We asked the French Foreign Minister, Claude Cheysson, to respond to a few questions concerning issues of great importance between the French and the Americans just now. His answers follow:
Given the apparent unilateral reversal of the Versailles economic decisions by the United States, what is the purpose of holding further summits or how can those summits be structured to produce more than a few days' worth of good feeling?
The question is well taken. If there is to be an immediate reversal of what's been said, in a summit, why should one hold such a summit? Still we feel it's most important that there be summits, better say that there be occasions when heads of the executive branches of the main industrialized countries can meet, discuss things freely and without a precise agenda, exchange views, understand one another better. Our feeling is that we may have lost sight of what is the exact purpose of such summits: it is not to make decisions. There are a number of bodies where we can make decisions among us. In economic matters it is the OECD; on defense subjects it is the NATO, the Atlantic Alliance; there are bilateral meetings, trilateral, quadrilateral meetings; all these are meant for decisions.
But that the heads of the executive branches can meet and understand one another better is very important, and not only on a bilateral basis. Still, in our opinion the summits have grown too large. The preparation may be too heavy, too many meetings of experts before the big ones, the really important ones, meet to discuss issues with one another.
Take the issue on which the surprise was the greatest, not only in France but in every European country. It was related to our trade with the U.S.S.R. It was very clear during the Versailles Summit that we Europeans--this is true for the Germans, the French, the Italians, the British, and others--that we Europeans do not accept the idea of an economic war with the Soviet Union, unless, of course, unless new developments occur.
At this point where we are we condemn a number of decisions taken by the Soviet Union--occupation of Afghanistan, pressure in Poland and now the piling up of armaments in Eastern Europe, which threatens Western Europe. All this we condemn. But we do not consider that it should be the reason, the justification for an economic war. We do not think that an economic war will really have an impact on Russia, and we do not think that an economic war will serve its ultimate purpose, which is to let the Russians and their allies change progressively toward more liberty.
We had buried this difference of views with the Americans. We were therefore very surprised that as soon as the American delegation got back home they took unilaterally, without consulting us, a decision that really is a decision of war, economic war. I just use that as an example. I don't think our relations should be blocked or frozen because there has been a divergence of views on this. But obviously after there had been such exchanges we did not expect a unilateral decision to be taken on a precise point going right to the contrary of what had been considered in Versailles. Your second question.
Have your protests against the American pipeline decision produced any signs of revision of the American position?
It was not only the French protest but, as everyone knows, also the protests of the three other countries affected, where employment will be directly affected: the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. And the answer to your question is very short, it is: no.
Does the change at the American State Department and the whole history of change in the Reagan foreign policy apparatus affect France's confidence in the United States?
Certainly not. Certainly not. Our confidence in the United States is based on much more fundamental fact than the presence of a friend--and Al Haig was a friend of mine, and we considered him a friend of Europe. But still, why do we have confidence in the United States? Because we feel that we defend the same society, the same idea of man; that we together can defend liberty and can well oppose the totalitarian regimes that are based on a completely different concept.
What is the effect of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon on the Mideast policy of the Mitterrand government?
There again I would say that one development, however serious and depressing, frustrating, should not change the fundamental policy. Our policy is based on some very simple principles, the first one being the right of every state in the Middle East--and that includes Israel, of course--to live in peace, to be guaranteed within the borders recognized by the national community. The second principle being that every people in the Middle East, as anywhere in the world, should have the same rights, and this includes the right to self-determination to build a state. And the third one is that everything should be dealt with through negotiation and not through violence.
These principles are unchanged. We certainly are disappointed that this state to which we are so attached--Israel--should go against one of the principles and should use violence when it has a problem. We do not deny that there was a problem, that at times villages in the north of Israel were being bombed from the neighboring country. But we do not think that violence was the proper answer. This is our frustration, this is our disappointment, that it should come from Israel, it should come from these people that have suffered so much, so much, in their lives during the last tens of years, during the last centuries, I would even say. But it doesn't change our policy.
Now, what one could say is, why do the French--do the 10, because the 10 European countries have theesame position--why do the 10 support the idea that a PLO should be safeguarded? It is very simple. It is because there is a Palestinian people. And when one reads history, one realizes that no people can be oppressed, can be crushed, that one day or another every people will have its legitimate rights recognized. Therefore, there must be a representative for such a people. If there is no representative, that people will use terrorism, will use the most unacceptable attitudes and gestures and actions to express themselves.
We need a representative for the Palestinian people. Israel needs that the Palestinian people be represented. And the only representative we've heard of until now, the only representative of the Palestinian struggle, is the PLO. Therefore, our idea that the PLO should be safeguarded. Of course, the PLO should be requested to recognize the rights of the others. Of course, the PLO should be asked to work, to act, to express its demands through political means. But we need to keep the PLO alive.
The European Economic Community statement reaffirms an earlier EEC call to "associate" the PLO with Mideast negotiations. How does France now propose to make this happen?
As I said earlier, we condemn the invasion of Lebanon. But now that it is done, let us see whether some good can result from this action, which we have criticized. That something good could be precisely a better recognition of the political rights of the Palestinians.
As I have said also, that recognition should, in our opinion, pass through the PLO, through an unarmed PLO, through a PLO expressing itself in political terms, expressing itself after recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people, but also the rights of the states in the region. We think there is a chance; we think the negotiations that are being supervised, led by Philip Habib, have shown that such a possibility exists.
Anyway, we the Europeans--particularly we French, who are very active just now in this whole development--will try and do our best to contribute to such progress. If we are called upon to take risks we shall do so. We keep in he prvery close touch with all partners out there in the Middle East, but also elsewhere in the world and particularly in Washington..