October 07

07PARIS4357 2007-10-26 10:10 2010-11-30 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris

DE RUEHFR #4357/01 2991050
O 261050Z OCT 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 11 PARIS 004357




EO 12958 DECL: 10/23/2017


Classified By: Ambassador Craig R. Stapleton for reasons 1.4. (b) & (d) .

¶1. (SBU) Introduction and Summary: The Nicolas Sarkozy who arrives in Washington November 6 is in robust political health. He completely dominates the politics of France. All the levers of institutional power in a highly centralized state are at his disposal. He remains committed to a revitalization of France, through a reform of policies and laws that have acted as a break on French economic growth. The challenge now is to put his ideas and programs into effect. Off to a quick start this summer, with the implementation of a first series of reform measures, Sarkozy is now beginning to feel the full force of French resistance to change. His public support as reflected in the polls is high, but has slipped of late. The political impact of the first direct challenge, last week’s national transportation strike, is not yet clear, but strikes in other sectors are threatening, raising the possibility of the kind of crisis atmosphere Sarkozy had hoped to avoid, given his electoral mandate and professed openness to dialogue. The image of a well-oiled, disciplined machine has suffered, as Sarkozy has repeatedly rebuked members of his team, including his own Prime Minister, raising questions about a thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style. The concentration of power and decision-making in the Presidency has made for uneven decision-making and follow-through. The prospect of slower domestic and international economic growth and a tight GOF budget have narrowed his room for maneuver. His appointment to the cabinet of women and minority representatives and the more populist style of his Presidency have been well-received, but his omnipresence and hyper-activity risk overexposure and Sarkozy-fatigue. Finally, freshly divorced from Cecilia, he is deprived of someone who (by his own account) was crucial to his personal equilibrium and served as a valued political sounding board.

¶2. (SBU) While not central to his Presidential campaign, Sarkozy has quickly asserted French leadership in Europe and staked out new positions and a role for France on the most pressing international issues. He believes that a relationship of trust and close cooperation with the U.S. enhances France’s ability to make an impact — toward the achievement of what are in most cases common objectives. After five months in office he (and his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner) have begun to make their mark. They have overseen a dramatic shift in French policy on Iraq, reversed declining French support in Afghanistan, have set in motion a possible “return” to NATO, toughened France’s approach to Iran and also Russia, and promised a new one toward Africa. The top foreign policy issue for Sarkozy is the environment, which he has embraced as a headline issue, linking foreign and domestic policy. Sarkozy and Kouchner also assign priority to Kosovo, Lebanon, and Darfur. Sarkozy’s decision to assist the Dutch in Afghanistan is the latest illustration of a willingness to push a cautious bureaucracy and military and to break the mold of Chirac-era policy. Despite, and perhaps because of, convergence with the U.S. on key issues, and the dramatic improvement in the tone of the relationship, Sarkozy has identified specific areas of disagreement with the U.S.

¶3. (C) We continue to believe that Sarkozy represents an important opportunity. Energetic, in full command at home, he is determined to make a mark on the international scene. As distinct from Chirac, who advocated multi-polar containment of U.S. hegemony, Sarkozy is well-disposed personally to the U.S. He wants close policy cooperation with us, but in a relationship that gives France its full due as an independent player. “Alliance, not alignment” is the way he usually puts it, although he is not beyond striking a more defiant pose, as recently in Moscow, when he stated publicly that he would not be a “vassal” of the U.S. He will also continue to highlight differences on selected issues —

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such as the environment, GMOs and Turkey’s relationship with Europe — as demonstrations of France’s independent policy course. His emphasis of French independence makes less controversial at home both the warming up of the bilateral relationship and the bold policy decisions in such areas as Iraq, NATO, and Afghanistan. A distinct French approach, supportive on many issues, but not in lock-step, is in our interest. A partner with the international bone fides that France retains, as a leading European power close to but proudly independent of the U.S., is one that can enlarge our ability to effect positive outcomes internationally.

