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Europe

Hollande outlines France’s Africa, Middle East policy

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-31

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, RFI and TV5 Monde, French President François Hollande said Friday he was confident that operations in Mali had been successful, while outlining his desire for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and its sister broadcasters RFI and TV5 Monde on Friday, French President François Hollande outlined his foreign policy, with a particular focus on North Africa and the Middle East.

In Mali, where France launched its military operation “Serval” to remove al Qaeda-linked jihadists occupying the north of the country, Hollande said that African forces should play the leading role in providing long-term security, and that it was not France’s role to be “Africa’s policeman”.

Bouteflika’s fate ‘will not destabilise’ Algeria

The fate of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is recovering from a stroke in a French military hospital, will not destabilise Algeria whatever the outcome, French President François Hollande said.

Hollande insisted that in the event of the long-standing ruler’s death, he did not expect a destabilising power-vacuum in the troubled former French colony.

“I do not think there is any risk of chaos [in Algeria],” he said adding that France had full confidence in Algeria’s “strong institutions” and positive economic outlook, especially in terms of the country’s vast natural resources.

“Operation Serval had one objective – to free Mali from the grip of terrorists,” he said. “This mission was accomplished … there isn't a corner of Mali under the thumb of terrorists.”

Hollande said he was confident that elections in Mali – a key requirement before French troops withdraw from the country - could and would go ahead in July, despite the still shaky security situation.

Admitting that terrorism had not been fully eradicated in the region, the French leader said his country’s future role would be to “co-ordinate our mission, following the requests of neighbouring countries.”

Hollande insisted that the work of fighting the terrorist threat in Africa needed to be led by African armies, although he admitted that these were poorly trained and equipped for the task.

In this respect, Hollande said that France and other European countries had a responsibility to help them prepare.

“The African Union wants to put in place an intervention force – and I totally agree with this,” he said. “African armies need the proper training and equipment, and we can’t do this piecemeal country by country, which is why the African Union approach is the right one.”

No intervention in Libya

On the threat of terrorists using Libya as a base for operations, Hollande said that the perpetrators of the attack on the French embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli in April had not been identified.

Significantly, he denied a report in Friday’s Le Parisien newspaper, which suggested France was preparing to hunt down terror cells in Libya itself, a country that has been the launch pad for terrorist operations in North Africa since the 2011 downfall of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Admitting that the problems in Libya were compounded by “the sheer number of weapons in the country”, Hollande insisted that France would not intervene militarily on Libyan soil.

“We have not been asked by the Libyan government for help, and the UN has not proposed an intervention,” he said.

Military intervention in Syria not ruled out

Turning to Syria, where France has led international efforts to recognise the Syrian National Council as the country’s legitimate political representative, Hollande said France was still working on a diplomatic and political transition that “does not include [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad”.

France, he said, wants to see an end to the embargo preventing the country from supplying weapons to the rebels, but warned that France wanted to be sure that any arms sent to Syria “do not fall into the hands of groups who would in time turn them against us or use them to further destabilise the country.”

France, he said, was holding out for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, but warned that any outcome would be “without [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad" and that France could not ignore the necessity of “maintaining military pressure” on the Damascus regime.

Hollande also admitted that with fighting in both North Africa and Syria, a number of French citizens were returning to France “with combat experience” in a jihadist environment.

Turning specifically to the stabbing of a French soldier patrolling the La Defence business district outside Paris, Hollande said he had ordered France’s intelligence agencies to work more closely together to monitor people leaving and entering the country who could pose a terrorist threat on French soil.

Date created : 2013-05-31

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