Cablegate: U/S Burns' June 12 Dinner Meeting with French


DE RUEHFR #2743/01 1771542
O 261542Z JUN 07

S E C R E T PARIS 002743



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/14/2017


Classified By: Ambassador Craig R. Stapleton, Reason 1.4 B/D

1. (U) June 12, 2007, 8:30 P.M.

2. (U) Participants

Under Secretary Burns
Ambassador Stapleton
P Staff Bame
Pol Recinos (notetaker)

MFA Political Director Gerard Araud
Elysee Strategic Affairs Advisor Francois Richier
Elysee Americas Advisor Damien Loras
MOD Diplomatic Advisor Frederic Mondoloni
FM Cabinet Advisor Philippe Errera
Political Director's Staff Gael Veyssiere

3. (S) Summary: U/S Burns and Political Director Gerard Araud
met June 12 for a lengthy discussion of key bilateral issues,
including Colombia hostages, Russia (MD and CFE), NATO
enlargement/Georgia, Iran, Lebanon/Syria, Afghanistan, and
Turkey/EU. Araud emphasized the new, more positive tone in
the U.S.-French relationship since Sarkozy's election to the
Presidency and affirmed that France would seek to avoid
airing disagreements in public. Prior to the meeting, Burns
and Araud exchanged information on the status of French and
U.S. hostages in Colombia and agreed to consult in Paris and
Bogota. Araud cited recent unhelpful Russian statements on
Missile Defense and CFE deployments as indicative of Russia's
bluntly assertive foreign policy. Sarkozy, said Araud, is
seeking a positive relationship with Putin while at the same
time pressing him without immediate success on human rights
and Chechnya. Araud suggested that, on CFE, Russia might be
justified in questioning the U.S. troop presence in the
Balkans. The challenge is to find a middle way between
complacency and confrontation in dealing with Putin and the
new Russia, Araud emphasized. Burns and Araud agreed on
continued public support for Georgian President Sakaashvili,
while cautioning him against provoking the Russians. France,
however, maintained strong doubts as to whether Georgia has
an eventual vocation as a member of NATO. Burns pushed back,
reminding Araud that we needed to safeguard democratic
principles in Europe by being more inclusive.

4. (C) Summary cont'd: Araud agreed with Burns on Iran's
non-compliance with UNSC resolutions, and on the need for an
additional resolution and sanctions outside the UNSC. Burns
stated that a diplomatic resolution was still possible and
biting sanctions likely were necessary to achieve that end.
The French registered Burns' statements that the United
States had proof that Iran was providing arms in Iraq, to the
Taliban in Afghanistan, and to Hizballah in Lebanon. French
Presidency advisors, however, cautioned that the evidence was
not yet strong enough in Lebanon to justify pressing Tehran;
France also did not wish to risk losing its dialogue with
Iran. On Lebanon, Araud agreed that France should have
consulted the U.S. prior to initiating its call for a Lebanon
"national dialogue" conference, and affirmed Sarkozy's
intention to maintain existing French policy towards Lebanon
alongside close consultation with the United States. On
Afghanistan, Araud reiterated France's decision to increase
its Operational Mentoring and Liaison teams (OMLTs) from one
to four, bringing the total number of French trainers for the
Afghan National Army to over 150 personnel. Pressed on PRTs,
a Presidential advisor said that France was studying the
concept and presented it to Sarkozy as one of several
options. Araud added that European support for Allied
efforts in Afghanistan was not open-ended. Araud also said
that Sarkozy was seeking to decrease tensions with Turkey
with a proposal to move forward on those EU accession
chapters that would apply equally to membership and
partnership status. Paris had also informed Ankara that the
GOF would not support a vote in the French Senate on a
controversial resolution on Armenia. End Summary.

