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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS3919 2007-09-18 17:05 2010-12-08 21:09 SECRET Embassy Paris
DE RUEHFR #3919/01 2611709
O 181709Z SEP 07
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 06 PARIS 003919




E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2017

Classified By: Ambassador Craig Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (B & D)

1. (C) The Bernard Kouchner who arrives in Washington Sept.
19 remains both an extremely popular French politician and
one of the few of President Sarkozy's ministers who has
retained a margin of independent authority. Kouchner, the
most prominent of the Socialists who accepted positions in
the Sarkozy government, continues to lead the polls as
France's most popular political figure. (With a 69%
favorable rating, he is well ahead of other ministers -- and
even of Sarkozy himself, who comes in at 64%). At a time
when other ministers have receded so deeply into Sarkozy's
shadow as to become invisible, Kouchner remains very much in
charge on a number of issues -- Darfur, Lebanon, and Kosovo,
for example. While other Ministers are routinely
contradicted by the President (including the Prime Minister,
whom Sarkozy has referred to publicly as his "collaborator,"
a fancy term in French for staffer), Kouchner's voice is
strong and authoritative. That said, and despite the good
personal rapport with Sarkozy, who admires him as a man of
conviction and concrete accomplishment, Kouchner will not
have an easy time managing his portfolio in the era of a
hyperactive President who wants to be seen as in charge of
everything. Kouchner's one stumble since assuming office --
when his briefing to Parliament on the Government's
engagement of Libya over the Bulgarian medics demonstrated
near-perfect ignorance of the facts -- is not necessarily his
last. Sarkozy and Kouchner appear to be fashioning a
coherent foreign policy -- based on a realistic view of what
France brings to the table, a less ideological approach to
issues, greater pragmatism in achieving objectives, and less
aversion to working closely with the U.S. The byword for
France's re-positioning vis-a-vis the U.S. will continue to
be "convergence, not alignment."

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

2. (C) When Kouchner agreed to become Sarkozy's foreign
minister, he knew he was signing up to work for a President
who would favor more substantial transatlantic engagement and
greater day-to-day cooperation -- including on the security
dimension. It is an orientation he shares. Sarkozy's will
clearly be the decisive voice on how far France is willing to
go on a "reform of NATO and France's relationship with it,"
as he put it in his major foreign policy speech of August 27.
But we judge that Kouchner will not be the one applying the
brakes, despite the Gaullist reflexes of many of the Quai's
old hands. Kouchner, like Sarkozy, is ready to break the
mold where he is convinced it serves France's interests as a
medium-sized power that should maximize the twin advantages
of a leading position in the EU and a close, cooperative
relationship with the U.S. Both feel fully empowered to
engineer change at the beginning of their respective terms,
at a time when the opposition is weak, and the blowback from
daring initiatives such as Kouchner's visit to Iraq has been
minimal. While Sarkozy has very definitely set the direction
and tone on Iran policy, and the Elysee is managing the
outreach to Tehran, Kouchner is clearly comfortable with the
hardening of the French line: Three weeks after Sarkozy
publicly warned about the "catastrophic choice between an
Iranian bomb and a bombing of Iran (terming only the first of
these "unacceptable"), Kouchner publicly observed on Sunday
that given Iran's behavior, "we must prepare for the worst,
in other words, war," and called for EU sanctions against

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

3. (C) Even in comparison with the peripatetic Sarkozy,
Kouchner has been no slouch. Since assuming office in on May
19, he has made 19 visits abroad. He has personally
associated himself with, and publicly taken the lead on,
three issues in particular: Lebanon, Iraq and Kosovo.
Arriving in Washington, he will be coming off his fourth
visit to the Middle East. Active across the clutch of Middle
East issues, he has taken headline-grabbing initiatives on
Lebanon and Iraq. In both cases, he has sought to keep a
distance from the U.S., while working to achieve shared
objectives. On Lebanon, his efforts to facilitate dialogue
across the entire political spectrum have brought him close
to U.S. and Chirac-era red lines, and a more risk-averse

PARIS 00003919 002 OF 006

reading of what is politically possible in Beirut has led him
to different tactical conclusions. However, remaining in
synch with the U.S. remains a guiding principle of his
Lebanon policy. Visiting Iraq, he announced France's return
as an independent actor, not as reinforcement for the U.S.
Declaring that the U.S. "has lost the war," on the one hand,
he re-engages France in Iraq on the other, calling for
greater EU and UN involvement in support of political
reconciliation and institutional reconstruction that would
permit gradual U.S. military disengagement. On Kosovo, the
pattern has been similar. A distinct voice and tactical
differences with the U.S. -- insisting on the need for the
appearance of a credible negotiating process, including
consideration of options other than independence -- are
offset by a bottom-line requirement to work closely with the
U.S. to achieve a common strategic objective.

