Cablegate: Ambassador Rivkin Engages On Haiti As French

DE RUEHFR #0076/01 0251233
O 251233Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 005277

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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Reinforcing the Secretary's message (ref
A), Ambassador Rivkin engaged directly with over 100 French
journalists in an event streamed live on-line by CNN where he
highlighted U.S. assistance to Haiti and the cooperation of
the United States with France, the UN, and the international
community. Embassy Paris has also reached out to senior
officials in the Elysee and MFA, as well as French press and
civil society at all levels to underscore the message of
positive coordination with our French partners and to set the
record straight on the work of the USG in Haiti. Dismissing
rumors of rising diplomatic tensions between the United
States and France, 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. Following Junior Cooperation
Minister Alain Joyandet,s January 16 criticisms of the U.S.
role in Haiti, the Ambassador, DCM, Political and Public
Affairs section staff engaged with counterparts from the
office of the President to the Foreign Minister and major
French media outlets. Major French media outlets generally
have rejected the politicization of the relief effort and
asserted their support for "indispensable" U.S. assistance.
On January 20, Joyandet publicly corrected the record on
the American presence in Haiti. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (SBU) Since the news of the earthquake reached France,
Ambassador Rivkin, the Public Affairs (PA) Section and other
sections at Embassy Paris have been actively engaged in
publicly explaining what the USG is doing in support of the
Haitian people. On January 13, deputy press officer
Detmeister appeared on France 24 in both English and French
services to provide details of the immediate USG response.
On January 14, Ambassador Rivkin outlined USG efforts in the
wake of the earthquake at a background breakfast with leading
French journalists. Ambassador Rivkin took the opportunity
to reiterate the closeness of the Franco-American
collaboration in the relief efforts in front of former FM
Hubert Vedrine, Junior Minister for Europe Pierre Lellouche,
and National Assembly Foreign Policy Committee Chair Axel
Poniatowski while participating in an on-the-record round
table co-hosted by CNN (Jim Bittermann) and the French
journal L'Express on January 20. More than 100 journalists,
including those who blogged in, heard Ambassador Rivkin
emphasize the importance of close coordination with France
to the success of the emergency response and future
reconstruction of Haiti. His positive assessment of the
cooperation between France and the U.S. was fully endorsed
by his three fellow panelists. "Speaking for the
government of France," Lellouche went out of his way to
praise U.S.-French cooperation in Haiti and also cautioned
the media and journalists present against turning attention
from the work at hand. These comments were echoed by former
Foreign Minister Vedrine.

--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. (SBU) In a televised address from the French island of
Mayotte on January 19, President Sarkozy highlighted "the
exceptional mobilization of President Obama and the American
administration," praising the role the U.S. has played with
France in the relief effort as "essential." Sarkozy
underscored the spirit of cooperation, saying that "today,
(France and the United States) are confronting, together, a
humanitarian emergency...tomorrow it is together that we will
mobilize the international community to respond to the
enormous reconstruction needs." The Office of the French
President had released a statement earlier that day
emphasizing that "French authorities are entirely satisfied
with the cooperation between our two countries and beyond
that, with the permanent coordination between the crisis
centers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American
Department of State. The Elysee applauds the exceptional
mobilization of the United States for Haiti's sake and the
essential role that (the U.S.) plays on the ground." The
clarification amplified and expanded on comments made by
Presidency chief of staff Claude Gueant, who welcomed the
management of the Port-au-Prince airport by the U.S. military
in a statement on January 18. For his part, Foreign Minister
Bernard Kouchner tamped down speculation of a diplomatic
rift, stating that "what is important is the fate of the
Haitians" and reiterated on January 18 that France is happy
to work "hand-in-hand" with the United States. Former Prime
Minister from the Socialist Party Lionel Jospin rebutted
accusations by Hugo Chavez that the American military was

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trying to occupy Haiti as "groundless."

--------------------------------------------- -----------------

4. (SBU) The positive MFA and official statements of
cooperation were designed to correct stories suggesting a
diplomatic rift between France and the U.S., which began
circulating on January 16 after Secretary of State for
Cooperation Alain Joyandet sparked controversy when he told
the press in Haiti that he had lodged an official complaint
after American air traffic controllers, who had assumed
control at Port-au-Prince airport, turned back two French
Airbus planes carrying a field hospital and medical staff.
The French MFA spokesperson Bernard Valero countered
Joyandet's January 16 statement on the same day, clarifying
that "there has been no protest by the French government on
the subject of managing the airport in Port-au-Prince."
Joyandet was again quoted on January 18, speaking to Europe 1
radio from an emergency EU ministerial meeting on Haiti in
Brussels, asking the UN to "clarify" the American role in
Haiti and saying that "this is about helping Haiti, not about
occupying Haiti." FM Kouchner spoke personally to Ambassador
Rivkin on January 19, repudiating the supposed
dissatisfaction of the U.S. relief efforts by Joyandet and
reiterating GOF appreciation of USG efforts. Finally, in an
interview with RFI on January 20, Joyandet backed away from
his previous remarks concerning the U.S. and its role in
leading disaster relief in Haiti by saying that "we can only
rejoice" over the American presence. Saying that he has
"repeatedly welcomed our American friends," Joyandet credited
the U.S. military for opening the Port-au-Prince airport
"very quickly." He dismissed reports of his formal complaint
as just "some of the technical challenges" during a "moment
of difficulty in the early hours of coordination,"
emphasizing that what matters most now is the coordination
between the U.S. and France on the ground.


5. (SBU) Embassy Paris has been in close contact with the
Elysee and MFA regarding the initial statements and those
issued subsequently by senior officials. Ambassador Rivkin
has spoken with FM Kouchner and senior officials at the
Elysee. Other senior officials also maintained an active
dialogue to clarify French views and urge that public
statements accurately reflect American actions. While the
vast majority of French media have correspondents in
Washington and in Haiti and are reporting based on their
information and wire coverage, Embassy Paris is providing
additional information to contacts in France in an effort to
inform the coverage, which has generally been balanced and
positive. The Political Section maintains daily contact with
the MFA Haiti desk to facilitate information sharing on joint
humanitarian assistance and prospective reconstruction.
Contacts at the MFA Crisis Center continue to report
productive exchanges with the State Department Operations
Center Task Force. Over the past year, the U.S. embassy
provided one exchange diplomat to the French crisis center
and promoted exchanges with State Ops personnel, which appear
to have been helpful in coordinating responses to this
current crisis. On the cultural side, PA organized a
commemoration event on January 18 for the lives lost in the
Haitian earthquake and is using new media, including the
Embassy web site and Facebook page, to share the latest
information regarding USG efforts to assist the Haitian


6. (SBU) Characterizing Joyandet's January 16 remarks as
"overblown" and "not characteristic of the situation," French
press coverage has in fact been positive overall and has not
focused on any alleged problems in coordination between the
U.S. and France, but rather has been critical of Joyandet,s
outburst. An editorial in center-right Le Figaro on January
19 described the decisive action by President Obama in
response to the earthquake as a "positive sign" signaling the
"irreplaceable role of the United States in the world."
Independent news website bemoaned the embarrassing
display of "national egos" on January 18 while financial
daily La Tribune defended the U.S. actions as "nothing
shocking" given its geographic proximity and close ties to
Haiti on January 18. However, left-of-center daily
Liberation expressed concern for Haiti's sovereignty,
insisting that France not "abandon" Haiti to "U.S. influence"
on January 20. The Public Affairs section at Embassy Paris
directly addressed the Joyandet statements with French media

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outlets, who focused on highlighting successful cooperation.

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