Bilateral Relationship

5. (C) Araud began the discussion by noting that the Sarkozy
government was opening a new period in the bilateral
relationship. France remains a good friend of the United
States, and will seek even closer ties with us. That said,
France will not hesitate to express disagreement when
France's approach differs from that of the U.S. Referring to
past differences over Iraq, Araud stated that France sees no
need to make our disagreements public -- we will discuss and
consult first. Araud observed that former French Ambassador
Jean-David Levitte, who is Sarkozy's new Diplomatic Advisor,
has a track record of working well with the United States.
Burns concurred, telling Araud that the U.S. had taken
positive note of the new French government's decision to drop
public calls for a "time horizon" for withdrawal of foreign
forces from Iraq.


6. (S) In an aside before the dinner, Araud described how
Ingrid Betancourt's release had become such an important
cause in France, one which President Sarkozy had insistently
associated himself with during the presidential campaign.
Burns noted that since August 2003 there had been no proof of
life of the American hostages in Colombia. However,
extensive interviews with the recently escaped FARC prisoner
had led us to believe the information he provided was
credible; there may now be grounds for believing the U.S.
hostages, held together with Betancourt, are still alive.
Loras replied that based on French interviews of the same
escapee, the GOF was skeptical. The information provided was
far too detailed, possibly indicating it was planted -- and
the whole "escape" potentially a fake. Araud and Burns
agreed to further consultations between our missions in
Bogota and in Paris. Loras asked that such talks begin in
Paris. Araud referred us to the Presidency for future
consultations on this sensitive topic.

7. (S) Comment: In a follow-up conversation with Pol/MC after
the dinner, Loras was much less categorical, saying at least
a week was needed to review the information concerning the
hostages' well-being and whereabouts. We agreed to consult
closely, especially with the Presidency. End Comment.

Russia, Missile Defense and CFE

8. (C) Echoing almost verbatim his previous comments to
visiting staffdel Myers (ref B), Araud stated that Russia has
become a problem as it regresses to a traditional Czarist
foreign policy -- imperialist and brutal, reflecting endemic
racism, anti-Semitism and nationalism. By way of an example,
he noted that a high-ranking member of the Duma recently
exclaimed to a visiting French official, "so, you've elected
the Jew Sarkozy!" Araud also observed that Russia feels
besieged by NATO, the U.S. and the West. Faced with the
"trauma" of dealing with Chechnya, and the "humiliation" of
retreat from former territories during the Yeltsin years,
Russia is unlikely to modify its imperialist foreign policy
in the near future. Our collective challenge, emphasized
Araud, is to find a middle way "between complacency and
confrontation" in dealing with Putin and this "new Russia."

9. (C) Burns said that President Bush sees continuing value
in the relationship, especially on such important issues as
fighting terrorism and wmd proliferation, and so had chosen
not to respond in kind to Putin's heated rhetoric. The U.S.
has deliberately refrained from reacting publicly to Putin's
recent provocative statements on CFE, MD, and other issues.
Loras said that Sarkozy is seeking to develop a positive
relationship with Putin, but without significant success to
date. In their meeting, Sarkozy had raised with Putin human
rights concerns, including the situation in Chechnya, the
violent repression of a recent gay rights parade in Moscow,
and the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya. Putin reacted
by attacking human rights (prison conditions) in France.
Additionally, Loras noted that two days after Sarkozy had
lobbied Putin for the purchase of Airbuses, Russia announced
the purchase of Boeing aircraft.

10. (C) Araud stated that Putin had explained to Sarkozy the
Russian proposal to locate part of the U.S. Missile Defense

(MD) program in Azerbajian. The French were appreciative of
the briefings General Obering had provided in France, as they
helped to understand better the U.S. project -- and the
Russian response. The Russians, Araud concluded, are trying
to divide the Allies by questioning the Iranian threat and
proposing a sensible alternative to basing MD defense in
central Europe. Burns said that the Russians, in offering an
Azerbajian option, were, in fact, implicitly recognizing the
reality of an Iranian threat and the need for missile
defense. The United States, meanwhile, remains open to MD
coordination with NATO.

