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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05PARIS4659 2005-07-01 16:04 2011-02-10 08:08 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
Appears in these articles:
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 004659 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/30/2015 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Alex Wolff for 
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

No Honeymoon Period 

1. (C) Upon his appointment as foreign minister June 
2, much of the French press and many political pundits 
(fed by, among others, disdainful career diplomats at 
the MFA) wrote off Philippe Douste-Blazy as a 
dilettante. His lack of foreign policy experience, it 
was said, and penchant for currying favor with his 
superiors would mean his tenure at the Quai d'Orsay 
would be spent taking orders from President Chirac, 
Prime Minister de Villepin, and even his junior 
Minister for European Affairs (and Chirac protge) 
Catherine Colonna. As word has filtered down that 
Douste-Blazy is a "quick study" and is working hard at 
mastering the issues, his press has improved somewhat. 
But for most of the French political class, he remains 
untested in this job and hampered by the image as an 
ambitious politician chosen for his loyalty to Chirac 
to replace a capable and appreciated predecessor. 
Against this backdrop, his meeting with the Secretary 
July 5 is extremely important to Douste-Blazy since it 
allows him to portray himself as a serious player on 
French foreign policy in the eyes of others. He 
knows that a successful visit to Washington can do much 
to improve his treasured public image, and thus will be 
torn between conveying effectively prepared points on a 
range of subjects and pleasing us in order to 
demonstrate he can work well with Washington. 

2. (C) Douste-Blazy has already had some successful 
performances in his new job. He certainly counts among 
these his brief conversation with the Secretary June 23 
on the margins of the G-8 foreign ministers meeting in 
London, where the joint press statement calling for 
Syrian compliance with UNSCR 1559 was judged "worthy of 
a seasoned veteran of the Quai" by one of the Parisian 
dailies. Within the last week, he participated in a 
trilateral meeting with his German and Polish 
counterparts in an effort to establish rapport with the 
much more experienced Joshka Fischer, and enlist the 
support of Adam Rotfeld for France's defense of the 
Common Agricultural Policy. In this context, 
Washington is only the second bilateral visit 
following a mandatory first-bow to Berlin. 

Too Soon to Tell 

3. (C) Despite his strict loyalty to Chirac, Douste- 
Blazy's course in his political career -- from Mayor of 
Lourdes in a centrist, pro-Europe party, to supporter 
of failed center-right presidential candidate Edouard 
Balladur (against Chirac), to today's Chirac-boosting, 
anti-Sarkozy Gaullist -- suggests that he shifts 
loyalties to reap the maximum political benefit for 
himself. He is universally described as ambitious, 
with sights set on a future prime ministership. The 
foreign affairs ministry, many believe, is a way 
station in Douste-Blazy's quest for higher office. He 
certainly does not come to the office as the 
proponent of a particular approach, or with a special 
focus, such as Barnier's on Europe. 

Our Opportunity to Influence 

4. (C) His visit to Washington provides an important 
opportunity to hear directly from us about our goals 
for U.S.-Europe and U.S.-France cooperation. Douste- 
Blazy does not necessarily bring to the job the 
conventional view among some of France's foreign policy 
elite that France and Europe need to define themselves 
in distinction from the U.S. Many will want to 
inculcate him quickly to this view and portray U.S. 
policies in simplistic caricatures. By inviting him to 
Washington early in his tenure, we have the opportunity 
to educate him about our views and the reasons for 
them. In this regard, it is important that he hear the 
importance we attach to NATO, not because we are wary 
of the EU, but because it is the only institution that 
is truly transatlantic where Europe and North America 
sit together around the same table to discuss, debate, 
and formulate common approaches. Douste-Blazy has 
already bought into the French mantra that the Israeli- 
Palestinian conflict is the root of all problems and 
that the U.S. is prepared to give PM Sharon a free hand 
to everyone's detriment. The more he understands about 
our approach, the less likely he'll be to parrot 
established talking points on general Middle East 
matters. Coming directly from us, these messages will 
carry the weight of conviction that they would lack if 
filtered through some of the career diplomats at the 
The Issues 

