment on the issue of France rejoining NATO?

KOUCHNER: No, not now. (Laughter.) Not now. But we are on the way to talk. Why? Because our main objective, target and aim is to set up a good European defense. We need, you know, 27 countries; only four are making efforts to set up a real defense -- the Brits, the French, the Germans and the Italians; some others, but mainly four, and two of them, among them, the Brits and the French.

So this is a bit unfair, because we need a European defense. And going to NATO and to express our wish to start a new process of -- you know, we are part of NATO. In all the missions, we have sent soldiers from Afghanistan to Kosovo to everywhere. So this is only the last circle of the military strategy. So we have to talk about that, and offering also not to include -- we have to see and to talk -- this is a very important question -- to set up a real defense. And NATO needs a real European partner.

ROHATYN: So that's maybe.

KOUCHNER: No, that's not maybe. We'll -- yes, that's maybe. (Laughter.) But the main --

ROHATYN: Thank you, Mr. Minister.

KOUCHNER: No, no, no. But don't believe that we have to say yes or no. This is a bit childish. Felix, please go on. (Laughter.)

ROHATYN: Next question.

KOUCHNER: We don't want to be perceived as if we are joining the large (Atlanticism ?). This is not our purpose. We are friends. We have to work together. But we are also to express our views. Thank you very much.

ROHATYN: Madame.

Thank you.

KOUCHNER: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Dr. Kouchner. I'm Kate Hunt from CARE International.

On the issue of humanitarian crises, would you be willing to share what your strategy is at the moment for increasing the will of member states to respond appropriately and in timely fashions to crises that we've been seeing drag on with inappropriate response? How do you see yourself generating the will of governments that are not responding to humanitarian crises?

KOUCHNER: Oh, humanitarian crises. But you mean health crisis, or humanitarian crises, generally speaking?

QUESTIONER: No, complex humanitarian crises such as Darfur, the Congo, the kinds of crises you know very well.

KOUCHNER: Okay, I understand, because I didn't understand, because for me they are political crises at the same time. This is not a humanitarian crisis, Darfur. To kill the people is effectively day by day a political problem. Of course we can answer with a humanitarian access too, with helping the people, the relief and some Red Cross and CARE and Doctors Without Borders, et cetera. But this is part of the solution.

In Darfur, if we are not setting up a real negotiation table in between the rebels and the government of Khartoum, we will send for nothing relief and humanitarian help. So my experience in this particular field is certainly to mix and to join always.

I make a little difference, because this is not the same people, all the same tools, the same means, et cetera. But a crisis is a crisis -- (humanism ?) -- and effectively political crises. And always this is very complicated to share.

We have to send humanitarian answer, of course. But if we were only -- it has been done in Darfur. It's a long time difficult to access to, difficult to help the people. But maintaining bombing and a real conflict, this is hopeless. So in this particular crisis, like Darfur, it will be the most important, if it is effective, the most important answer in terms of military involvement, money involvement, et cetera, of all the history of the U.N. nations. So this is very evident. And this is a political crisis.

But in the same time, yes, we can certainly find a way to offer better and more coordinated humanitarian answer to all the crises, because always there is a sort of concurrence of -- it's always very difficult to coordinate, because NGOs are uncoordinatable. Thanks for them. (Laughter.) No, because they must be free. They must be open. They must be critics, et cetera. And I try to harmonize. Do you know how many people, NGOs, I had to -- not to hold or not to control -- in Kosovo? Four hundred and eighty-seven. Impossible. But that is not to answer by the no. Yes, you're right; we have to coordinate it, but in a better way.

ROHATYN: I think we have one more question. Sir?

QUESTIONER: Harry Schlosser (sp), Citigroup.

The United States is bogged down in Iraq, and each month American soldiers are killed and wounded, and thousands of Iraqis die. We're at the beginning of an election year in this country, and the politicians talk about two solutions. The Iraqis must solve it, which seems not doable because their government is weak and there doesn't seem to be any clear way to do it.

My question is this. The politicians also talk about how the nations in the area that have an interest and the European nations that have an interest -- because, after all, Iraq is a very important part of that world -- should somehow get together and solve it.

Now, as minister of foreign affairs and European affairs of your nation, in your judgment, does that mean some U.N. action, short of troops, some coalition of European powers? How do you think out this problem? You surely must be doing that. How can this war be brought to some kind of conclusion, short of an all-out civil war?