¶4. (U) In addition to setting the scene for Sarkozy’s first official visit to Washington, this message iterates the state of play in a long list of issues where opportunities and challenges abound in U.S.-France relations. End Summary

¶5. (SBU) Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Washington follows an exceptionally long “state of grace” (as the French call a political honeymoon), one that only began to peter out in October, the fifth month of Sarkozy’s Presidency. Through the summer and well into the new French political year that begins in September, Sarkozy seemed incapable of a political misstep. His poll ratings set records both vertically (level) and horizontally (durability). For a politician long attacked as an extremist and a divider, this was no small feat.

¶6. (SBU) Sarkozy’s success is attributable to several factors. While Candidate Sarkozy ran a hard right election campaign geared to winning over the 15-20 percent of the votes that Jean-Marie LePen’s National Front had captured in recent years, President Sarkozy quickly made clear he wanted to be a President of all the French, not just the political right. He also made clear that his ambition would not be satisfied with his election to the Presidency. He was determined to use the office to get France moving again — unleashing its economic potential, allowing it to surmount long-term budgetary, financial and social challenges. He would do this by making good on his program of concrete reform measures, which had received a mandate from the French electorate.

¶7. (SBU) Immediately after his election in May, Sarkozy embarked on a policy of inclusiveness (“ouverture”), bringing in leading figures of the opposition, including the Socialist Party (such as Foreign Minister Kouchner), the non-Gaullist center-right, and civil society. In addition, he shattered the white-male cast of previous French governments with his appointments of women and minorities, including to key ministries. On the strength of his electoral mandate, and with this inclusiveness as cover, Sarkozy moved swiftly, and with virtually no Socialist opposition, to implement his reform program, moving five major pieces of legislation through Parliament by early October. Sarkozy seemed well on his way to proving that France could embrace change, and that he could imprint on it the “culture of results” that would be the basis for less painful, self-renewing change in the future.

¶8. (SBU) Over the past few weeks, shadows have entered this unnaturally bright picture. Current polling suggests that while support for Sarkozy remains at historically high levels (in the low 60’s, depending on the poll), there has been a slow erosion in his standing, which has perhaps accelerated in the past few weeks. In the first serious push-back against a key reform, French public transport unions engaged in a country-wide strike on October 18 over the generous pensions available to public transport workers. Sarkozy

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insists that this time unions will not be able to scuttle this or any other part of the government’s reform program — while continuing to stress the need for dialogue, not government fiat, as the mode of action. However, international economic uncertainty affords Sarkozy far less room for maneuver as he seeks to reduce both government expenditures and taxes to unleash economic activity, while not fatally exacerbating France’s already alarming debt situation.

¶9. (SBU) Sarkozy’s unexpected willingness to compromise on several of his reform measures may signal recognition of the hard economic realities. However, he risks diminishing this image of determination and command — key components of his political success thus far. Sarkozy appeared critical of both his Finance Minister and his Prime Minister in turn when the former called for “greater rigor” in state spending and the latter described the state as “bankrupt” in parliamentary hearings. Sarkozy, fearing that alarmist pronouncements could undermine the public’s confidence, risks creating an impression of friction and hesitation at the top. Sarkozy’s close personal association with policy reform has reduced his ability to cast aside the Prime Minister or other officials should his policies lose public support.

¶10. (SBU) The transport unions are but one of the constituencies Sarkozy will offend in shaking the French economy loose from policies that have held back growth and bloated public spending. As he pushes for reforms that make it easier to fire workers, shrink the size of the state (whose spending represents 52 percent of GDP) by cutting the civil service, and open up retail markets to more competition, he can expect further pushback from well-entrenched constituencies. Sarkozy has set in motion a series of negotiations on these issues that ultimately could lead to important systemic change. But the real impact will only become clear once the negotiations conclude — probably in early 2008 — and the government is forced to make politically difficult decisions.