--------------------------------------------- -------
4. (C) We expect that, time permitting, Kouchner would want
to address the range of Middle East issues, Darfur,
Afghanistan, Kosovo, and NATO. Herein follows a snapshot of
where the French are on these and other possible subjects of
discussion, and where differences over policy or analysis
lie. Among Kouchner's top priorities since taking office are
Lebanon, Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian peace, and Iran.

5. (C) Lebanon: Kouchner surprised many by his quick
plunge into Lebanese politics, organizing a national
reconciliation process designed to secure agreement on a new
president and a new national government consistent with
UNSCRs that preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and limit Syrian
(and Iranian) influence. Our partnership with France over
Lebanon remains a top priority for the French, but we have
divergent views on the stakes involved (the French fear a
return to civil war more than a rolling back of gains made
over the past two years to limit Syrian interference) and on
tactics (the French prefer to press the Lebanese to seek a
candidate of "convergence" and are reluctant to give the lead
to the March 14 majority). Kouchner in particular is wedded
to a process that accords parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri a
prominent role in reaching a solution, partly due to
longstanding ties between the two men. He does not seem
nave about Berri, but has been prepared to accord him a key
role that we do not think is deserved. In his last visit to
Beirut, Kouchner challenged Berri to enter into dialogue with
March 14 without preconditions. A frank discussion of the
limits of our continued partnership is needed as well as our
different views of the stakes and tactics to employ. The
French concede that the presidential election process will
play out until late November, which argues for Washington and
Paris to stay in close and constant contact as the various
Lebanese factions seek to play us off against the other.

6. (C) Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Kouchner's just-concluded
visit to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon
gave him a chance to discuss our efforts at achieving
progress on the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations and probe
for a potential French role in our planned regional meeting
in November. He will press for us to step up our efforts to
ensure that Israel and the Palestinians are ready to present
evidence of a concrete accord with tangible results rather
than another declaration of principles. In addition to
asking what role interested parties like France and the
Quartet can play in the regional meeting (about whose details
the French are impatiently waiting), Kouchner has publicly
discussed a possible role for Syria in such a gathering.
This seems to be an outgrowth of French policy on Lebanon,
which includes offering Damascus a possible place at any
regional meeting we would organize on Middle East peace, as
well as a reopening of a bilateral dialogue with Paris in
exchange for good behavior on Lebanon during the Lebanese
presidential election period. Kouchner, who has publicly
suggested an eventual visit to Damascus is possible if Syria
behaves, will meet his Syrian counterpart in New York and
probably hopes to have a clear message to deliver about
possible Syrian participation in the November meeting (which
Kouchner wants to back a week to accommodate the Lebanese
presidential election).

7. (C) Iraq: Kouchner's trip to Iraq confirmed his
reputation for the dramatic. While its paternity is
uncertain, it was clearly something that Kouchner wanted to
do and believed in -- and one which Sarkozy wholeheartedly

PARIS 00003919 003 OF 006

supported. Nevertheless, France has dramatically "turned the
page" in its relationship with Baghdad, and Kouchner has made
good on his intention to spur the EU to play a more prominent
role in Iraqi reconstruction as part of what he hopes will be
a strong multilateral effort with the UN in the lead. The
French are still developing ideas, however, about what they
might do bilaterally. Kouchner is deeply pessimistic about
the Iraqi internal political situation but has not repeated
his readiness to host a reconciliation process similar to the
one he launched for Lebanon. Although he has repeatedly
criticized U.S. military intervention to overthrow Saddam
Hussein (whom he nevertheless said deserved to be overthrown)
and subsequent policy (he most recently said the U.S. has
already been defeated in Iraq), Kouchner believes a continued
U.S. troop presence is vital to prevent the stark
humanitarian situation becoming an all-out civil war. He
advocates a phased withdrawal but only one accompanied by a
rebuilt Iraqi army and police force.

