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POLITICS

France’s foreign minister travels to UAE to see French airlift operation from Afghanistan

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was due in the UAE Monday to see for himself the massive airlift underway from Afghanistan using the Gulf nation as a staging post.

France's foreign minister travels to UAE to see French airlift operation from Afghanistan
Jean-Yves Le Drian is flying to UAE on Mona. Photo: AFP

France is seeking to evacuate more than 1,000 Afghans who are fleeing the country following the Taliban’s lightning takeover a week ago, one of a number of nations scrambling to evacuate vulnerable individuals.

Le Drian and colleagues were due to visit the Al-Dhafra base – some 30 kilometres from Abu Dhabi – where the French airforce has been conducting round-the-clock operations in support of the evacuations.

Since August 15th, “nearly 100 French residents, 40 residents of partner nations, and more than 1,000 (at-risk) Afghans” have been transported to France via the Emirates, Le Drian’s delegation said in a statement.

A flight with 250 French and Afghans aboard left for Paris on Sunday followed by another in the early hours of Monday with 150 passengers.

The first emergency flight carried 41 people, mostly French, on August 17th.

However France has been evacuating its own nationals and at-risk Afghans from the country since May, after its own intelligence reports suggested very difficult months to come. Failed Afghan asylum seekers stopped being deported from France in June.

Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Parly will meet diplomats, military personnel, police officers, and “all the staff working under extremely difficult conditions to enable evacuation operations from Kabul”, the statement said.

They were also due to meet Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, de facto leader of the UAE, to “thank the Emirati authorities for their support”, the communique added.

France has a permanent military presence in the Emirates from where it conducted parts of its aerial campaign against the Islamic State group.

France is one of several NATO and EU member states that are scrambling to rescue vulnerable foreign staff and Afghan allies from Afghanistan since the Taliban overran the capital just over a week ago.

Britain said on Monday it would urge the United States at a virtual G7 summit to extend an end-of-the-month deadline to complete evacuations of Western citizens and Afghan colleagues from Kabul.

US President Joe Biden has set an August 31st deadline for the chaotic airlift organised by thousands of temporarily deployed US troops – but has left the door open to an extension if needed.

“We need time to accomplish this task, measured in days and weeks not months,” Le Drian told the French Journal du Dimanche weekly.

Since August 14th, roughly 25,100 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan aboard aircraft flown by the US and its allies, according to a White House estimate.

Member comments

  1. Don’t these people realise that their very presence interrupts an evacuation like this and serves no useful purpose except for a photoshoot for them.

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POLITICS

Revealed: France’s funniest politicians and their best ‘jokes’

Politicians' jokes are more usually met with a groan than a laugh, but France's annual prize for political humour has been awarded - here are the zingers judged the best in 2022.

Revealed: France's funniest politicians and their best 'jokes'

According to the jury on the Press club, Humour et Politique awards, the funniest politician in France is the Communist leader (and 2022 presidential candidate) Fabien Roussel.

His award-winning zinger is: “La station d’essence est le seul endroit en France où celui qui tient le pistolet est aussi celui qui se fait braquer.”

It translates as ‘the petrol station is the only place where the one holding the gun is also the one who is robbed’ – a joke that works much better in French where ‘pistolet’ means both a pistol and the petrol pump. 

On a side note for British readers – Roussel also looks quite a lot like left-wing UK comedian Stewart Lee, so maybe he has funny genes.

Second prize went to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy with his withering assessment of Valérie Pécresse, the candidate for his old party in the 2022 presidential election, who did extremely badly.

“Ce n’est pas parce que tu achètes de la peinture, une toile et des pinceaux que tu deviens Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, elle a pris mes idées, mon programme et elle a fait 4.8 pourcent”

“It’s not because one buys paints, canvas and brushes that you become Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, she took my ideas, my manifesto and she got 4.8 percent of the vote.”

While these two were jokes – in the loosest sense of the word – the prize can also be awarded to politicians who make people laugh inadvertently, such as last year’s winner Marlène Schiappa who, when announcing plans to ban polygamy, felt the need to tell the French, “On ne va pas s’interdire les plans à trois” – we’re not going to outlaw threesomes.

Here’s the full list of finalists for the funniest political joke of 2022 – somehow we don’t think you’re at risk of split sides with any of these.

Ex-Prime minister Edouard Philippe talking about hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “Il faut une certaine audace pour que quelqu’un qui a été battu à une élection où il était candidat puisse penser qu’il sera élu à une élection où il n’est pas candidat!”

“It takes a certain audacity for someone who was defeated in an election where he was a candidate to think that he will be elected in an election where he is not a candidate!”

Ex-Assemblée nationale president Richard Ferrand: “Elisabeth Borne est formidable mais personne ne le sait.”

“Elisabeth Borne is great but no-one knows it.”

Ex-Macronist MP Thierry Solère: “Mon anatomie fait que si j’ai le cul entre deux chaises, je suis parfaitement assis.”

“My anatomy means that if I have my ass between two chairs, I am perfectly seated.”

Some information that might be useful for this one – the French phrase avoir le cul entre deux chaises (to have your ass between two chairs) is the equivalent of the English ‘falling between two stools’ – ie a person who cannot make up their mind what or who to support. Further information; Solère is a largish bloke.

Hard-left MP Eric Coquerel: “S’imaginer qu’on va remplacer Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme ça, c’est une vue de l’esprit. C’est comme se poser la question de qui va remplacer Jaurès.”

“To imagine that we will replace [party leader] Jean-Luc Mélenchon like that, is purely theoretical. It is like asking the question of who will replace Jaurès.”

Jean Jaurès is a revered figure on the French left, but not currently very active in politics, since he was assassinated in 1914.

Rachida Dati to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Votre présence au Conseil de Paris est aussi anecdotique que votre score à la présidentielle.”

“Your presence at the Council of Paris is as anecdotal as your score in the presidential election.”

There’s no doubt that Hidalgo did humiliatingly badly in the presidential election with a score of 1.75 percent. Daiti didn’t stand in the presidential elections but she did put herself forward to be mayor of Paris in 2020 and was convincingly beaten by . . . Anne Hidalgo.

So that’s the ‘jokes’, but there were also some entries for inadvertently funny moments.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Tous les matins, je me lève en me disant que tout le monde m’aime.”

“Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that everyone loves me.”

But the undisputed queen of this genre is the green MP Sandrine Rousseau, whose ideas and policy announcements seem to have provoked a great deal of mirth.

Je voudrais qu’il y ait une possibilité de délit de non-partage des tâches domestiques – I would like there to be the possibility of a crime of not equally sharing domestic tasks

Les SDF meurent plus de chaleur l’été que l’hiver – The homeless die from heat more in the summer than the winter

Il faut changer aussi de mentalité pour que manger une entrecôte cuite sur un barbecue ne soit plus un symbole de virilité – We must also change our mentality so that eating a steak cooked on a barbecue is no longer a symbol of virility.

If you prefer your humour a little more scientific, Phd researcher Théo Delemazure has done a study of which politicians and political parties are funniest when speaking in parliament.

He analysed how often speeches raise a smile or a laugh (which presumably includes sarcastic laughter) and concluded that the party that gets the most laughs is the hard-left La France Insoumise.

They are also the party that speaks most often, however, when he calculated the laughter rate per time spent speaking, the prize went to the centre-right Les Républicains.

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