¶11. (SBU) France’s broader economic environment will not make the reform process any easier. Having promised the electorate measures that would bring an extra percentage point of growth to the economy, the Sarkozy government finds itself at a delicate point in the business cycle. The government has already scaled back earlier 2007 growth estimates, and most private sector economists believe the government’s 2008 estimates are inflated. Although the fiscal stimulus from tax cuts passed this summer may give the president a short-term boost, he is unlikely to enjoy the political benefit of a strong growth environment in which to pursue his supply-side reforms. He has also promised the French people increased purchasing power, which will be hard to achieve. Some of this he blames on the strength of the dollar.

¶12. (SBU) Sarkozy is keen on unleashing market forces to reinvigorate the French economy, but he is less than laissez-faire when it comes to restructuring French industry. The French state owns a far smaller share of the economy than was once the case, but it still has effective control of energy and other key sectors. Sarkozy’s industrial policy seems to be based on facilitating the emergence of key French firms as leaders in their industries in Europe and globally. While European experience with national champions industrial policies is shaky, the French have done comparatively well of late. Sarkozy does not hesitate to reduce state ownership in these deals. The merger of Gaz de France with Suez creates a European giant in gas and energy but also reduces the French stake in its gas company from 80 percent to 30 percent.

¶13. (SBU) At the macroeconomic level, Sarkozy has been highly critical of the European Central Bank’s tight money, strong Euro policy and he is all but ignoring previously
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agreed Eurozone commitments to brining budgets back into balance. In both cases, Eurozone partners have little recourse and France can ride for free on the budget discipline of its partners, at least for a while. In the meantime, the President’s approach plays well at home, and often appears designed for domestic consumption.

¶14. (SBU) The U.S.-French economic relationship remains robust, with over $1 billion in commercial transactions per day taking place between the two countries’ firms. During President Sarkozy’s visit, CEOs from some of the most important of these will meet, for the first time in several years as the French-American Business Council (FABC) to exchange views on policy priorities. U.S. firms have been almost unanimously positive about the Sarkozy government. Nonetheless there are a number of regulatory unknowns that could potentially impact U.S. commercial interests. Among these are the GOF’s evolving views on genetically-modified organisms, IPR in the digital environment and pricing policy as it relates to pharmaceutical spending.

¶15. (C) On permanent overdrive and intense in the best of times, Sarkozy’s recent divorce raises questions about his ability to maintain his equilibrium and focus. Sarkozy has himself spoken of his dependence on Cecilia — “my source of strength and my Achilles Heel,” as he put it. During their separation in 2005, a highly irritable, darker Sarkozy came into view — the same one that reappeared at the Lisbon Summit the day after the announcement of the divorce. How much Cecilia really anchored him, personally and politically, should soon become evident, but we are betting on Sarkozy’s ability to bounce back.

¶16. (C) Notwithstanding the debate swirling around him and his slight decline in the polls, Sarkozy’s political health remains strong. He controls all the main levers of power: the Presidency, the Parliament, the dominant political party, and the omnipresent agents of the French state. The opposition Socialists are in disarray, incapable for the moment of taking unified policy positions. Sarkozy is in a position to reassert French leadership in Europe and in international affairs generally. He (and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner) have also begun to make their mark, unevenly, on French policy. The foreign policy equivalent of his domestic “rupture” are his Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and possibly NATO. On Iraq, Sarkozy and Kouchner have made a dramatic difference, offering political support and associating France with reconstruction efforts — and prompting surprisingly little opposition or criticism. On NATO, Sarkozy has challenged his bureaucracy — and the U.S. — to find a way to fashion a win-win approach for NATO and ESDP that would entail a full French “return” to NATO, although the specifics of Sarkozy’s conditions have not yet been worked through. Sarkozy will be calculating the political cost of any shift on NATO, knowing that he would be breaking a foreign policy consensus that has long enjoyed the support of the Gaullist right, much of the center, and all of the left. Other issues already showing Sarkozy’s imprint include: Russia, where he is less willing to accommodate and is increasingly concerned about Russian intentions and objectives; the Middle East, where he has introduced a new emphasis on Israel’s security into the inhospitable ground of France’s “politique Arabe”; and, Africa, where Sarkozy appears intent on finally making a break from France’s post-colonial reflexes and relationships. Other high priority issues which Sarkozy will also want to discuss include his top issue, climate change, along with Iran, Kosovo, Burma, Darfur, counterterrorism and climate change. Sarkozy’s approach to these and other international issues of concern to both France and the U.S. are discussed in the second section of this cable.