KOUCHNER: I don't know if it is the last question, but this is the worst. (Laughter.)

Well, you know, my country was opposed to the way the military action was proposed as a solution. And we were against the American military operation, not because it has not been done in a proper way, but after we were really frightened by the perspective of the non-preparation of nation-building. Okay.

Okay, but this is a disaster of a disaster of a disaster. So we -- or the last French government, the last president, and, roughly speaking, all the European nations, we wanted to get very far from this problem. It was your problem, your failure, and also the Iraqi failures in a way.

And I decided -- of course, with the support of my good president -- just to open the door and to listen to the people there, not to support the American way, but not to undermine the American way, just to listen to the Iraqis. And according to my humble opinion, it was a success, because it was the first time that a European country -- since 20 years, there was no visit of a foreign minister in Iraq; since nine years it was the first time that a military plane landed in Baghdad, French military plane.

I didn't ask President Bush or Condi about that. I just let them know the day before, like I let them know -- I mean, I let know my European colleagues. I discovered that it was a sort -- this is a long story; no time, unfortunately, because it was a good adventure.

There is a triangle -- American soldiers, 130,000. They have to stay for the time being, even if they also have the American government to publish a sort of agenda of withdrawing, but they have to stay. They are there. We have to be (held ?) by them or use them; I don't know the right word -- and an Iraqi government is like it is: very weak, but it exists.

And the third angle is the U.N. new resolution coming out from the 10th of August. We must -- if I succeed, because I have also to convince my people, the French people -- we have friends in European Union to implement this U.N. resolution, to enlarge the magnitude of the possibilities, the influence, the work of the U.N. people. This is not easy at all, because I also had to put some flowers at a sort of monument with the name of my good friends, the 24 U.N. people -- Sergio de Mello, Nadia Yunis, Jean-Selim Kanaan, Fiona Watson and others, members of my dream team in Kosovo. They had been assassinated because they were members of the U.N. system.

So they are now in the Green Zone. The Green Zone is a sort of surrealistic place. And the rest all around is the red zone, completely destroyed, absolutely with no life. This is unbelievable. Is it possible to do something? I believe so. But we must convince -- so I tried to convince my colleagues, European Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And fortunately my good friend Carl Bildt, the Sweden Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited also after me Baghdad. And we are absolutely, completely in agreement. But we have to convince the others first to listen to the people. And second, by example, in the field of justice, nothing has been done for 11,000 prisoners. They have jail since more than two years. Part of the 70,000 -- 70, 7-0, thousand prisoners, Iraqi prisoners. Why? I don't know.

Now, since two years they didn't visit any judge, any prosecutor, any lawyers, nothing. They have been accused of nothing. Is it possible for a country like France or some other European country to start working with them, with international judges, always Iraqi judges, et cetera, or to train the other -- this is an example.

In health sector, is it possible to start from the north? Because the only people in good shape for the moment are the Kurds. To start from the Kurdish area and step by step to enlarge, let's say, the network of health dispensaries, et cetera, with care, with people like -- and to offer to involve the Iraqis in their own problems, because they are not involved at all.

I mean, the Iraqi army cannot start an operation without the consent, without the order, et cetera; even the weapons, even the arms, the material, which is usually provided by an American military system. To involve the people in their own problems -- is it possible? This is my hope. And there is a lot of fields where I think we can be useful, because I discovered the Iraqis, like if they were cornered by the alliance -- sorry to say so, with the Americans -- like, if the rest of the world was not considering them as a sort of flexible or sort of possibility of working with them, et cetera. They are completely isolated and puppets in the hands of the Iranians.

So that's my sort of hope. But also I have to convince another time my people, because since four years, more than four years, it was easy to say, "This is the American problem." They wanted to go there. They did. Okay. And this is not true, because this is our problem, because part of our future is certainly in offering to the Iraqis a solution, either a federated solution or a military solution. I don't know for the political status or starting to reform the constitution. I don't know.

But honestly, humanly, we have to do something. Otherwise it will be more than a disaster; a real catastrophe, because this is right in the middle -- all the problems of the world are concentrated there, summarized in between -- and that's why this is so important not to accept that another atomic problem will be in addition, another threat. (Applause.)

ROHATYN: Thank you, Mr. Minister.

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