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France

Exclusive: France’s Hollande spells out foreign policy goals

© FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-11-28

President François Hollande discussed French foreign policy in an interview with FRANCE 24, RFI and TV5 Monde on Thursday, a day before he heads to Africa to visit Ebola-hit Guinea and attend a summit of French-speaking nations in Senegal.

Hollande discussed France's stance on a number of foreign policy issues, from overseas counter-terrorism operations to ensuring democratic political transitions in Africa.

He heads to Ebola-hit Guinea on Friday, becoming the first Western leader to visit a country ravaged by the worst-ever outbreak of the virus.

Murdered French tourist Hervé Gourdel

Hollande confirmed recent reports that one of the jihadists behind the murder of French tourist Hervé Gourdel had been killed by the Algerian army, congratulating the Algerian authorities and adding that the other suspects had been identified.

Asked about which jihadist group the suspects belonged to, Hollande said that jihadist claims of allegiance to one group or another could not always be trusted.

“What is important is that they are punished,” he said.

The Jund al-Khalifa fi Ard al-Jazayer – or the Caliphate Soldiers of Algeria – claimed responsibility for Gourdel’s killing, saying it was carried out in retaliation for France’s recent intervention against the Islamic State group in Iraq.

A little-known group that split from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (or AQIM), the Jund al-Khalifa announced its allegiance to the Islamic State group in a statement in September.

Militant takeover in Libya

Asked about the rise of Islamist militias in southern Libya, Hollande said the area is now seeing a “dangerous concentration of terrorists” that are well-armed and well-funded.

France and Niger have set up a joint military base to monitor events in the region.

But Hollande said international action can only be launched “at the request of the Libyan authorities” and any initiative must come from the UN security council. France does not get involved in international actions “without an international framework” that has been approved by the United Nations, he said.

Hollande went on to emphasise that a political solution is ultimately needed in Libya. There is no point in launching a military intervention that could further “destabilise” the country until Libya’s fractured political camps come together to form an effective, unified political establishment.

“We need a framework, an authority, rules” to re-establish the rule of law, Hollande said.

Summit of Francophone nations

Hollande is due Saturday in the Senegalese capital of Dakar for a weekend summit of French-speaking nations. “One-third of UN member nations are French-speaking,” Hollande pointed out.

France continues to wield influence in many parts of Africa, although Hollande said the days of French “guardianship” were over.

Nevertheless, thousands of French troops last year ousted al Qaeda-linked Islamists who had seized control of Mali's north. The French military later extended its counter-terrorism operations to the Sahel, deploying an estimated 3,000 troops to the largely lawless region.

French peacekeeping forces were dispatched to the Central African Republic in December 2013 to prevent what French officials called a possible “genocide”.

France has no interest in “dominating” its African partners, Hollande said. But he said France does “uphold certain shared principles and values”.

Burkina Faso

Hollande warned world leaders against seeking to prolong their mandates beyond the constitutional limits, citing the ouster of Burkina Faso’s president Blaise Compaore in late October as a cautionary tale.

Compaore fled his country for the Ivory Coast after weeks of protest against his bid to amend the constitution to allow him to run for re-election next year in a move that would have extended his 27-year rule.

"I think this could serve as a lesson to many heads of state, and not only in Africa, not to change the constitutional order for personal gain," Hollande told FRANCE 24.

Hollande said the popular Burkinabe revolt was “a sign that Africans are committed to democracy and to the constitutional order”. He said that countries that do not have constitutionally mandated term limits should ensure that elections are held.

Burkina Faso's military seized power immediately after Compaore's ouster before returning the country to civilian rule and reinstating the constitution. Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, who now serves as prime minister, has vowed to oversee reforms in the impoverished West African nation.

France has previously admitted to helping Compaore leave the country, with Hollande saying this was done to “avoid a bloodbath”. Compaore and his family have since relocated to Morocco.

Mideast conflict

Hollande declined to comment on a French parliamentary vote scheduled for early December on recognising Palestinian statehood, saying that as president he has no authority over what the parliament decides.French lawmakers began debating the measure on Friday.

But Hollande did say that France “must take the initiative to find a diplomatic solution” to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which “has been going on for decades” and continues to have “echoes” throughout the region and the world.
 

Date created : 2014-11-27

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