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¶17. (C) The White House has already publicly enumerated key topics on the visit agenda: Afghanistan, Iran, Middle East Peace, Lebanon, Darfur, Burma, Kosovo, counterterrorism, and the promotion of democracy. Herein follows a snapshot of where the French are on each of them and on some additional areas, and where we would like to move them. Our list is topped by thee priority policy issues — Iraq, NATO, and Russia — sufficiently sensitive not to have been publicly highlighted in the White House announcement, along with Afghanistan, followed by climate change, which will likely be highest on Sarkozy’s list.

¶18. (C) Iraq: The sudden and dramatic French decision, days following the President’s meeting in Kennebunkport, to break with previous policy and reengage with Iraq has uncertain paternity — with both Sarkozy and Kouchner claiming credit. Following Kouchner’s three-day visit to Iraq in August, the GOF has already hosted both President Talibani and FM Zebari. Last week, Sarkozy told Talibani that France wanted to help Iraq across the board — politically, diplomatically, educationally, and culturally. French assistance will not include any commitment of French troops in Iraq, but it could include training for Iraqi security/police units as well as counterterrorism forces. The French have promised other, initially symbolic measures such as opening a diplomatic office in the northern city of Irbil and aid for a hospital in the same area. Kouchner has already pressed the EU to become more active in multinational efforts at reconstruction, which France would like the UN to head up. Any U.S. diplomatic conference or initiative could garner French support: Kouchner plans to attend the upcoming ministerial meeting in Istanbul of Iraq’s “neighbors.” In fact, the French are just starting to figure out how they can best help Iraq, especially to relieve what they see as a harsh humanitarian situation. Sarkozy would likely be open to detailed discussion on this topic: Given his and Kouchner’s identification with the new policy, and abiding lack of enthusiasm in at least parts of the bureaucracy, he is in fact the best place to start. Regarding the U.S. role, Sarkozy and Kouchner do not share their predecessors’ fixation on our continued troop presence. They understand and acknowledge the reality that a hasty pullout of U.S. troops would lead to a worsening, not a lessening, of the violence with potentially grave implications for the larger region. We should push Sarkozy to implement humanitarian and reconstruction programs in Iraq, starting with an already promised medical clinic in the Kurdish north, as soon as possible.

¶19. (C) Iran: Sarkozy’s blunt language on the “unacceptability” of a militarily nuclear Iran, and the need to maintain maximum pressure on the Iranian regime over its nuclear program has only been exceeded by that of his foreign minister. The degree to which France has taken a public lead with the EU to press for additional European sanctions should the UNSC be unable to act has been as impressive as has Sarkozy’s willingness to confront Russian President Putin over this issue. French officials make the point that Paris has a “normal” diplomatic relationship with Tehran despite sharp disagreements on the nuclear question. In this context, the French have particularly valued their quiet dialogue over Lebanon, which has convinced them that, by contrast with Syria, Iran has no interest in renewed internal violence that might accompany failure to elect a new president. Sarkozy has proven impervious to Iranian blandishments aimed at softening France’s position or even to break it away from the P-5 1 group, much to Iran’s chagrin. The meetings with Sarkozy offer an opportunity to bolster France’s tough line, and it can be expected that Sarkozy will want to get a sense from the President of his analysis of our

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ability to influence Iranian choices, and how best to maintain international pressure toward that end. Having just met with Israeli PM Olmert to discuss the same issue, Sarkozy will be keen to understand the limits of our patience while we pursue the diplomatic track, which, like us, France prefers to exhaust before considering military options.