11. (C) Regarding CFE, Araud ventured that Russia might have
a basis for its desire for some reciprocity. The Russians
had made progress in Georgia, yet we say we will never ratify
until the Istanbul commitments are completely fulfilled: the
GOF is not sure this is the best approach. Furthermore, the
Russians could argue that U.S. bases in Bulgaria and Romania
are intended not only for training, but in fact amounted to
"substantial" new deployments. Burns pushed back, reminding
Araud that Russia had concurred on those basing agreements.
Araud agreed that the Russians were guilty of revisionist
history, but the Allies nonetheless needed to offer Russia a
way out.


12. (C) Turning to the then-upcoming June 13 Sarkozy meeting
with Georgian President Saakashvili, Loras commented that the
Presidents had met twice before. In public, Loras added,
France will convey a message of "strong support." Privately,
however, the French planned to urge Sakaashvili not to
provoke the Russians, to avoid raising tensions, and to work
on the human rights situation in Georgia. The Georgians are
looking to use NATO as a shield; they "should not play with
fire" by baiting Moscow, Loras emphasized. Burns said the
USG also had counseled Sakaashvili against provoking the
Russians, but Sakaashvili will be nervous until Georgia has
obtained MAP. Burns explained that the U.S. had told the
Georgian President that while NATO's door remains open,
Georgia must meet its obligations under NATO.

13. (C) Voicing well-known French reservations over NATO
membership for Georgia, Araud questioned whether membership
ultimately made sense: "Georgia in NATO means problems; it
should have the diplomacy of its geography." He pointed to
Finland -- a prosperous and independent non-NATO country on
Russia's border -- as a possible model. Presidential advisor
Richier added that decisions on the borders of Europe for the
EU and NATO were open. Is Georgia-in-NATO a security
interest? Araud concluded by stating that Sarkozy has not
yet addressed Georgia policy. Burns explained that the USG
would like to see Georgia obtain MAP status and eventual NATO
membership. We clearly have a different view of NATO: we
see a political imperative in bringing in democracies. The
same logic that brought the Baltics into NATO applies to
Georgia. Russian objections should not block the membership
track; Moscow should not have a veto. The future of Russia
is not readily predictable, hence the U.S. would like to
ensure that as much of Europe is democratic and protected by
NATO as possible.


14. (C) Araud and Burns agreed that Iran is not complying
with UNSC sanctions and continues to move forward with its
nuclear program. Regarding next steps, Araud observed that
while it may be difficult to obtain new UN sanctions with
more bite, UNSC action nevertheless serves to provide
legitimacy. He observed that the French Embassy in Tehran
reports that U.S. financial sanctions have been very
effective, but that Iran is not yet ready to yield to
international pressure. In fact, the regime is in a
hardening period. We must therefore manage the crisis for
the long term ("pour la dure"), and keep our nerves.
Richier suggested that we should continue to seek another
UNSC resolution before proceeding to a review of other
options including alternate sanctions -- on which Sarkozy
would have to be consulted. He added that the United States
and France should refrain from public discussion of such
sanctions to avoid giving the impression, at this stage of

UNSC discussions, that we plan to move forward regardless of
results in New York. Burns reviewed his recent discussions
of Iran with Israeli officials, nothing that they agreed with
the USG that there still is time for a diplomatic solution.
Stronger sanctions and economic pressure will be essential to
achieving that end. Other governments must be convinced of
that essential point.


15. (C) Burns also reviewed how Iran violated UNSC
resolutions by providing arms to Hizballah in Lebanon, which
appears to be taking new steps to threaten Israel, and to the
Taliban in Afghanistan. Loras responded that, given that the
evidence on Hizballah arms in Lebanon is not verifiable,
France is not currently pushing Iran on this issue. Araud
added that France is trying to keep open its dialogue with
Larijani on Lebanon. All agreed that financial sanctions
remain an effective way to pressure Iran to behave. Burns
briefed Araud on the status of Iranian-American hostages held
by Iran, and requested an appeal for their release by the
French Ambassador. Araud replied that he has already raised
the matter with Iranian authorities, and recalled that it had
taken France a year to obtain the freedom of a French hostage
in Iran.

