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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Hollande assume sa politique étrangère en rade de Toulon

by Philippe Jérôme

Hollande Stands by His Foreign Policy in Toulon Harbor Speech

Translated Friday 29 August 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

The 70th anniversary of the Allied landing in Provence: the French president justified France’s solo interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic on the basis of France’s “political and moral debt” to Africa, and attempted to clarify his position on the Middle East, “beset by barbarian obscurantism,” while lecturing Russia.

On board the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, by our special correspondent

Last June’s ceremonies commemorating the Allied landing in Normandy were marked by the presence of a German delegation and a handshake between Vladimir Putin and the new Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko. On this August 15, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of “the other landing,” only the flags of the 28 countries whose soldiers participated in the battle to free Provence from the German occupier floated in the strong breeze on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and French president Hollande began his speech, not by paying the traditional homage to the combatants, but by shouting at Russia, “which must respect the territorial integrity (of the Ukraine).”

Then François Hollande came to exalt the memory of that African army, the spearhead of what was to become the First French Army, that “mixed, cosmopolitan army, made up of men whose birthplaces ranged from Brest to Bamako,” an army “that had only one flag, that of freedom,” before the 15 heads of state who had been invited, from Tunisia’s Moncef Marzouki to Prince Albert II of Monaco.

For François Hollande, who was speaking before an audience of veteran African combatants nearing their 100th birthday, France has “not only a moral, but also a political debt” to Africa. According to the French president, who listed, pell-mell, the solo intervention in Mali, the Nigerian crisis, and again the ravages of the Ebola virus, this “historical debt,” implies a “duty of solidarity” notably with African youth.

On board the aircraft carrier, a vessel which, by definition, is an arm of military intervention abroad, the French president attempted, in the wake of the delivery of “sophisticated” materiel to the Kurds, mainly to clarify France’s position in the “Middle East, confronted with barbarian obscurantism.”

What precisely does this mean in Syria, in Iraq, or in Gaza? Has his foreign policy remained stuck in the harbor? In any case, in Toulon harbor it was an ample naval review, overflown by an eclectic aerial parade which closed the commemorative day which was supposed to “clarify the future.” In reality, it was an expensive copy-and-paste of the big naval parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the landing in Provence in 2004, presided over at the time by Jacques Chirac. Back then, already, the United States and the United Kingdom had done only the bare minimum, in and over the Mediterranean, to participate in the commemoration.

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