¶20. (C) NATO: 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 possible full re-integration into the NATO military command. President Sarkozy and Defense Minister Morin launched a public debate over a deeper French role in the Alliance in September in two major foreign policy speeches. Sarkozy clarified that French rapprochement to NATO would be tied to two conditions:
1) strengthening European defense structures by developing Europe’s own capabilities to plan and carry out defense and security operations, and
2) seeking French representation in the highest “decision making posts of NATO.” The MFA and defense establishment uniformly caution us against raised expectations, with some in the Sarkozy Administration (reportedly including Prime Minister Fillon) concerned that abrupt moves toward NATO could be controversial domestically. All, beginning with Sarkozy, argue that, at a minimum, ESDP needs to be strengthened in parallel. The idea seems to be that a French embrace of NATO will ease U.S. concerns about a more robustly structured European defense, while progress on that front will help ease opposition at home to France’s “return” to NATO. Sarkozy will likely use his speech before Congress to further refine his public approach, casting France’s willingness to move ahead in terms of working with the U.S. as an independent ally and partner (not automatically “aligned” to U.S. positions). We believe this visit offers an unprecedented opportunity to identify with Sarkozy the common ground on which a mutually beneficial “bargain” on NATO and European defense might be elaborated. In addition to addressing the substance of Sarkozy’s two “conditions,” we will want to learn how open he is to modifying France’s narrowly military, Europe-focused vision of NATO, and whether he will be on a sufficiently fast track to implement or in some way foreshadow elements of a “bargain” at Bucharest in April.

¶21. (C) Afghanistan: After a moment of hesitation during his Presidential campaign, Sarkozy now publicly highlights the importance of French efforts in Afghanistan. France has recently stepped up military commitments by deploying 3 additional Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) to complement the 2,000 military personnel (ISAF and OEF) now deployed (largely in and around Kabul). Significantly, Sarkozy recently responded positively to the Dutch Prime Minister’s pleas for a French presence in Uruzgan, needed to secure parliamentary approval for renewing the Netherlands’ participation in ISAF. In agreeing to deploy a French OMLT, Sarkozy again demonstrated his willingness to move ahead of more cautious advisors and a bureaucracy that prefers slow adaptation to bold moves. France has taken other decisions to bolster its presence in Afghanistan including moving six French Mirage planes from Dushanbe to Kandahar. On September 10, the French and Germans reaffirmed plans to support the German-led EU police training mission in Afghanistan despite delays. On July 30, SACEUR officially requested six medium-lift helicopters to provide rotary-wing support in ISAF (to replace the U.S. helicopters which are scheduled to depart early 2008). France is considering still this request. We should use the opportunity of the visit to persuade the French to broaden and deepen their efforts in Afghanistan, including by standing up a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). We understand the Presidency favors this proposal, while civilian leadership at the MOD opposes a French PRT. Sarkozy may echo recent MFA and MOD

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calls for a more “comprehensive Afghanistan strategy,” integrating military support and civilian reconstruction, and including a timeline for shifting the burden from the international coalition to the Government of Afghanistan.

¶22. (SBU) Environment/Climate Change: Climate Change: On his election day, Sarkozy called for a greater U.S leadership role on climate issues. He will want to come out of his meeting with the President able to say that he again pushed the President to lead. The Embassy, backed closely by Washington agencies, has impressed on not only Sarkozy and his staff, but also officials across France that the U.S. has been leading and continues to lead in the fight against climate change. We’ve impressed on them — and Sarkozy should be told again — that the U.S. has spent $37 billion in the past six years — more than any other country — for climate science and energy research. We’ve developed new international partnerships, part of a real strategy of international engagement to reduce carbon emissions. We’ve shown the French that even with considerably greater economic and population growth than in Europe, we’re doing a better job at reducing both energy intensity and carbon emissions. After the President’s Major Economies Meeting (MEM) in late September in Washington, French officials offered to host the next meeting while expressing some disappointment with both the lack of agreement on a post-Kyoto emissions goal and U.S. reluctance regarding market-based cap and trade measures. Areas of potential conflict include concerns that a failure for a broad adoption of similar carbon reduction schemes will put European industry at a competitive disadvantage and the possible French advocacy of a European imposed carbon tax on imported goods. Despite extensive U.S.-French collaboration in developing next generation climate-friendly technologies, the French also criticize what they see as U.S. over-reliance on yet-to-be-developed technologies (carbon capture and storage, second generation bio-fuels, and advanced nuclear) to address emissions. France is skeptical that China and India and other major emerging economies will take steps to reduce emissions unless the U.S. moves first. This is an opportunity to convince Sarkozy that we take this issue seriously and have a concrete plan to make real progress.

