Former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius testified last week in the case against cement manufacturer Lafarge, that is suspected of financing terrorist groups in Syria in exchange for keeping its plant running in the country in the midst of war.
According to the ex-minister, he was not aware of the company’s activities and ties to terrorists, but his opponents and even some representatives of his own political camp can hardly believe the former minister.
I did not see anything, I did not know anything — this is the line of defense that Laurent Fabius has chosen. France’s former top diplomat gave a testimony on July 20 in the case of terrorism funding by French firm Lafarge. The Le Monde newspaper found out exactly what the ex-minister said.
“I have never dealt with matters relating to Lafarge, I declare with all responsibility,” Laurent Fabius repeated tirelessly to the French company case investigators Charlotte Bilger and David De Pas. The former Foreign Minister even claims that he does not remember if he knew then that Lafarge had a factory in Syria. “If the question is to determine whether I knew or not about the fact that Lafarge had a plant in Syria, I certainly do not remember.”
Lafarge is accused of making payments to terrorist groups including Daesh* to continue running its plant in Syria at a time when the war there was already in full swing. Between 2011 and 2015, the French company allegedly transferred 13 million euros to armed rebel groups, including Daesh.
Franco-Syrian political scientist Bassam Tahhan, an expert in international affairs, told Sputnik that he does not believe Laurent Fabius.
“I think that Fabius was well aware, but it will be difficult to prove this. How could the head of the French Foreign Ministry not be aware of this, considering the fact that one of the executives of Lafarge acknowledged that he maintained regular contacts with the French ambassador to Syria? There is also a letter from the Embassy in Jordan, in which a French diplomat talks about a meeting with one of the managers of Lafarge. In addition, Firas Tlass, a middleman between Lafarge and terrorist groups, is none other than the brother of Manaf Tlass, who admitted that in 2012 he was evacuated from Syria by the French special services after betraying the regime of Bashar Assad. For all these reasons, it is almost impossible for Laurent Fabius to be unaware.”
Similar doubts are expressed by Florian Philippot, the chairman of the Les Patriotes party and a European MP, who has repeatedly criticized Laurent Fabius decisions on Syria. He ironically responds to the line of defense chosen by the former top diplomat.
“In France, the Lafarge case is perceived too lightly, although this is a very serious matter. In general, France would have shown itself as a great power if it had admitted that its foreign policy in the Middle East was incorrect, since it did not support the forces that fought against the jihadists.”
Even in his own political camp, Fabius’s statements are perceived with disbelief. In an interview with Sputnik, socialist Gérard Bapt, a former MP during Fabius’ time, noted with irony: “It just can’t be that he wasn’t informed, given his position. Maybe he lost his memory?”
The French Foreign Affairs Ministry denies that it was aware of Lafarge’s actions and advised not to close the plant in Syria. However, according to a diplomatic source quoted by France Culture, a radio station, the Foreign Ministry did send “warnings” to Lafarge.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
*Daesh (also called IS/ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) — is a terrorist group banned in Russia.