France shifts its stance on the conflict in Iraq - Print Version - International Herald Tribune
PARIS: After years of shunning involvement in a war it said was wrong, France now believes it may hold the key to peace in Iraq, proposing itself as an “honest broker” between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions.
The shift was one of the most concrete consequences yet of the thaw in French-American relations following the election in May of President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose administration no longer feels bound by the adamant refusal to take a role in Iraq that characterized the reign of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.
During a three-day visit to Baghdad that ended Tuesday, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said that the time had come for France, and Europe, to play a greater role in Iraq.
“I believe this is the moment. Everyone knows the Americans will not be able to get this country out of difficulty alone,” Kouchner told the French radio station RTL on Tuesday before returning to Paris. “I really believe that depending on what happens here it will change the world.”
“This is about having an opinion and knowing what positive things one can do and what role France can play in this region,” he said, adding that Iraq was “expecting something” from France.
The United States broadly welcomed Kouchner’s visit to Baghdad this week, saying it was evidence that the world was increasingly intent on bringing stability to Iraq. British and German diplomats also hailed greater French involvement in the country.
Very interesting development.