¶23. (C) Democracy Promotion/Burma: Under President Sarkozy, the French position on Burma has converged with that of the U.S. France vigorously condemned the regime’s crackdown on peaceful protesters; pushed through as UNSC president a presidential statement supporting the democracy movement; supported toughening EU sanctions; and, bilaterally pressed ASEAN members to take a tougher stand on Burma. FM Kouchner will have visited ASEAN countries and China in the week before Sarkozy’s visit to Washington to push the Burmese leadership to reconcile with Aung San Suu Kyi and the political opposition. While Sarkozy seems forward-leaning (he reportedly considered French disinvestment before being dissuaded by advisors), thus far France remains unprepared to implement unilateral sanctions. Sarkozy, however, has urged French companies to freeze future investments. In our efforts to work with France to promote democracy, we should appeal to Sarkozy to redouble French efforts within the EU to push for tough sanctions against the Junta and for measures in support of the democracy movement.

¶24. (C) Russia: During his first presidential visit to Russia on October 9-10, Sarkozy’s advisors were reportedly struck by Putin’s defiant and distrustful attitude toward the U.S. and his “revisionist” desire to dismantle or undermine the perceived anti-Russian institutional framework — regional and international — that has prevailed since the fall of the Soviet Union. Sarkozy made little or no progress with Putin on a broad range of topics including Iran, missile defense, Georgia and Kosovo. Sarkozy’s positions tracked with U.S. views except on Georgia, where he favors future status that is short of NATO membership. Sarkozy’s visit to Moscow highlights a sea-change in Franco-Russian relations

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from the Chirac era. Sarkozy has abandoned Chirac’s notion of Russia as a counterweight to the U.S., and does not shy away from directly addressing difficult issues, including democracy, human rights and rule of law problems in Russia, Chechnya and energy policies. Sarkozy, for example, took the unprecedented (for a French President) step of visiting human rights activists while in Moscow. France is concerned about both Putin’s increasingly authoritarian style and Russia’s increasing willingness to defy international opinion, as on CFE and Georgia. Sarkozy is also less willing than Chirac to allow energy security and trade priorities to dominate France’s appoach. That said, the French never fail to remind us of Russia’s relative proximity and France’s and Europe’s need to come to terms with a newly assertive Russia. Sarkozy will want to address how the U.S. can work with France, in cooperation with its major European partners, to find a new modus vivendi with Russia. We should use the meetings with Sarkozy to solidify a common approach of tough engagement with Russia and highlight the need for the closest cooperation on four related subjects: Georgia, Kosovo, Missile Defense and the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.

¶25. (C/NF) Georgia: In Moscow October 9-10, Sarkozy told Putin that France opposes full NATO membership for Georgia (although we have been assured he did not address MAP for Georgia with him). High-level French interlocutors have emphasized in recent meetings that France remains open to “something less than membership.” The GOF has maintained that NATO membership “should not create new lines of division” and that territorial conflicts should be resolved prior to membership — and that Georgia does not meet these criteria. France is considering whether NATO could offer Georgia a different kind of status and a different approach to regional security, possibly combined with incentives including abolishing visas with the EU. While we are aware of reports that Sarkozy told Georgian President Saakashvili that he supports MAP for Georgia, the GOF continues to oppose MAP which would, in its view, create additional tensions with Russia and exacerbate Georgia’s problems with its separatist regions. It also talks about the need to define the territorial limits of NATO and its Article 5 collective security obligations.

