Parliamentary Assembly session : 23 – 27 September 2002 

Interview with Guillermo Martinez Casan, Rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee

What is the message of your report and draft resolution?

Martinez Casan: The Iraqi situation is serious. It endangers stability both in the region and the rest of the world. Unless it is brought under control, it could trigger a confrontation between the West and the Arab/Muslim world, which is absolutely to be avoided. In addition, any unilateral action against Iraq risks weakening the United Nations. But the report obviously takes as its starting point the attitude of the Iraqi regime, which has been the same for years.

Question: If Saddam Hussein’s regime continues to resist the United Nations resolutions and to refuse any unconditional return of UN inspectors, what do you see as the likely outcome?

Martinez Casan: We have to draw a dividing line between international legality and international illegality. On the legal side of the line we have the UN and the Security Council member countries. On the illegal side we have the country which for years has been jeopardising world stability and security, namely Iraq. Iraq persists in refusing to co-operate with the UN. But under pressure from the UN and the international community, including the Arab countries, the Iraqi government now says that it is prepared to co-operate and receive UN inspectors. It is the international pressure which has brought that about. But we have to face facts. Until such time as we see that the Iraqi concession is not a delaying tactic, there will be doubts about Iraqi sincerity. It is extremely important to keep up the pressure so as to make it clear to Iraq that it cannot toy with the international community. It cannot play fast and loose with democracy, freedom and stability. Which is why my report suggests continuing the negotiations in the UN so as to give Iraq a chance to demonstrate the sincerity of its undertakings. And also give the sceptics, who include the United States, a chance to believe the undertakings.

Question: In the report you say that unilateral action by the United States risks dividing the democratic world. Can you explain?

Martinez Casan: Obviously I want to avoid any armed confrontation. Any confrontation would have to be under UN decisions. The risk of multilateral action exists. Even if there is evidence that Iraq is producing weapons of mass destruction, Security Council members are not necessarily going to agree to military action. Some countries may use their veto. One or more Security Council members might then act on their own to maintain peace and stability. That would risk splitting the Western world and the Arab world alike. Equally, such action may prove necessary to safeguard stability. But it is early days to talk about it.

Question: What might be the consequences of such a conflict? Your report particularly mentions relations between the Western world and the Arab/Islamic world.

Martinez Casan: Just as with action in Afghanistan, we need to explain the position carefully. There is no quarrel between the Western world and the Arab/Islamic world. The conflict is between international legality and international illegality. Today the country which is imperilling world stability is an Islamic country. Tomorrow it might well be a Christian or Western one. There is no question of a conflict between civilisations.

Question: Overall, how do you see the European political position in the Iraqi conflict? Some European countries have already stated that in no circumstances will they take part in military action against Iraq.

Martinez Casan: Europe ought to have a common foreign and security policy. If Europe had had legal personality and a permanent seat in the Security Council, it could have acted as one. But the position is otherwise, and so European countries, and particularly those in the European Union, have sovereign authority to conduct their own foreign policies. Personally I think the United Kingdom, like Spain, decided at the outset to support the efforts to put pressure on Iraq. However I think that Chancellor Schröder did Europe a disservice with his remarks on German participation in any military intervention. I think they were coloured by the election campaign. But I think we shall shortly see a change in German policy on the question. Germany is a leading country which has always shown commitment to peace and stability.