Cablegate: Engaging the New French Government On Foreign

DE RUEHFR #1844/01 1300917
O 100917Z MAY 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 001844




E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2017

REF: A. PARIS 1789
B. PARIS 921
C. PARIS 777
D. PARIS 1817

Classified By: Ambassador Craig Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (B & D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Foreign policy played only a negligible
role in the presidential election campaign that concluded May
6, and Sarkozy has relatively little experience in foreign
affairs, despite his tenures as Interior and Finance
Minister. Nonetheless, Sarkozy's personality is such that he
will want to take the stage at the June 6-8 G8 and June 21-22
European summits as a full partner. Instinctively
pro-American and pro-Israeli, Sarkozy is fiercely opposed to
Turkish EU membership. He has promised that his approach to
foreign affairs will be different from Chirac's in its
emphasis on human rights, and has identified Europe, Africa
and the U.S. as his three immediate priorities. That said,
generally speaking, continuity will prevail, reflecting the
non-partisan, consensus support that French foreign policy
has enjoyed during the Fifth Republic. On Europe, his goal
is, by overcoming the current institutional crisis, to
re-impart momentum to European integration and make the EU a
major player on the world stage. On Africa, Sarkozy
advocates increased developmental aid as the offset for
regulating immigration (important for his domestic agenda)
and has repeatedly called for action on Darfur. He has
called for a "Mediterranean Union," to include Turkey and
Israel, as Europe's institutional link to the Middle East and
North Africa. With the U.S., he seeks a relationship based
on renewed confidence and trust that still allows for honest
differences of perspective; most recently, he has pointed to
global climate change (septel) as his major area of policy
difference with the U.S.

2. (C) SUMMARY CONT'D: The Deputy Secretary's May 16
meetings in Paris will occur the same day President-elect
Sarkozy assumes office (Sarkozy himself will therefore be
unavailable). Beyond welcoming the prospect of improved
U.S.-French relations, the Deputy Secretary can use his visit
to send a message on five key U.S. foreign policy concerns.
We can welcome Sarkozy's willingness to take a tough line on
Iran, but also will need to impress on him the stakes in
Afghanistan and the importance of France remaining a key
partner there. On Iraq, we can expect Sarkozy to drop the
needling rhetoric on a horizon for U.S. withdrawal, but
having told the President he "wants to help the U.S. get out
of Iraq," we should press him to offer a specific, symbolic
proposal -- such as active French engagement with friendly
Arab governments -- to associate France with our efforts
there. In assuring Sarkozy of strong U.S. support for a
strong Europe, we need to stress the importance we attach to
keeping Turkey's EU accession negotiations going. Finally,
we should stress the importance of a united front against
Russia as Kosovo goes before the UNSC. END SUMMARY.

3. (C) A presidential election campaign dominated by the
domestic change and reform thematic left very little room for
foreign policy. Sarkozy has little foreign policy experience
and speaks only very limited English. Given his strong
character and action-oriented agenda, and his desire to put
France back on center stage, we can nonetheless expect
Sarkozy to move quickly to assert himself as an equal partner
at the upcoming June 6-8 G8 Summit in Germany and the June
21-22 European Council meeting in Brussels. (See ref A for a
discussion of Sarkozy's views on economic and trade issues.)

4. (C) Most voters went to the polls May 6 convinced that
President-elect Sarkozy would seek a better relationship with
the U.S., which he explicitly affirmed in his May 6
acceptance speech. Sarkozy's opponents had attempted to use
his September 12, 2006 meeting with President Bush to suggest
that Sarkozy was a U.S. "poodle" who would have supported the
U.S. intervention in Iraq, unlike President Chirac. In a
recent press conference on foreign policy (ref B), Sarkozy
made clear he had supported Chirac's decision. Then and in
his post-election remarks, he nonetheless highlighted the
need for a friendlier tone and more confidence in the
U.S.-French bilateral relationship (and in NATO-EU
relations), in a way that also preserves Gaullist (and EU)
freedom of action. In effect, Sarkozy has already shifted

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the focus of U.S.-French "differences" from Iraq and the
Israeli-Palestinian relationship to climate change and
Turkish membership in the EU (see also refs B, C and D).