¶26. (C) Kosovo: This is an opportunity for the President to reaffirm Sarkozy’s commitment to an independent Kosovo. Sarkozy has stated numerous times that he supports Kosovo’s independence and has instructed FM Kouchner to actively seek EU consensus on the matter. The French also remind us from time to time that Kosovo is a European issue which Europeans bear primary responsibility for solving. The GOF is pessimistic that Serbia and Kosovo will come to a status agreement and is working closely with the U.S. and the Contact Group on post-December 10 actions. The French remain concerned that while EU member-states may agree to not publicly oppose Kosovo’s independence, the EU may fail to reach consensus on a legal basis for an ESDP mission in Kosovo. The GOF has accepted UNSCR 1244 as a basis for an international force in Kosovo and agrees with the U.S. that it would not be advantageous to seek a new UNSCR. Sarkozy lobbied Putin in Moscow for more Russian flexibility, but received no commitments. The U.S. and EU, Sarkozy will argue, must publicly demonstrate that a good faith effort was made to come to an agreement. The French are not prepared to recognize independence before the end of 2007 and are hopeful that the U.S. will assist in convincing the Kosovars that it is in their interest to be patient with the EU. Sarkozy will likely ask that the U.S. work closely with Kosovar authorities to take a coordinated (U.S, EU, Kosovo) approach to Kosovo’s now almost inevitable unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), and avoid dramatic rhetoric that will further embarrass Serbia, encourage similar UDIs by Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and put internal political pressure on EU states like Greece and Cyprus to publicly oppose Kosovo’s

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¶27. (C) Missile Defense: The French agree that Russia’s objections to the planned system are politically driven, reflecting a Russian view of its relationship with its former satellites that is at once “revisionist” but is also informed by real fears of NATO encirclement. The GOF is interested in U.S. plans for NATO to adopt a complementary system to protect the exposed southern flank of Europe from short- and medium-range threat, although it has warned that there is “not one Euro” allocated to pay for such a system. Sarkozy will be interested in learning of the status of U.S.-Russian discussions and our analysis of prospects for bringing Moscow around to support a cooperative effort. We should urge Sarkozy to use his leadership position in Europe to promote understanding of the true nature and scope of the MD initiative, one that in no way threatens Russia.

¶28. (C) CFE: The French government remains concerned over the Russian threat to suspend participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) in December and strongly supports a unified Allied position in support of the U.S. “parallel actions” plan. FM Kouchner recently wrote to Secretary Rice to propose an informal CFE seminar in Paris on
SIPDIS November 5-6 to promote constructive dialogue leading to a comprehensive political solution. These efforts are seen as key to keeping allied solidarity and building pressure on Russia to recognize the consequences of pulling out of a major arms control treaty. Despite these efforts, the French are increasingly pessimistic; Political Director Gerard Araud was told recently in Moscow that “the decision was already made” by Putin and the MOD to suspend participation, due in part to Russian views that it is “humiliating” to have flank limits imposed on Russian forces within its own borders. We should welcome French initiatives to help resolve the CFE issue and continue our close collaboration.

¶29. (C) Lebanon: Sarkozy has not been as closely associated as FM Kouchner with French efforts to help Lebanon elect a new president and emerge from its present political crisis, but he has played a key supporting role. Initially unimpressed with the March 14 majority leaders he met, Sarkozy?s view of Saad Hariri has improved with subsequent meetings. After their last session, Sarkozy authorized announcement of France?s tranche of more than $6 million for the Special Tribunal, which France had been withholding pending a formal request for contributions by the UN Secretary-General. Our close consultations with the French
SIPDIS over Lebanon continue, although we differ over tactics and the risks attached to any strategy that would allow the majority to elect a president via simple majority. The French emphasize finding a “consensus” candidate acceptable to all Lebanese and external parties and place more trust than we believe wise in Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, despite his association with the pro-Syrian minority. While the French have revived limited contact with Syria to discuss Lebanon, we do not believe they intend to go further at this stage. We will want to discuss with Sarkozy how to keep pressure on the Lebanese to elect a president by the November 24 deadline without compromising the gains we have made over the past two years in terms of reducing Syrian influence and reasserting Lebanese independence. We will want to impress on him that the election of a President — whether by majority of consensus — by November 24 is a must; fear of the repercussions of election of a President by a “mere” majority should not be ruled out if it is the only way to prevent a void that the Syrians would only be too happy to fill.

