Cablegate: Scenesetter for Your Visit to Paris On January 29

DE RUEHFR #0079/01 0251728
P 251728Z JAN 10

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 PARIS 000079



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2020

Classified By: Ambassador Charles Rivkin for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C/NF) Madam Secretary: President Sarkozy, Foreign
Minister Kouchner, and U.S Embassy Paris look forward
to welcoming you on your first bilateral trip to France as
Secretary of State. Your visit is taking place at a
time that many consider to be one of the best periods in
Franco-American relations. Coming on the heels of the
highly visible London conference on Afghanistan, we
anticipate intense media interest in you, your visit,
and the speech you will be making on European security
issues. Your meetings with the President, National
Security Advisor, and Foreign Minister, as well as your
policy speech, will help us reinforce the need for
increased French engagement in Afghanistan, consolidate
support for next steps on Iran, manage expectations on
the Middle East peace process, exchange latest views on
Russia and China, promote cooperation on Haiti
humanitarian assistance and work toward our counter-
terrorism and non-proliferation goals. Your visit will
also be an opportunity to demonstrate our close ties
with two publicly "pro-American" French leaders and to
express deep appreciation of France as a major bilateral
partner on global issues. End Summary.


2. (C/NF) President Sarkozy will not face re-election
until 2012 and his UMP party currently controls both
houses of Parliament. His domestic political
opposition remains divided and leaderless. Regional
elections scheduled for late March will test Sarkozy's
continuing levels of political support, and we are
seeing increased political posturing as those campaigns
get underway nationwide. Responsibility for foreign
affairs decisions is highly concentrated in the
activist French President, whose impatience with slower
diplomatic processes is legendary. Sarkozy is a firm
believer that it takes the personal intervention of
leaders to cut through bureaucratic resistance and to
achieve necessary results, a worldview that pre-
disposes him to propose high-level summits on
everything from the Middle East to European security.
Despite their differing personalities and political
parties, Kouchner and Sarkozy have
developed a good working relationship, with Kouchner
supporting his President and carving out complementary
areas of responsibility, focusing on humanitarian
affairs, the Balkans, Africa, and Syria-Lebanon. While
there is some media speculation about a possible cabinet
re-shuffle after the March elections, any final decision
on the Foreign Minister's portfolio will have to take
into account that Kouchner remains one of the most
popular politicians in France. Both Sarkozy and
Kouchner, as well as NSA Levitte, are unabashedly "pro-
American," which is refreshing after years of French
politicians defining French power in opposition to,
rather than cooperation with, American power.


3. (S/NF) Afghanistan will be an intense focus of
interest as your visit immediately follows the London
conference, which President Sarkozy has been pushing as
a way to help sell French engagement in Afghanistan to
a skeptical public. While Sarkozy said very publicly
in October 2009 that France would "not send one soldier
more to Afghanistan," he has reiterated publicly, as
recently as January 22, his commitment that France will
remain in Afghanistan "as long as necessary" to
complete NATO's mission in support of the Afghan
people. It remains unclear, however, whether France
will make new public announcements of French
contributions to Afghanistan in advance of the March
elections. While France does not have the more
virulent and active opposition to the war that you see
in some European countries, the most recent public
opinion polls show that over 80 percent of the French
public is opposed to the deployment of troops in

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Afghanistan. With over 3,750 soldiers in Afghanistan,
France is currently the fourth largest contributor of
troops to ISAF and has lost 39 soldiers in the war,
several very recently. The French were recently
embarrassed by the withdrawal of France's candidate to
become the EU Special Representative to Afghanistan,
but they hope that naming a new UN Special
Representative and NATO Senior Civilian Representative
will send a strong signal of unity and improve overall
civilian coordination in Afghanistan. Paris supports a
follow-on meeting in Kabul, but French officials
believe that it should not take place too soon, the
better to allow the Afghan government to form its full
cabinet and develop of
detailed work program.


4. (S/NF) Driven by a personal conviction that time is
playing against a diplomatic solution to the Iranian
nuclear issue, Sarkozy has led his government and the
EU in confronting Iranian nuclear ambitions. Sarkozy
publicly reiterated on January 22 that the "prospect of
a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable" and pressed for
UNSC action to bring Iran to the negotiating table.
The GOF is developing a package of sanctions that
target the broad economic interests of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps and include the areas of
finance, insurance, transport, and oil and gas. The
French believe Iranian elections in June changed many
people's opinions about Iran and they expect the EU
will support enhanced sanctions. The GOF hopes a new
UN Security Council Resolution on Iran can be passed
quickly, and it expects Russia will support such a
move. However, it is less optimistic about China. For
the past two years, the GOF has pursued rapprochement
with Syria, in part for the purpose of trying to weaken
Damascus's ties with Tehran. France has a citizen,
Clotilde Reiss, being detained by the Iranian regime on
charges of supporting anti-government protests. Last
autumn, Sarkozy and Kouchner personalized this issue by
publicly condemning the actions of the Iranian
government. Since then, reportedly, Sarkozy has
personally managed the effort to obtain her release.


