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Viewing cable 07PARIS3534, FRENCH MFA "REFLECTING" ON IMPLICATIONS OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS3534 2007-08-24 15:03 2010-11-30 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO9415
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #3534/01 2361500
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 241500Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9685
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES  PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003534 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/24/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV FR IZ US
SUBJECT: FRENCH MFA "REFLECTING" ON IMPLICATIONS OF 
KOUCHNER'S VISIT TO IRAQ 


Classified By: Political Minister-Councelor Josiah Rosenblatt for reaso ns 1.4. (b), (d). 

1. (C) Summary: French FM Kouchner's visit to Iraq allowed 
France to re-engage meaningfully with a wide range of Iraqi 
political and confessional/ethnic leaders and left Kouchner 
"moved" by the extent of destruction in that country. The 
French MFA told us August 24 that Kouchner and his staff are 
still "reflecting" over the visit as they decide how to 
follow up. Kouchner's interlocutors received his message of 
solidarity and desire to help with appreciation. Kouchner 
also took pains to dissociate his visit from the USG and 
denied any link to the meeting in Maine between Presidents 
Bush and Sarkozy. The MFA denies Kouchner formally offered 
to organize a dialogue among Iraqis and believes the press 
has exaggerated the importance of some public musing on 
Kouchner's part. France will reach out to the EU in support 
of a new multilateral initiative. The MFA expects to be in 
touch with the USG as well, although it may wait to see how 
things play out in Washington in response to the Petraeus 
report. The contours of French thinking should be clearer by 
the time of the UNGA, which will be no coincidence given 
Kouchner's desire to place the UN at the head of a 
multinational effort for Iraqi reconstruction. One concrete 
result of the visit was Kouchner's decision to proceed with 
stalled plans to establish a French "embassy office" in 
Irbil; for budget and other administrative reasons, however, 
it is unclear when it will be set up. End summary 

2. (C) French MFA Iraq desk officer Olivier Masseret 
provided a readout August 24 of FM Kouchner's visit to Iraq 
August 19-21. His main points, a number of which have been 
made in the press, included: 

--The visit was entirely at Kouchner's initiative and was in 
no way tied to the meeting in Maine between Presidents Bush 
and Sarkozy. Masseret recalled Kouchner's longstanding ties 
to Kurdish leader and current former President of Iraq Jalal 
Talabani, who had been pressing Kouchner to visit since 
Kouchner became foreign minister. 

--Making it clear that the visit in no way occurred at the 
request of the U.S. or in furtherance of U.S. policies was 
something Kouchner stressed with each of his interlocutors. 
Masseret complained that it has been hard to shake the press 
from the false but understandable impression that Presidents 
Bush and Sarkozy had discussed or approved the visit when 
they met in Maine. Kouchner also carried with him a copy of 
an editorial he wrote before the March 2003 invasion entitled 
"Neither Saddam nor War" to correct the misimpression that 
Kouchner had supported U.S. military force to remove Saddam 
Hussein. 

--Kouchner's jam-packed schedule included meetings with 
nearly every political leader and just about every 
confessional grouping. Masseret indicated that Kouchner knew 
he had some work to do rebuilding France's image. This 
included dispelling the notion that France still harbors some 
nostalgia for the days when Iraq's Sunnis dominated the 
political scene. Masseret sought to correct the 
misimpression that Kouchner only had contacts among Kurds to 
say that this visit revealed to many for the first time that 
he was well known in all the major ethnic and confessional 
groups. 

--Iraqi leaders responded well to Kouchner's core message of 
solidarity with the Iraqi people's suffering, readiness to 
listen and help, and commitment to turning the page in the 
Iraqi/French relationship. There was some grousing about 
France's policy under President Chirac, but even that seemed 
pro forma. If anything, according to Masseret, the angriest 
sentiment Iraqis expressed was that France had waited so long 
after Saddam Hussein's fall to re-engage meaningfully. 