8. (C) Iran: The Presidency has taken the lead on French
policy regarding Iran, but Kouchner has recently and most
bluntly warned that the confrontation over Iran's nuclear
program could lead to military action ("war," in his words,
which have left some of his handlers fretting). He and
others in the French government repeatedly stress that
pressing ahead with ongoing diplomatic efforts (including a
possible third round of UNSC sanctions) must be exhausted
before any potentially "catastrophic" resort to force.
Before seeing you, he will have met with Russian counterparts
to explain France's tough line, including Paris, urging of
other EU members to impose sanctions outside the UNSC if
necessary. Indeed, France's public hard line seems to be
causing others in the EU to rethink their reluctance to
undertake such sanctions. Kouchner's ministry was involved
in quiet Iranian efforts to open a new channel to France in
the nave hope of splitting France from the P-5 1. He might
raise an idea floated by one of his subordinates of a
senior-level U.S./French channel that might include the UK to
discuss possible U.S. military action.

9. (SBU) Europe/European Security issues: Strengthening
European security is an important Sarkozy priority. He
consistently claims that a strong European Security and
Defense Policy (ESDP) is "complementary" rather than
"competitive" with NATO. In his first major foreign policy
speech on August 27, Sarkozy urged EU nations to accept a
larger share of defense spending to overcome the shortage of
EU defense capabilities and cope with global security
threats. He highlighted the imbalance in spending between EU
nations, stating "we cannot carry on with four countries
paying for security for all the rest." European Defense
Agency figures indicate that Britain, France, Italy, and
Germany account for 75% of EU defense expenditures; of these
four, only Britain and France meet the NATO benchmark of 2%
of GDP (NOTE: The latest French figures on defense spending
vary between 1.96 and 2.42%, depending on whether the
gendarmerie, a force to guarantee civil order, is included).

10. (S/NF) NATO/France: In one of his first acts as
President, Sarkozy launched a defense white paper commission
to review France,s defense and security priorities; one
component of the report (expected in March 2008) is a review
of France,s relationship with NATO. The defense white
paper could set the stage for a re-integration into the NATO
military command. The public debate over a deeper French
role in the Alliance was launched this month when Defense
Minister Morin gave a speech to defense sector experts in
which he openly questioned customary French reticence about
NATO. At the same time, our interlocutors have uniformly
cautioned against raising expectations and warned that we
should not expect to see any major policy shifts in the
immediate future (likely not until the defense white paper is
well under way). Many (including, significantly, Prime
Minister Fillon) remain concerned that abrupt moves toward
NATO could be controversial domestically, and argue that, at
a minimum, ESDP needs to be strengthened in parallel.

11. (C) NATO/Afghanistan: France has approximately 1,000
military personnel based in Kabul, Afghanistan (with
additional personnel deployed in surrounding regions such as
Tajikistan and the Indian Ocean). The GOF will beef up its
training support to the Afghanistan National Army through
deployment of 150 additional trainers for Operational

PARIS 00003919 004 OF 006

Mentoring and Liaison teams (OMLTs) by the end of this year.
For air support, the French have moved three French Mirage
planes from Dushanbe to Kandahar this month, with an
additional three scheduled to transfer in October. The
September 10 French-German summit reaffirmed plans by the two
countries to support the German-led EU police training
mission in Afghanistan, although bureaucratic delays, lack of
funding and a change of personnel has delayed deployment of
this mission. On July 30, SACEUR sent a letter officially
requesting six medium lift helicopters to provide rotary-wing
support in ISAF (to replace the U.S. helicopters which are
scheduled to depart early 2008). This request is still under
consideration by the GOF.

12. (C) NATO/Georgia: The GOF is ready to give a positive
signal to Georgia at the NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2-4,
2008), but it prefers that NATO offer "something less than
membership." France is opposed to a Georgia Membership
Action Plan (MAP) for several reasons, including: concern
over creating additional tensions with Russia, a desire to
define the territorial limits of NATO and worries over
Georgia,s internal problems with separatist regions. The
GOF notes that NATO membership should not create new lines of
division and that territorial conflicts should be resolved
prior to membership (i.e. NATO required that Hungary sign a
border treaty with Romania prior to becoming a member);
Georgia does not meet these criteria. Therefore, the GOF
does not support the USG proposal to have the NAC visit
Georgia at the same time as the Secretary General,s visit at
the beginning of October. The GOF is considering whether
NATO could define with Georgia a different kind of status and
a different approach to security in their area, possibly
combined with incentives including abolishing visa
requirements with the EU. The GOF is convinced that Germany,
no less than France, opposes NATO membership for Georgia.