5. (S/NF) Sarkozy continues to push France to play a
major role in finding Middle East peace, but he is
impatient and often tries to rush events ahead of USG
plans. For over a year, Sarkozy has promoted a high-
profile peace conference in Paris, despite our
cautioning that the Israeli and Palestinian sides must
first show they are ready to negotiate. During a
January 12 meeting, NSA Levitte told SE Mitchell that
Sarkozy now wants to host a conference in the spring
dedicated to strengthening the institutions of a
Palestinian state. He added that, in the meantime, if
progress is made on the political track, the meeting
could be used to help re-launch peace talks. The
French agree with us on the need to help President
Abbas return to the negotiating table by offering
assistance programs, guarantees, and the support of
Arab leaders. However Kouchner also mentioned to SE
Mitchell the controversial idea of offering to
recognize a Palestinian state now, with undefined
borders, or offering to recognize a Palestinian state
within a defined timeline, regardless of the outcome of
negotiations. Sarkozy's personal engagement in
supporting the peace process is reflected in his visits
to the region and in receiving Israeli, Egyptian,
Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian leaders, most
recently Saad Hariri January 21. France is also
interested in serving as a possible intermediary to
help re-launch the Syrian-Israeli peace track.


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6. (C/NF) President Sarkozy is convinced that
engagement with Moscow is the best way to influence
Russian behavior and therefore seeks to create
stronger Russian linkages to western institutions.
Expect Sarkozy to emphasize the importance of
developing a common approach with the U.S. toward
Russia that builds on the Washington-Moscow "reset"
and reflects French priorities, including: promoting
economic cooperation; encouraging Russia to work
through institutions with set rules; publicly
supporting Russian actions while taking a more
honest approach in private meetings; and cultivating
relations with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, in
the hope that he can become a leader independent of
Vladimir Putin. Sarkozy or Kouchner may well seek to
discuss our next steps with Russia, once the START
talks have been completed, and they may push for
an early re-launch of CFE negotiations. If pressed,
Sarkozy will argue that the proposed sale of
Mistral-class ships to Russia offers another
opportunity to anchor Russia to Western institutions
-- just as French support for an OSCE summit to discuss
European security is designed to entangle Russia in a
web of commitments that address the human rights and
other elements of the OSCE mandate. France will have
multiple opportunities to engage with senior Russian
leaders this year, which the French and Russians have
dubbed, "The Year of Russia in France and the Year of
France in Russia." Sarkozy will visit Moscow in
February, and Medvedev will visit France in March.
Your meeting offers an opportunity to exchange
ideas and coordinate our positions in advance of these


7. (S/NF) France can act -- and has -- as a "force
multiplier" for the United States with more passive
European partners on non-proliferation issues from Iran
to supporting UN counter-proliferation capacity-building
efforts. We continue to work closely together on the
May Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT RevCon) to engage Non-Aligned Movement nations
who resist stronger non-proliferation measures. However,
the approach of the NPT RevCon highlights a policy
divergence on nuclear disarmament. France argues that U.S.
efforts to highlight our own disarmament commitment at
the RevCon would open the door for non-aligned nations
to make the conference a referendum on actual disarmament
progress by the P3, rather than on proliferation concerns.
As France has already made significant disarmament efforts
and has a markedly smaller nuclear arsenal than the United
States, French officials worry that pressure for
additional cuts would negatively impact France's nuclear
deterrent capabilities. The French frequently express
their concern that any calls for a "world free of nuclear
weapons" serve to delegitimize nuclear weapons, which
are a core pillar of French defense. The French
understand the United States is also committed to
maintaining a nuclear deterrent force for as long as
necessary, but will look to the release of the Nuclear
Posture Review for hints of how the U.S. disarmament
vision will translate into concrete action.
Additionally, any efforts at NATO to push for even
a partial rethink on the role of nuclear weapons in
alliance strategy would be deeply worrying to the French.