16. (C) Araud stated that Sarkozy had told President Bush
that France would maintain its policy on Lebanon, minus its
exclusive Harriri focus. Sarkozy had also solicited
President Bush's advice about talking with Syria. Araud said
Sarkozy responded that now is not the time, as Syria remains
very destructive. Burns told Araud that the United States
had been surprised at not having been consulted prior to
France's recent call for a conference on Lebanon in Paris.
Araud contritely agreed that consultations in advance were
warranted. Returning briefly to a discussion of the renewal
of UNIFIL, MOD advisor Mondoloni revealed that the French
military would like to downsize its presence, but that
civilian leaders had emphasized to them that political
obligations were paramount.


17. (C) Araud and Richier confirmed previous reporting on new
French commitments for Afghanistan (reftels). They
emphasized that despite campaign rhetoric, France is staying
the course in Afghanistan. Paris plans to increase the
number of French "Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams
(OMLTs)," from the current one to four, bringing the total
number of French personnel training the Afghan Army to over
150 trainers. They also noted that following a review of
Afghanistan policy and, at the request of the Presidency,
Paris was reexaming how to improve French assistance efforts.
Burns asked about the possibility that France could
establish a PRT, noting it was the only NATO Ally not so
involved. Richier admitted that France is studying PRT
operations, but that the option of establishing one had not
been raised during earlier the policy review. It is
important to note, he added, that in contrast to previous
French positions, the Government is not dismissing out of
hand the PRT option: Sarkozy had still not completed the
review of, or reached to final conclusions on, France's
Afghanistan policy.

18. (C) Araud reiterated the French observation that European
governments and publics are not committed to a long-term
engagement in Afghanistan: there is a certain "fragility to
the European presence there." For example, the German
government faces difficult battles with the Bundestag every
time it needs to renew its military presence there. "We
(Europeans) are in Afghanistan to demonstrate support for the
United States," Araud added; Europeans do see it as a vital
interest of their own. While France's earlier call for a
"contact group" had been ill-conceived, urgent but discreet
Quad format discussions are needed on preparing an "exit
strategy" or "success strategy." Neither the Allies nor the
Taliban can win decisively in Afghanistan, Araud commented.
We therefore must continue work to get the Afghans to assume
control of their future. Additionally, President Karzai
needs to better address Pashtun grievances, which fuel
support for the Taliban, he concluded. Burns, citing the

Balkans as an example, noted that the USG does not believe
the Allies should leave Afghanistan any time soon.


19. (C) In a brief exchange on Turkey, Burns reviewed the
PKK's recent announcement that it would cease attacks, and
USG contacts with Ankara regarding the negative impact of any
cross border operation into Iraq. Araud related that Sarkozy
and Levitte were seeking to decrease tensions with Turkey by
supporting EU progress on 31 of the 35 accession chapters,
i.e., those chapters that would apply equally to a privileged
partnership with Turkey (the other four applying only to
membership). Levitte had explained Sarkozy's position to the
Turks during a recent visit to Ankara, where he also informed
the GOT that Sarkozy would ensure that the Armenia genocide
bill would die in the French Senate.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: fm


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN SDG: UN Appoints Twenty Eminent Thinkers To Shed New Light On The World’s Greatest Challenges

New York, 21 January 2021 – Twenty prominent personalities, globally renowned for their intellectual leadership in economic and social fields, will form the second United Nations High-level Advisory Board (HLAB) on Economic and Social Affairs, the ... More>>

UN: As COVID Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide, Guterres Warns Against Self-Defeating ‘Vaccinationalism'

With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives. In a video statement , Secretary-General António Guterres ... More>>

UN: Violent Attempt At US Capitol To ‘overturn’ Election, Shocking And Incendiary

A group of independent UN rights experts released ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>