13. (C) France-EU: President Sarkozy was instrumental in
re-activating the moribund political reform process in the
European Union with the June negotiation for a shortened
"reform treaty" that will simplify some of the EU,s
operating procedures, while side-stepping efforts towards
deepened political integration that doomed the EU
constitution in 2005. This "reform treaty" must be approved
by the other EU members and could go through ratification
over the course of 2008. The French will also take over the
rotating EU presidency from July-December 2008 and they plan
to focus on immigration, energy, the environment and European
defense during their term. Sarkozy remains firmly opposed to
EU enlargement to include Turkey. Nevertheless, he has
agreed to allow negotiations to open on 30 of 35 chapters,
all those compatible with both membership and association.
He conditioned his position on EU support for a "Committee of
Wise Men" to reflect "without taboos" on the broader
questions about the European future: i.e. what is the
European identity, what should the EU,s borders be, how to
handle common issues, and how deep can political integration
go. Sarkozy also promotes the formation of a looser
"Mediterranean Union" to coordinate policies and relations
with the broad spectrum of countries of the Mediterranean
basin. Sarkozy's tactical softening on Turkey surely sits
well with Kouchner who personally favors Turkey's joining the
EU, something he has told us directly, and about which he has
agreed to disagree with his President.

14. (C) France-Germany: Thus far, President Sarkozy appears
to be keeping to the tradition of meeting regularly every
couple of months with the German Chancellor. While the
summit meeting in July with Merkel was reportedly more tense
with disagreements over EADS and Sarkozy,s blunt criticism
to German FinMin Steinbruck over EU monetary policy, our
interlocutors reported that the two leaders reached general
agreement on major issues at the most recent September 10
meeting. The French public supports a strong French-German
relationship and expects the two leaders to work together
closely. This was reinforced when both leaders were heavily
involved in reaching agreement on the shortened EU "reform
treaty" in June, activating hopes of a reinvigorated
"Franco-German" engine to lead the EU. In what the French
saw as a major achievement of their Sept. 10 meeting, Merkel
signed on to Sarkozy's proposal to convene a "Committee of
Wise Men" to reflect on the EU,s future. Merkel requested,
and Sarkozy agreed, that presentation of the report should be
delayed until December 2009, so that it would not be
presented during the 2008 French presidency as a "French

PARIS 00003919 005 OF 006

vision," and it would coincide with timing for the next
European commission. Managing the relationship with Russia
remains important for both France and Germany, with the GOF
acknowledging that Germany faces a more acute challenge due
to its closer proximity and greater energy dependence on

15. (S/NF) Missile Defense: The GOF was very interested in
the latest round of U.S. and Russian talks on missile defense
in Paris on September 10, including progress on negotiations
with Poland and the Czech Republic (NOTE: The next round of
experts meetings is tentatively planned for early October
prior to the meetings of Foreign and Defense Ministers in
Moscow). The GOF also agrees that many of Russia,s
objections to the planned system are politically driven,
reflecting an outdated Russian view in which it sees itself
as increasingly encircled by NATO.

16. (C) CFE: At a recent meeting with Quad European
Political Directors, the French expressed support for the CFE
regime and for moving forward towards ratification of the
adapted CFE reaty. This included support for the current USG
"parallel actions" plan and the U.S. proposal to turn Russian
forces in Moldova and Transnistria into an international
force with a Russian component, as long as the requirement of
eliminating ammunition was maintained. However, the GOF is
pessimistic that such efforts would succeed in keeping Russia
in the CFE. French Political Director Gerard Araud recently
informed us that he had been told in Moscow that the
"decision is already taken" to suspend Russia's observation
of CFE and he added that Kislyak had told him that no flank
limits on Russia were acceptable because it was "humiliating"
that they should have such limits on their own territory.
The GOF supports the upcoming CFE Seminar in Berlin in early
October as a chance to give the allies a chance to unify
their positions and demonstrate solidarity for the U.S.
parallel actions plan.

17. (C) Kosovo: Kouchner is working actively to build
consensus within the EU on recognition of an independent
Kosovo after the December 10 Troika deadline. The GOF is
reportedly optimistic about the possibility for consensus on
recognition, but less so about the prospects for consensus on
the legal basis for an ESDP mission in Kosovo. Since a new
UNSCR would provide an agreed basis, France is still pursuing
that possibility. Kosovo is on the agenda for Kouchner,s
meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow on
September 17-18, though we have been advised Kouchner will
seek to gauge Russian flexibility, not make new proposals.