8. (C/NF) Under President Sarkozy, France has
remained one of our strongest partners in Africa.
Sarkozy has sought to put Franco-African relations on
firmer, institutional grounds in contrast to the
personalized leader-to-leader relationships that
prevailed following French decolonization. FM Kouchner
particularly appreciates his engagement with you on
African issues -- particularly your close collaboration
on Guinea that has borne fruit, with junta leader

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Dadis' decision not to return to Guinea and the
apparent move towards elections. Other areas of
important cooperation include our countering al Qaida
in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other terrorist
efforts in the Sahel region, combating piracy off the
Horn of Africa, and seeking stability in Somalia, where
the French have been active in training Somali security


9. (C/NF) France engages in a robust intelligence
exchange with the United States on worldwide
counter-terrorism issues of interest, including
Afghanistan, Yemen, the Sahel, and threats to homeland
security. France is particularly well-placed to
support U.S. counter-terrorism goals in Africa,
especially the Sahel region. In meetings with S/CT
Ambassador Benjamin, French Ministry of Interior
officials expressed their willingness to work with
the United States on African counter-terrorism issues
and asked that we coordinate our operations in the
region to avoid duplication of effort. Given their
history in the region, the French would like to be
seen as leading the counter-terrorism effort in the
Sahel, rather than simply following us. France
accepted four former Guantanamo detainees with
claims to immigration status in France in July 2004
and an additional three in March 2005.
France was also the first country to accept detainees
without any claim to immigration status in the
accepting country. In May and December 2009,
France accepted two Algerian/Bosnian former detainees
and resettled them in France.

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10. (C) Responding immediately to the earthquake on
January 12, France quickly mobilized physical and
financial resources to assist Haitian disaster victims
and has coordinated closely with the U.S. Total French
official bilateral assistance has risen to about 34
million dollars. FM Kouchner has been at the forefront
of French assistance efforts, including participating
in the January 25 Montreal meeting and offering to host
a follow-on donors' conference on reconstruction.
Leading government officials have consistently praised
the work of the Obama administration on the ground and
defended the need for a strong U.S. role in the
emergency response, correcting short-lived stories of
rising diplomatic tension after a junior minister
criticized the U.S. role in Haiti on January 16.
France seeks to be a partner with us on relief,
including assisting orphans.


11. (C/NF) After a year-long campaign, Paris has
successfully restored productive working relations with
Beijing following a chill in relations that began with
Sarkozy's December 2008 meeting with the Dalai Lama and
the subsequent Chinese retaliation. France has
aggressively promoted its interests in China; a series
of high-level bilateral exchanges in 2009 included
visits to China by the Prime Minister, the Economy Minister,
and the National Assembly President. Sarkozy has
agreed to open the Shanghai Expo in June, and President
Hu is expected to pay an official visit this year.
Despite the investment in restoring Franco-Chinese
ties, Sarkozy has not shied from blaming the PRC for
stalling a climate change agreement in Copenhagen, has
expressed his discontent recently with China's
exchange-rate policy, and is reportedly dismayed that
China is getting a "free ride" while the West pays the
overhead on international economic and security

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12. (SBU) The French economy has been hit less hard by
the crisis than other EU members or than the United States,
in part because of an extensive social welfare system and
the large proportion of government spending in GDP even in
normal times. In addition, President Sarkozy moved
early and vigorously to combat the crisis domestically and
internationally. France is deeply engaged in managing
the transition from the G8 to the G20 and will chair both
groups in 2011. Sarkozy has also been militant on the
need for governments to rein in the financial sector.
President Obama's latest announcements on bank size and
trading activities will be well received by the GOF.

13. (C) Sarkozy is personally preoccupied with the
weakness of the dollar and exchange rate volatility
more broadly. The competitiveness of French big ticket
exports -- aircraft, nuclear reactors, highspeed trains
-- is particularly hard hit. Consistent with his views
that the state can often make better decisions than the
market, Sarkozy favors a more managed exchange rate system
(as well as a more regulated international oil price).
He has found little support for these ideas outside


14. (C) The GOF supports the Copenhagen Accord and is
encouraging African countries to sign on as well.
Sarkozy said the Accord "is not a revolution, but it is
the start of a revolution". The GOF has not yet decided
on a strategy to move forward but is considering alternative
negotiating groups, broader than the Major Economies
Forum (MEF), but smaller that the full UN membership.
Sarkozy likely has his own views on tactics. He understands
the USG's conundrum of synchronizing international
commitments with domestic legislative action, but is
eager to have firm action by the United States.

15. (SBU) Madam Secretary, all three U.S. missions in
Paris are looking forward to your visit and to this
opportunity to discuss these important topics with one
of our most active European partners. Your visit will
help us leverage French global influence to advance our
key policy priorities with France, around the world.

© Scoop Media

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