5. (C) Iran: The French don't know yet what to make 
of the Iranian presidential elections and their effect 
on Tehran's policies. Political Director Stanislas de 
Laboulaye, who is the lead French negotiator within the 
EU-3 framework and who will accompany Douste-Blazy to 
Washington, told the DCM that the EU-3 is in a 
difficult discussion about how to handle the Iran 
dossier at this time. The French believe it possible, 
if not likely, that there may be a crisis with Iran 
looming soon. Laboulaye said he personally saw merit 
in proposing a generous package to the Iranians before 
the new government takes office in order to ensure that 
all responsibility for a breakdown in negotiations over 
Tehran's nuclear program falls squarely on the Iranians 
in the eyes of the international community. He 
acknowledge an equally valid argument (presumably being 
advocated by the UK) that now was not the time to show 
any flexibility or generosity since no one knew what 
the new government's intentions are. (We reinforced 
the latter argument, adding that anything less would be 
irresponsible at this point.) Laboulaye said the EU-3 
focused in its meeting with Iranian lead negotiator 
Moussavian this week on the need to avoid a breakdown 
in the negotiations and on the costs for Iran of 
any resumption of nuclear enrichment-related 
activities. Laboulaye is likely to take the lead on 
this topic, but it will be useful nonetheless for 
Douste-Blazy to hear authoritatively our position. 

(C) Syria/Lebanon: The Elysee retains the lead on this 
issue, and our cooperation continues to be excellent 
despite a different analysis of Syrian political 
dynamics that lead the French to a less forceful policy 
toward the Bashar al-Asad regime. We should continue 
the discussion that begain with him on the margins of 
the London G-8 meeting and provide him our assessment 
of the implications of the June 29 attack across the 
Blue Line by Hizballah forces. We should continue to 
keep France committed to early implementation of UNSCR 
1559's mandate for disarming Hizballah by underscoring 
that neither Hizballah, its sponsors, nor the U.S. see 
this issue as divorced somehow from wider concerns in 
the region. 

(C) Iraq: The MFA spokesman's reaction June 29 to 
President Bush's speech on Iraq unhelpfully reprised 
some of the more contentious arguments the French 
leadership were in the habit of using before the visits 
to Europe this winter and spring of the Secretary and 
the President. In telling the press that Iraqis should 
have "a perspective, a clear horizon of full 
sovereignty, including in the military and security 
realm," the MFA spokesman appeared to be reverting 
to French language on Iraq's imperfect sovereignty that 
pre-dated the January 30 elections. Douste-Blazy 
should be reminded of the mutually agreed commitment of 
our governments to put our differences over Iraq behind 
us, and be encouraged to carry through with French 
promises for gendarmes training and material assistance 
to Iraq. 

(C) Bilateral Relations: It might be useful to end the 
meeting with a brief tutorial (perhaps in a one-on-one) 
for Douste-Blazy of how to best manage our bilateral 
relationship. As former Foreign Minister Barnier 
understood, we have to manage our differences in a 
spirit of candor and cooperation, not competition or 
search for advantage. Displaying our differences in 
the press or resorting to surprise can only aggravate 
matters. If we get Douste-Blazy's buy-in on this 
point, he'll have a personal stake in serving as a 
constructive force in our relationship and tempering 
the temptations of his masters to score public points. 
Early tests of this would include urging Douste-Blazy 
to look carefully at our climate change initiatives in 
connection with the G-8 Summit. We continue to receive 
considerable bad press in Europe, and particularly in 
France, that disregards what we are saying and doing. 
Douste-Blazy could help modulate France's official 
public line on U.S. climate policy. More directly, we 
should lay down a marker on Iraq. The French have told 
us our differences were in the past and that they 
share the desire for a stable and viable Iraqi state. 
The MFA's official reaction to the President's speech 
is a step backward that we did not appreciate. We 
would expect a more positive approach in keeping with 
the recently improved tone in the relationship. We 
will look to Douste-Blazy to assert himself on this.