18. (C) Russia: Kouchner will have discussed a full range
of topics with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in their
meetings in Moscow September 17-18. Generally, the GOF
advocates an approach towards Russia that falls between
"complacency and confrontation." While Chirac's insistence
that the primacy of he Paris-Moscow relationship (in his
multipolar world) was inconsistant with even private
criticism of Russian behavior, either Sarkozy nor Kouchner
have refrained from publicly pointing to official Russian
"brutality" (Sarkozy's choice of words). That said,
Kouchner's foreign ministry continues to remind us that
France and the rest of Europe are a lot closer to Russia than
we are, and that it holds an important energy card that many
Europeans will ignore at their peril. In other words, France
and Europe will have to continue to carefully manage Russia.
They will seek, in particular, to avoid aggravating Moscow
before the Dec. 10 Kosovo Troika deadline. France recognizes
that Russian resistance to MD is politically-driven. While
welcoming the U.S. "parallel actions" proposal on CFE, the
GOF views prospects for keeping Russia in CFE as poor, and is
focused on ensuring Allied unity. France agrees that NATO
should send a positive signal to Georgia at the Bucharest
summit; however, France is looking for options other than
extending the MAP, due to Russia,s sensitivities but also
France,s uncertainty about entering into an Article V
commitment to Georgia.

19. (C) Africa - Darfur: The Sarkozy government and
Kouchner in particular, have taken a strong interest in
African issues from the moment they took office. One of
Kouchner's first acts was to call for and then host the June
25 ministerial meeting on Darfur. France's efforts have
played a positive role in energizing international action. A
follow-up meeting on Darfur, to be hosted jointly by the UN

PARIS 00003919 006 OF 006

and AU, is to take place on September 21 on the margins of
the UNGA, to be followed by a heads-of-state meeting of the
UN Security Council on September 25, to address Africa more
generally. The latter will be chaired by President Sarkozy
(France being the UNSC President in September). The French
have firmly supported the deployment of the hybrid UN-AU
force in Darfur (UNAMID).

20. (C) Africa - Chad: The French have also developed a
plan to place a peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central
African Republic, which they see as sharing many of Darfur's
problems that would protect refugee and IDPs. The mission
would have a French-led EU military component and a UN civpol
element. The French would like the UN Security Council to
adopt a resolution approving such a mission (which is a legal
necessity before the EU can go forward) prior to the
September 25 heads-of-state UNSC meeting, with initial
deployment to follow shortly thereafter. One stumbling block
has been the issue of UN funding for Chadian gendarmes who
would serve with the mission. The U.S. and France have been
working to resolve this funding issue, which largely centers
on UN financing rules.

21. (C) Sarkozy,s vision for Africa: In a broader sense,
President Sarkozy has signaled his own vision of Africa,
notably in a speech he gave in Dakar, Senegal, shortly after
taking office. The speech was both praised and criticized in
France and in Africa -- on the one hand, it was quite frank
in advising Africans that they would have to take more
responsibility for their own situations and to avoid
attributing all of their problems to colonialism. On the
other hand, some observers found Sarkozy's tone condescending
and paternalistic, i.e., a vestige of the very colonial
attitude that he was suggesting that Africans needed to put
behind them. On balance, however, the speech, perhaps
intentionally provocative, signaled France's continuing
strong interest in Africa but also a hope that Africa and its
European partners could do business on a more pragmatic and
less emotionally-charged basis than has been the case during
much of the post-colonial period.

22. (S) Colombia: In June of this year, the French pushed
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to release 200 FARC
prisoners in an effort to move negotiations for the release
of FARC hostages, namely Franco-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt,
forward. While this prisoner release has not resulted in
negotiations by the FARC, the French are now backing
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,s offer to negotiate a
hostage deal between the Colombian government and FARC
guerrillas. President Sarkozy has spoken by phone to Chavez
twice over the past few weeks and Chavez will most likely
visit France in the coming months. That said, the French
want to show they are doing everything they can to liberate
Betancourt while publicly downplaying to the extent possible
a role for Chavez. Ingrid Betancourt remains a major media
personality in France and the GOF is under a great deal of
political pressure to show the government "will leave no
stone unturned." Sarkozy is likely aware that without a
gesture from the FARC, the Colombians are unlikely to make
any further concessions including prisoner releases.
Kouchner recently met with Colombian Foreign Minister Araujo,
and Sarkozy will meet with Colombian president Uribe on the
margins of the UNGA on September 25. Betancourt is
reportedly high on the bilateral agenda.

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