--If anything impressed Kouchner, it was the absolute 
devastation that marked Iraq in all spheres, especially the 
economic and social. This fueled Kouchner's view, as 
expressed publicly, that Iraq's ongoing crisis was not merely 
a national tragedy but a catastrophe whose already dramatic 
regional implications are only increasing. Masseret said it 
may seem simplistic, but the visit was an eye-opening and 
moving experience for Kouchner. In particular, the plight of 
Iraq's Christians touched Kouchner because of the escalating 
persecution they seem to face. (Comment: This was a point 
Kouchner made in an interview on one of the nightly national 
newscasts. End comment) 

3. (C) Kouchner and his staff are now reflecting on the 
visit and trying to figure out what to make France's focus 
and how best to rally European and other international 
support. Masseret dismissed press speculation about a 

PARIS 00003534 002 OF 002 


possible French-hosted gathering of Iraqi leaders along the 
lines of the intra-Lebanese dialogue Kouchner initiated. He 
explained that Kouchner did muse to reporters that France 
would be open to creating a safe space for competing factions 
to meet, but it was no more concrete than that. He denied 
that Kouchner made the offer in his various meetings and 
agreed that President Talabani's rejection of such an 
initiative effectively took it off the table at least for 
now. The bottom line for Kouchner, Masseret continued, was 
that anything France does add real value and not appear to 
another case of France off on its own pursuing objectives 
that had no other buy-in. 

4. (C) Masseret spoke of the UN angle, which is 
symbolically and ideologically important to Kouchner. As 
reported in the media, Masseret spoke of Kouchner's 
insistence on arriving in Baghdad exactly four years after 
the bombing of the UN compound that killed his friend Sergio 
de Mello and many former colleagues from Kouchner's days 
directing UN efforts in Kosovo. Kouchner further insisted 
that his first official act in Bagdhad be the laying of a 
wreath at the site of the bombing to honor the fallen. It 
was not clear to Masseret how the UN will fit into Kouchner's 
thinking, but press reports were right to highlight the key 
role he will want it to play in any concerted multilateral 
effort. 

5. (C) How Europe will fit into French ideas for the way 
forward in Iraq is a central aspect of evolving French 
thinking. Masseret would not comment on press reports of 
tepid responses by many of Kouchner's EU colleagues in 
response to his encouragement that they follow his lead. 
Europe, however, will be key should France seek to mobilize a 
more robust UN presence and effort in Iraq. Although there 
are no plans just yet, France will seek an appropriate EU 
ministerial to discuss increased and concerted support for 
Iraq. Masseret said that Kouchner will need to convince his 
colleagues that this is not just another instance of France 
going off on its own but something that has implications for 
EU interests in the Middle East. 

6. (C) Working with the U.S. is another subject under 
discussion. Masseret said that Kouchner wants to consult 
with the Secretary, as he did August 24, on a regular basis 
but preserve France's independence. This includes its 
ability to speak its mind when and as it deems necessary. 
Agreeing that the visit arguably transformed the Iraq issue 
from being a subject of disagreement to one about which we 
could have a useful dialogue, the MFA will probably not have 
recommendations on what to say to the U.S. until the current 
"reflection" period ends. While not saying how long that 
might last, he surmised that France will be ready to talk to 
us and others about Iraq on the margins of the UNGA in late 
September. Noting the release of the Petraeus report in 
mid-September, Masseret expected it would inform French 
thinking not merely for its content but also for its impact 
on U.S. policy afterward. 

7. (C) One area of U.S./French cooperation Masseret praised 
effusively was the outstanding help provided for Kouchner's 
visit by Baghdad Deputy Polcouns Rob Waller (on a one-year 
TDY from his job as Paris NEA watcher). His role was vital 
in ensuring coordination of security and other logistical 
arrangements. (Comment: The acting director of the MFA's 
equivalent to our NEA bureau echoed this point in a separate 
encounter.) 

8. (C) As a final note, Masseret confirmed tentative press 
reporting that the MFA is now committed to the idea of 
opening an "embassy office" in Irbil. He elaborated that it 
would be lightly staffed -- a sort of "French presence post" 
-- and not expected to handle consular duties (too few French 
citizens in northern Iraq, no desire to take on visa work in 
Irbil). When asked about the timeframe, Masseret was vague, 
citing budgetary and other "administrative" issues that 
needed to be worked out. Another problem arose after 
Kouchner started informing his interlocutors of the office in 
Irbil as Shi'a contacts pressed for a similar office in Basra 
for "balance." Kouchner made a vague commitment to do what 
he could, but Masseret stated the security situation in Basra 
at the moment clearly ruled that idea out of the question. 

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 


PEKALA