5. (C) Sarkozy's first foreign policy priority will be to
impart new momentum to the EU and show that France is back as
a key EU player. Sarkozy no doubt knows already that his
idea of a simplified treaty is acceptable to London and
Berlin as the best means to avoid new referenda, and he will
move quickly to ensure that a process can begin by the end of
the German EU Presidency that would conclude at the latest by
the end of the French Presidency in December 2008, in advance
of European parliamentary elections in early 2009. Immediate
progress on this front would go a long way to overcome the
sense of malaise and indirection stemming from President
Chirac's failure to push through the referendum on the
Constitutional Treaty in May 2005. Sarkozy wants a European
Union that is a veritable player on the world stage, with
coherent policies to guarantee its energy supplies and create
buffers against globalization while harnessing its creative

6. (c) Sarkozy lacks the web of personal relationships with
African (and Middle Eastern) leaders that, in particular,
Chirac used to direct French foreign policy. Sarkozy intends
to make a virtue of his less personalized approach, reviewing
France's exposure based on a hard-headed re-evaluation of
French national interests. Sarkozy has identified Africa as
one of his three foreign policy priority areas (along with
the EU and U.S.), in line with his domestic campaign focus on
uncontrolled immigration to France. His interest in
development assistance for Africa appears aimed primarily at
offsetting Africans' concern over Sarkozy's domestic
political goal of reducing immigration from Africa -- and as
part of a more comprehensive international effort to address
conditions in Africa that give rise to mass emigration from
the continent. A review of French national interests may
augur a lessening of French military engagement across Africa
or an increased desire to see the EU take over some of its
missions. Sarkozy has called repeatedly for action on
Darfur, including prosecution of Sudanese leaders by the
International Criminal Court, but it is unclear at this stage
what concrete steps he might otherwise propose.

7. (C) We can expect Sarkozy to push hard his signature
"vision" issue, the idea of a "Mediterranean Union," to
include Turkey and Israel, which would supersede the EU
Barcelona process and create an area modeled after, and
having a privileged partnership with, the European Union.
Sarkozy has bluntly declared that pursuing Middle East peace
is not incompatible with ensuring Israel's security, while
assuring nervous Arab leaders -- most recently Egyptian
President Mubarak -- that his policies toward the Middle East
would be largely in synch with Chirac's. On the whole, it
seems likely that continuity will prevail, although the
traditionally pro-Arab MFA may have to accommodate Sarkozy's
greater emphasis on Israel's security needs. It remains to
be seen to what extent Sarkozy will attempt to leverage his
pro-Israel orientation for more leverage for France and/or
the EU in the Middle East peace process.

8. (C) Sarkozy has indicated very publicly -- enough so that
it is reasonable to assume that he will follow through --
that he intends to place more emphasis on human rights
issues. He has made clear that he would be less likely than
Chirac to accommodate even Russia or China in the name of
realpolitik, citing the situation in Chechnya and his
opposition to lifting of the EU arms embargo on China. A
consistent emphasis on human rights could have a significant
impact on French policy in Africa and the Middle East.

9. (C) We believe that, beginning with the May 15-16 visit
to France of the Deputy Secretary, the USG should reach out
quickly to engage the new French government. Beyond
welcoming prospects for an improved U.S.-French relationship,
we need to send messages on the following five key issues:

PARIS 00001844 003 OF 004

Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, EU/Turkey, and Kosovo/Russia. If
time permits, the Deputy Secretary may also wish to review
the state of play on Darfur.

-- IRAN: Sarkozy views Iran as the most serious
international threat, and he will be at least as tough-minded
a partner as Chirac has been. He has expressed a willingness
to tighten financial sanctions against Iran. While he
prefers acting under the authority of the UNSC, we believe he
could support resorting to measures outside the UN framework
if necessary. The late-May consideration of next steps in
the UNSC offers a first opportunity to work with the new
government, and to test and shape its approach.