¶30. (C) Middle East Peace Process: Sarkozy will want to hear about our efforts to convene a regional meeting in support of Israeli/Palestinian efforts at achieving a two-state solution. The French have generally supported our efforts and not tried to get out in front. They are,
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however, eager to play some sort of role. Sarkozy has taken to using his bona fides as a “friend of Israel” to call on it for more “creativity” and “gestures” toward the Palestinians in the run-up to the meeting. The GOF recently announced its intention to host a donor’s conference for humanitarian assistance to help the Palestinian people — as an end in itself and in support of the political process. Sarkozy will mostly be in a listening mode, though as someone who has sought since taking office to underscore his readiness to listen at least as attentively to the Israeli point of view as the Arab one.

¶31. (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 of deepened political integration that doomed the EU constitution in 2005. This “reform treaty” was approved by EU leaders in Lisbon last week and is scheduled to be signed in December with ratification over the course of 2008. Sarkozy has said publicly he wants France to be the first country to ratify the simplified treaty; the process of parliamentary ratification will begin in December. The French will also take over the rotating EU presidency from July-December 2008 and plan to focus on immigration, energy, the environment and European defense during their term. While Sarkozy remains firmly opposed to EU enlargement to include Turkey, he has effectively sidestepped this issue by supporting continued negotiations on the acquis communautaire that do not pre-suppose membership. He also 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.

¶32. (C) Colombia: Sarkozy promised during his presidential campaign to work for the release of Franco-Colombian FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt. He would sorely like to be able to achieve in a few short months what Chirac couldn’t despite years of effort. In June of this year, the French pushed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to release 200 FARC prisoners in an effort to move forward negotiations for the release of FARC hostages. While the prisoner release did not achieve the desired results, the French are now backing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s offer to negotiate a hostage deal between the Colombian government and FARC guerillas. Sarkozy invited Chavez to Paris in late November. The French admit Chavez is a difficult political actor but accept a “bargain with the devil” to advance prospects for the release of an iconic hostage. Sarkozy may ask us to return two FARC leaders in U.S. prison to a third country in order to obtain the release of French hostage. We should ask Sarkozy not to take any steps that would result in separate treatment for Ingrid Betancourt and put U.S. hostages in harm’s way.

¶33. (SBU) GMO Moratorium: When Sarkozy came into office not only did he create a ‘mega’ environment ministry, but he also directed it to undertake a process, the ‘Grenelle’, involving all sectors of the economy to reshape French environmental policies. Among the topics considered in the Grenelle was what to do about Genetically Modified Organisms, a subject of considerable domestic concern in France. The result is that France is currently considering a moratorium on biotech planting that would significantly undermine U.S. agricultural exports to Europe. We believe President Sarkozy may support the politically popular moratorium in order to gain capital to use in his reform efforts.

¶34. (C) Darfur (and Chad, Central African Republic): Sarkozy demonstrated an immediate renewed interest in Africa
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upon entering office, with France calling for and organizing the June 25 ministerial conference on Darfur, which served to refocus international attention on that country. The French followed up with a ministerial meeting on Darfur on the margins of the UNGA in New York in September and then hosted a broader Security Council session on Africa for heads-of-state/government. France has been instrumental in organizing a separate Security Council-blessed EU-UN peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT). Paris hopes to deploy this force as soon as practicable. In addition, the French have firmly supported the deployment of the hybrid UN-AU force in Darfur (UNAMID). We should thank Sarkozy for French leadership on Chad and the C.A.R.. Sarkozy may ask for enhanced U.S. financial contributions to MINURCAT.
Please visit Paris’ Classified Website at: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm