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Cablegate: Sarkozy Eager to Act On Colombia Hostage Situation

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #4650 3401035
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 061035Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1378
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 0468
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0539

S E C R E T PARIS 004650

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR SNAR PINS CO FR
SUBJECT: SARKOZY EAGER TO ACT ON COLOMBIA HOSTAGE SITUATION

Classified By: POL/MC Josiah Rosenblatt for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S/NOFORN) SUMMARY. Franco-Colombian hostage Ingrid
Betancourt's "proof of life" letter had a profound impact on
President Sarkozy and only reinforced his personal
engagement, according to Presidential Advisor for the
Americas' Damien Loras. Sarkozy is reviewing options
following a December 1 telephone call with President Uribe,
who rejected Sarkozy's suggestion that Senator Cordoba serve
as mediator and instead renewed a request for French
mediation. While Sarkozy declined such a role without first
having access to FARC leaders and potential leverage such as
prisoner releases, Loras noted the French President is set to
do something "spectacular" in the coming days, foreshadowing
Sarkozy's broadcast messages to Betancourt and the FARC.
Sarkozy attributes the long sought "proof of life" to
Chavez's intervention, a view he shared with Uribe. Sarkozy
is considering how to discreetly use Chavez's influence with
the FARC to French (U.S. and Colombian) advantage. Comment:
Given Sarkozy's personal involvement, we must stay in as
close as possible contact with the French as this process
unfolds -- a judgment that we are told Sarkozy shares. END
SUMMARY.

2. (S/NOFORN) On December 4 Presidential Advisor for the
Americas Damien Loras reported that Sarkozy is redoubling his
efforts on behalf of Ingrid Betancourt following receipt of
her "proof of life" (POL) letter addressed to her mother.
Loras said that Sarkozy is set to do something "spectacular"
and noted that the French President had considered meeting
FARC leader Manuel Marulanda, but ultimately decided
otherwise. Sarkozy is ready to act "in the coming days."
Loras welcomed a close dialogue with the U.S. on this issue
adding Sarkozy intends to discuss the hostage situation with
President Bush. Loras alerted us late December 5 that
Sarkozy was about to record for radio broadcast a
"compassionate message" to the hostages, letting them know
the international community is mobilized to seek their
freedom, along with a video message to the FARC appealing for
the humanitarian release of Betancourt. Loras stated that
the Presidency was concerned that her physical and
psychological state had deteriorated to the point that her
life was in danger.

3. (S/NOFORN) Loras reported that on the December 1 phone
call between Sarkozy and Colombian President Uribe, Sarkozy
told Uribe that POL now exists -- which he attributed to
Chavez' intervention. Sarkozy did not ask Uribe to
reconsider his decision on Chavez' mediation, proposing
instead that Uribe consider authorizing Senator Cordoba.
According to Loras, Uribe was negative, asking Sarkozy
instead to resume France's own mediation. Sarkozy replied
that he would not -- at least until Uribe provides: a) access
to all FARC leaders, and b) negotiating leverage, in the form
of FARC prisoner releases or other such bargaining tools.

4. (S/NOFORN) Loras made clear that Sarkozy is not pushing
the GOC to reinstate Chavez as chief negotiator,
understanding that this is politically impossible for Uribe.
At the same time, the GOF believes Uribe purposely unraveled
Chavez's efforts precisely because they appeared to be
working; the Colombians feared Chavez was making the
negotiations too political and too public. Loras professed
understanding of why Chavez's methods are unacceptable to
Uribe, but warned (without elaboration) that there will be
problems if Uribe attempts to unravel GOF efforts. Loras
said the French are still trying to decide how to discreetly
use Chavez's demonstrated influence with the FARC to the
French (and US and Colombian) advantage, in such a way that
is not counter-productive with Bogota.

5. (S/NOFORN) Loras highlighted the importance of working
with the U.S. and the Colombians on this issue. He added
that Sarkozy would make this point directly to President Bush
during their next phone conversation. Noting that Sarkozy
will not refrain from asking for help, he reported that
Sarkozy will ask President Bush to use our influence to
prevail on Uribe to give France space to work on hostage
release and to intensify intelligence exchange on the issue.
Loras admitted that France's intelligence in the region is
quite minimal; France wants to increase its knowledge of the
FARC. Loras noted specifically that some FARC leaders
reportedly have family in Europe, which could be useful
leverage at an appropriate time.


Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


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