SHARE
COPY LINK

DIPLOMACY

Hollande: no French troops to Central Africa

President François Hollande said on Thursday that French troops would not interfere in the internal affairs of its former colony the Central African Republic, where rebels have seized a large chunk of territory in recent weeks.

"If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests, and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country, in this case Central Africa," he said. "Those days are gone."

His comments came a day after hundreds of protestors demonstrated in front of the French embassy in Bangui, angry over what they say is Paris's inaction in the face of the rebel advance.

France has around 250 soldiers based at Bangui airport providing technical support to a peacekeeping mission run by the central African bloc ECCAS, according to the defence ministry in Paris.

The ministry said Wednesday that the troops would help ensure the safety of the 1,200 or so French citizens in the country and assist in the reconstruction of the Central African armed forces.

Asked whether France would intervene to help displaced people or refugees Hollande said that France could only step in "if there is a UN mandate", adding that "this is not the case".

"Generally speaking, we are always in favour of civilians being protected and we will do what is our duty," he said.

Hundreds of demonstrators close to embattled President Francois Bozize had on Wednesday turned on the embassy, protesting France's failure to help push back the rebels sweeping across the resource-rich but poverty-stricken nation.

With the government now largely restricted to Bangui, Chadian troops sent last week to help the increasingly fragile regime are the only real obstacle to rebel forces now sitting about 300 kilometres (200 miles) away.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

DIPLOMACY

France: We must work with Italy to solve diplomatic spat

The French Interior Minister said France and Italy "had to" work together on security issues, two months after a diplomatic spat led to Paris briefly recalling its ambassador.

France: We must work with Italy to solve diplomatic spat
Photo: AFP

Relations between the two countries fractured in February following repeated clashes with Italy's populist coalition government.

Paris was incensed when Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio made a surprise visit to France on February 5th to meet a group of radical “yellow vest” protesters who have led demonstrations against France's centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

READ ALSO What's behind Italy's spat with France?


Christophe Castaner arriving for the meeting i Paris on Thursday. Photo: AFP

France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and his Italian counterpart Matteo Salvini met at a meeting of G7 interior ministers in Paris on Thursday.

“I think I can say that the issues of combating illegal immigration or terrorism should not divide us…. We cannot deal with these issues on our own,” Castaner said after a meeting with Salvini.

“When we talk about real life, concrete things, there is no room for arguments, we have to agree,” Salivini added, at a separate news conference.

The Italian minister said he was no longer interested in the “past” and highlighted areas of agreement between the two countries, particularly on the management of the Franco-Italian border.

Salvini said France and Italy had a “common position… on defending external borders” and that France – as Italy had already done – was ready to provide “boats, men and equipment to the Libyan coastguard”.

Castaner, however, was more vague, simply saying G7 ministers had agreed “to strengthen our support for Libya and Morocco through the presence of coastguards”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in February that a “line was crossed” with Di Maio's visit, which was organised without French authorities being informed.

Analysts and diplomats said relations were affected by the fundamentally different outlooks of Macron, a pro-European centrist, and the eurosceptic government in Rome.

There are also deep-running economic tensions, competition for influence in Libya, and a sense in Italy that France has done little to help its neighbour cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in recent years.

The last time Paris recalled its ambassador to Rome was during the World War II when Italy under leader Benito Mussolini invaded France in 1940.

Foreign ministers from the G7 – the United States, Italy, France, Canada, Germany, Britain and Japan – are to meet on Friday and Saturday in the northern French resort of Dinard.

SHOW COMMENTS