-- AFGHANISTAN: MFA Political Director Araud has underscored
the need for the USG to engage the new government to dispel
the widespread impression, shared by Chirac, that Afghanistan
may be a losing cause. Under the impact of the Taliban
kidnapping of French citizens, Sarkozy recently stated that
France's role in Afghanistan -- now that the anti-terrorism
campaign has largely ended and French Special Forces
withdrawn from OEF -- was no longer "decisive" and that
French forces would not remain there permanently. The
Taliban threat against the life of the one remaining French
hostage is still directly tied to a demand for France's
military withdrawal form Afghanistan. We will need to
impress on Sarkozy the importance of French perseverance over
the mid-term (including through more purposeful public
statements about the stakes there) and, as the French have
stressed to us on Bosnia or Kosovo, the importance of "in
together and out together," which also applies to national
caveats on the use of forces.

-- IRAQ: Chirac's departure from the scene should enable
France to put U.S.-French differences not only aside, but
behind us. Sarkozy, like most other French politicians, has
said he would have handled our differences in a less
confrontational matter. This does not change the fact that
he (now, in any case) believes Chirac made the right decision
in opposing the war. Moreover, concern about feeding the
"President Bush's poodle" accusation might militate against
any dramatic public change in GOF policy, at least in the
immediate future, with French parliamentary elections
looming. That said, we should take him at his word that he
"wants to help the U.S. get out of Iraq." Our goal in the
near term should be to push the French toward a more positive
declaratory policy, working with the new government to
identify a symbolic turning of the page on France's "let the
U.S. live with it" attitude of the Chirac/Villepin years.
One possibility would be active French engagement on Iraq
with Arab governments of the region.

-- EU/TURKEY: Publicly and privately, we should encourage
France to reassume its rightful place in Europe, as part of
our broader message that a re-invigorated Europe is in the
U.S. interest. If we decide to participate in an ESDP police
mission in Kosovo, we should use this as an example -- one
for them to follow -- of choosing the institutional framework
for joint action to match the needs of the situation. Luc
Ferry, a former Education Minister, political commentator and
close friend of Sarkozy's, has urged that we attempt to
change Sarkozy's opposition to Turkey's EU membership. While
a change of heart appears extremely unlikely given Sarkozy's
political identification with opposition to Turkish
membership and his categorical statements on the issue, we
should seek to persuade him to temper his post-election
rhetoric, allow accession negotiations to proceed, and at
least not close the door dramatically and completely at this

-- KOSOVO/RUSSIA: We should stress the importance of a
united front in the UN Security Council on Kosovo's
independence. We would welcome a more active French role in
persuading Russia not to veto a UNSC Resolution.

10. (C) We will know more about the likely foreign policy
orientations of the new Sarkozy government once he names a
foreign minister and key advisors are in place. We would
expect him to designate someone of proven competence (such as
former FM Alain Juppe, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie,
or former FM Michel Barnier). There is no reason to believe
that Sarkozy will come into office with the intent of
seriously challenging the Gaullist consensus underlying
French foreign policy. The MFA will work overtime to ensure
continuity in French policy positions. Over time, and as he

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gains experience, Sarkozy is certain to assert his authority
over foreign policy more directly. It still remains to be
seen whether Sarkozy will create -- as proposed by Pierre
Lellouche -- the French equivalent of a National Security
Council that would supplant the Presidential diplomatic cell
and assume a larger role in coordinating French foreign
policy; we have no indication Sarkozy has personally signed
on to such a move. It is also unclear whether the
Presidency's Africa Cell, which has long enjoyed a privileged
position, will survive in its present form. Sarkozy's desire
to move away from Elysee-centered personal diplomacy with
African leaders may mean the days of this bureaucratic
post-colonial throwback may be numbered.

11. (C) Although Sarkozy will initially be focused on
domestic reforms and relaunching the EU, he will also grasp
every opportunity to showcase his leadership of a
re-invigorated France on the international scene, confident
of its place in the world. This entails -- and he will not
be shy about repeating this point publicly -- establishing a
relationship of trust and working together productively with
the United States. The Deputy Secretary's May 15-16 visit
will offer the first occasion to make our views known to the
new Administration, as it comes into office (unfortunately,
this also means that Sarkozy himself will be unavailable for
meetings). The Defense Secretary's June 5-6 visit to France
will offer an excellent opportunity to engage the leaders of
the newly-constituted government.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: fm


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