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Cablegate: Rrt Erbil: French Fm Kouchner Opens Diplomatic

VZCZCXRO8246
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIHL RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ
RUEHROV
DE RUEHGB #1694/01 1561130
ZNR UUUUU ZZH ZDK
P 041130Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7657
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0178
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE PRIORITY 0002

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001694

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR FR IZ
SUBJECT: RRT ERBIL: FRENCH FM KOUCHNER OPENS DIPLOMATIC
OFFICE, HIGHLIGHTS KURDISH ACHIEVEMENTS

REF: BAGHDAD 1676

BAGHDAD 00001694 001.3 OF 002


1. (U) This is an Erbil Regional Reconstruction Team Message.

2. (SBU) Summary: During a well-choreographed June 1 visit
to Erbil, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner held talks
with Kurdistan Regional government (KRG) Prime Minister
Nechirvan Barzani and President Massoud Barzani, led the
flag-raising ceremony to inaugurate the French Diplomatic
Office, and held a press conference with President Barzani.
Kouchner highlighted his long and enduring friendship with
the Kurds, praised them as "pioneers" several times, and
encouraged them to embrace their role as models for the rest
of Iraq. He said the French office in Erbil would soon be
upgraded to a consulate, and announced the establishment of a
French cultural center. Kouchner noted he looked forward to
the UN announcement on Article 140, and said resolving the
Kirkuk question is key to Iraq's democratic development. End
Summary.

3. (SBU) Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner presided over the
opening of France's new diplomatic office in Erbil. Freshly
painted and gleaming in the sun, the office is located in the
center of Erbil, with an excellent view of the Erbil Citadel.
The Director is Frederic Tissot, a friend of Kouchner's, and
also a founding member of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
The French will open a new cultural center next door. Dr.
Tissot told RRTOff June 3 that he is developing plans for an
assistance program in the Kurdistan Region, with activities
focused at the new cultural center. Tissot added that the
existing Arthur Rimbaud Cultural Center, located at the
Citadel, receives approximately 20,000 Euro per year from the
French government.

4. (U) In his speech to foreign diplomatic representatives
and KRG officials, Kouchner repeated three times that the
office would become a consulate, and very soon. He
emphasized his close ties with the Barzani family, and his
time spent with Mustapha Barzani, whom he first met in 1974.
He lauded the Kurds as "pioneers" who have demonstrated what
the rest of Iraq can become as the security situation
improves. Kurds must serve as an example, he said, by
further building up their democratic institutions, such as
their parliament, and through their support for human rights.
He also urged Kurds to hold their elected leaders
accountable and to insist on the development of a truly
independent press in the region. KRG Prime Minister
Nechirvan Barzani praised Kouchner for his strong support for
the Kurds, noting that in 1991 MSF (founded by Kouchner) was
one of the Kurds' few true friends, helping to save many
lives.

Kouchner and President Barzani press conference
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (U) Although the press conference yielded mostly softball
questions, Kouchner noted that he had waited ten years for
this moment, and expressed happiness over the positive change
in French foreign policy toward Iraq. He again brought up
his personal relationship with Barzani's, but also
highlighted the importance of the two Kurdish leaders,
previously adversaries, serving as Presidents in Iraq. In
response to a question on Article 140, Kouchner said he
believes the United Nations proposal will be interesting, and
said France will support the UN recommendations if they
provide a solution, as resolving Kirkuk remains key to Iraq's
democratic development. He also said he supported the
position provided by President Barzani. (Note: In response
to an earlier question on Kirkuk, Barzani responded that the
Kurds are open to discussion on the subject, and that the
UN's involvement can help resolve the problem. End Note.)
When asked if France follows U.S. and UK policy, Kouchner
responded that he does not comment on other countries
policies.

French business delegation in tow
---------------------------------

6. (SBU) Kouchner was accompanied by a French business
delegation, led by Jean-Marie Bellat, French Commercial
Affairs Officer for Iraq, based in Amman, Jordan. Mr. Bellat
and representatives from French companies Gregoire Besson,
Berthoud, Richel, Societe du Canal du Provence et
d'Amenagement de la Region Provencale (SCP), and Manitou met
June 3 with the RRT's Senior Economic Advisor to discuss the
KRG investment climate. According to Bellat, the business
delegation accompanied Kouchner to conduct initial due

BAGHDAD 00001694 002.6 OF 002


diligence for investment opportunities in Iraq. He also
noted that France's initial involvement would be the
forgiveness of defaulted debt obligations and support to
private sector development.

Foreign Representation in Erbil
-------------------------------

7. (U) Thirteen official foreign representation offices are
in Erbil, including the RRT and the United Nations. There
are two consulates: Iran and Russia; three Embassy Offices:
France, Germany, and UK; and five honorary consuls: Austria,
Czech Republic, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, and Spain.

8. (U) Embassy Baghdad note: Kouchner's stop in Erbil
capped off a two-day visit to Iraq that began May 31 in
Nasiriyah, in the company of VP Adil Abd Al-Mahdi, and
included an overnight stop in Baghdad, where he met with CG
Petraeus and Ambassador Satterfield (Reftel), President
Talabani, PM Maliki, CoR Speaker Mashadani, FM Zebari, and
Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Delly, while also visiting the
Al-Bitar hospital in Baghdad.

9. (U) Biographical Note: Dr. Frederic Tissot, whose own
long association with the Kurds included overseeing a GoF
resettlement program in 1989, is confined to a wheelchair
since a 2006 accident in Haiti.

BUTENIS

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