Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine
Moscow, Russia
Interview with Europe1 (excerpts)
September 14, 2001

Thank you for being with us here in Moscow. (...) You have seen the Russian leaders, Foreign Minister Ivanov. First of all, do you sense genuine shock in Russia, and genuine Russian solidarity with America and with those who are going to retaliate against the terrorists or the terrorist State when it's targeted and named?

I feel here too a deep sense of shock like almost everywhere in the world, a determination to take global action against terrorism - indeed the Russian leaders are expressing this determination and this concurs with what Colin Powell said about setting up a global coalition against terrorism which extends far beyond NATO countries.

But would the Russians be ready to join this global coalition?

They haven't said anything concrete about that, for the moment they are expressing a political determination. There are a number of fora in which we can take action against terrorism. (...)

For example?

The action on the financing of terrorism. Last year, France signed the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. Through it we can take more concrete measures and coordinate far more closely, it's one example among many.


(...) Why do you refuse to use the fashionable phrase "clash of civilizations"?

I don't refuse to use it. On the contrary, I simply say that we must do everything possible to ensure that this huge tragedy, this appalling attack on American soil doesn't lead, through a series of tit-for-tat acts, to a clash of civilizations.


I note that the American leaders are already being very careful on this point, I noticed that President Bush asked the American people above all not to target Arabs or Muslims on American soil. I note that he immediately telephoned several responsible Arab leaders who are themselves exposed to terrorism.

Could those Arab leaders join what America is calling the global coalition against terrorism?

When I hear Colin Powell talking about a coalition (...) that clearly reflects the idea that it isn't just the West or NATO's responsibility to fight terrorism since many other countries in the world are victims of it. There are a lot of things which fuel terrorism, so it's not just one particular country which is threatened.

I also see that the American leaders don't want this to lead to a sort of frightening clash between the Western world and the Arab-Muslim world - such amalgams must be avoided - and I believe they are right.


Will the response be a US decision, a joint one with the Allies, or a decision by the US after consulting the Allies?

Here too, it's a bit too early to say how the Americans are going to want to respond. In the first place, it depends on what they want to do. They can be considered to be in the situation provided for by article 5 of the United Nations Charter, i.e. one of legitimate defence, the one also referred to in article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which we have said applied if this proved - as is very probable - to be an attack from abroad against the territory of a member State. So we have invoked that article which expresses the political solidarity of the Alliance members.

Will they seek to involve specific countries, or simply to inform them? I don't know at all, it's too early to say, and when we are in that situation, President Chirac and the government will assess what has to be done on the basis of this position of solidarity which has been forcefully expressed.

President Chirac said yesterday on CNN that France will be at the United States' side when it comes to punishing this murderous folly. What does "at the United States' side" mean?

It's the position expressed by the European leaders, by President Chirac, the German Chancellor and Mr Tony Blair, that expressed by all the Allies when noting that, in all likelihood, we were in the position referred to in article 5. This article provides that afterwards, if and when a concrete phase is reached, each State decides individually how it will join in the collective effort.

To take action, do the Americans need United Nations approval if, as you say, it's a case of legitimate defence?

Precisely, in my view, this situation of legitimate defence gives a State the right to defend itself, i.e. to retaliate.

Last night Mr Colin Powell said: "We must also act and work on the situation in the Middle East?" Do you agree?

Yes, I believe that's a very pertinent observation, yet another one on his part. He said that it's one more reason for peace in the Middle East. (...)

So we must have a political vision and I see that Colin Powell has it too, while certainly, at the same time, preparing with the United States President the appropriate response.


Are you saying that on Tuesday, 11 September 2001 the world was in a way knocked off balance, that everything will have to be rethought, reinvented, that we even need to devise a new policy, a new world, and if so how?

I think we must be wary of that type of comment, not only because it's too early, but because I think that the problems facing the world before 11 September will face it after, and are still there: the issue of peace in the Middle East hasn't been resolved, nor have those of peace in the Great Lakes region of Africa and peace between India and Pakistan and Kashmir - and I could give you a long list. And the contradictions in the world which surfaced violently and shockingly, but which are, sadly, real ones, at the Durban Conference still exist. In very many cases, the international community is a community only in name. It still has to be built.

None of that has changed, perhaps we're seeing it in a more tragic and more urgent light after that terrible day. But we have to go on working in all those areas.