Le Figaro calls it a “surprise and surprising visit.” Reporters were still sniffing around Wolfeboro for signs of ostentatious wealth when MFA Bernard Kouchner landed in Iraq; the first French official to visit the country since the Franco-American split in the spring of 2003.
No one expected the visit, no one had predicted it. One week after the famous Bush-Sarkozy luncheon a French official sets foot in Iraq, expresses friendship for the Iraqi people, and declares his intention to speak with all parties, with no exceptions, during the three-day visit. It hit prime time news and is a lead story in online editions of major newspapers.
Lib√©ration reminds us that Kouchner was a personal friend of UN official Sergio Viera de Mello, killed in the August 2003 attack against the UN compound, along with Nadia Younes, Fiona Watson, and Jean-S√©lim Kanan, who had worked with him in Kosovo. Kouchner, former Socialist Health Minister and one of the founders of Doctors without Borders, defends the “droit d’ing√©rence,” defined as the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation in order to protect its inhabitants. He disagreed with France’s head-on opposition to the U.S. in 2003, and believes that if France had remained by the side of its American ally, war could have been avoided.
Le Monde mentions that the unexpected visit was immediately welcomed by the U.S. as another example of the willingness of the international community to help stabilize Iraq.
The article ends with a reminder of the difficulties encountered by the Maliki government and the death toll of Tuesday’s mega-attack.
Le Figaro quotes Kouchner on the French solution for Iraq, which he shares with president Sarkozy. They believe that there is no military solution. The solution is in the hands of the Iraqis. The French will be glad to help, but it’s up to the Iraqis to solve their problem. We must be patient. We are just at the beginning of the end of the crisis. Kouchner laid a wreath at the monument to the UN victims, dedicated “To the soldiers of peace, [from] a grateful France.”
The state-owned regional network France 3 replayed the shoulder-tapping scene at Kennebunkport and emphasized the timing-the visit takes place one week after the Bush-Sarkozy luncheon. It’s actually 8 days, but let’s not quibble.
Extensive analysis can be expected in Monday’s papers. There will certainly be speculation on this surprising new development in Franco-American relations; does it signify a new willingness of the Bush administration to go for the European solution, or a new direction in the Sarkozy government, inching toward military cooperation with the United States?
No one will stoop so low as to suggest that the visit was payoff for hot dogs & hamburgers in Kennebunkport