Skip to main content

South African President’s State visit to France

Published on March 7, 2011
Statements made by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa

Paris, March 2, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen,

I’d like to tell you what an honour it is for Alain Juppé, Claude Guéant, Christine Lagarde, Eric Besson and myself to receive President Jacob Zuma in France for his first State visit, and the sizeable delegation accompanying him. With this first State visit, he is repaying the visit I myself paid to South Africa in February 2008.

South Africa today is a global player, present and active in all the international arenas. The voice of South Africa – which is also that of Africa – is listened to. That voice is respected because it’s South Africa and because it’s President Jacob Zuma.

The very day after I was elected, I wanted France to forge a real strategic partnership with South Africa, which is a major country because of her economic, political and strategic importance. Now that France holds the G8 and G20 presidency, President Zuma and I have therefore decided to harmonize our positions in the framework of the French G20 presidency’s programme. We’ve agreed that our foreign ministers should work on an interim reform of the [UN] Security Council that gives Africa its place at last. I want to repeat what a real anomaly France considers it to be – let’s face it, a kind of scandal – that Africans aren’t permanently represented on the Security Council. So we’re going to work on an interim reform, which doesn’t mean South Africa or France are giving up the aim of a definitive reform: it means South Africa and France don’t accept the status quo or resistance to change.

I’d also like to say that the finance ministers are going to work on a range of innovative financing solutions so that Africa in particular, and the countries which need it in general, can benefit from major financial aid to ensure their growth and meet the world’s commitments as negotiated in Copenhagen.

Through the Industry and Energy Ministers, we also discussed nuclear energy. The South African delegation told us how much progress they were making on their timetable and said the decisions will be taken shortly. France expressed her great willingness to provide the nuclear energy South Africa needs.

Finally, we discussed the whole programme of the French presidency. And I think I can say that South Africa and France are in very close agreement and share one aim: that the G20 in Cannes should be conclusive and take concrete decisions, because South Africa and France have the same vision of the situation: we absolutely forbid ourselves to resist change.



Q. – I have a question about the situation in Libya. According to the Libyan League for Human Rights, the crackdown in that country has already claimed more than 6,000 lives. Libyans are rushing towards their borders at a rate of 10,000 to 15,000 people a day, we’re told.
Have you discussed this subject? What do you intend to do – what can you do – to end this situation?

And we’ve just heard that the Mistral helicopter carrier has been sent towards the Libyan coast. What’s the significance of this decision, and are we approaching the moment when we should intervene militarily in Libya, even if it means requesting a United Nations mandate?

THE PRESIDENT – The situation in Libya right now is a tragedy. France’s position has been expressed many times, particularly by the Ministre d’Etat, the Foreign Minister. Mr Gaddafi must go. There’s no ambiguity about it. The vessel you mention has been made available to evacuate those foreign nationals in Libya whose home States didn’t have the means to ensure evacuation as we’ve done for our nationals. So the French navy is involved in a humanitarian operation.

There are foreigners in Libya who are stranded, risking their lives, and France’s duty is to help with the evacuation of those foreigners to the adjacent countries.


We’re greatly concerned about the development of the situation. France and Britain have obtained an extremely important Security Council decision on referral to the International Criminal Court and sanctions; that decision is all the more important because it was voted for by – among others – countries which hitherto haven’t recognized the International Criminal Court.

France and Britain have jointly requested a meeting of the European Council, which will be held on 11 March, devoted to the Libya situation but also, more broadly, to the situation in the Middle East. We’ll make joint proposals with our British friends. The Ministre d’Etat is working on it with his counterpart. We’ll have an opportunity to set out the broad lines of an ambitious plan.

As for the internal security problem, it’s a subject which must be discussed at the Security Council level [and] which we’ll have to talk about. You’re aware of France’s reservations about the principle of military intervention. We don’t think it’s a decision that would be appropriate, but of course we’re closely following any decisions the Security Council might make that could change the scenario in this respect, at least partially. Moreover, we obviously can’t ignore the innocent victims of the killing frenzy of Mr Gaddafi and his clan.
In the current state of affairs, and bearing in mind the developments in the situation, I think the best thing is to stick to this position. (…)


Q. – This is a question on the same subject [Côte d’Ivoire]. I sensed that South Africa and France’s positions on this aren’t entirely the same. Mr Zuma has just answered. President Sarkozy, this one’s for you: despite the ultimatums, despite the sanctions, President Gbagbo still holds the reins of the country. In your opinion, how is it possible to make him back down at a time when the country is threatening to tip once again into civil war?

THE PRESIDENT – I told President Zuma what France’s position was. I also greatly appreciated the very profound nature of our discussion of this subject. France, moreover, supports the panel of which President Zuma is a member and that panel’s efforts to find a political solution. There’s no ambiguity: we support those efforts. I also told President Zuma that following the recognition of President Ouattara’s election by the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS, we, France – following the decisions by the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS – also recognized President Ouattara’s election. We wish President Zuma and his colleagues on the panel good luck with the action they’re going to take, because everything must be done to prevent further deaths and violence in Côte d’Ivoire.


Q. – Can we move on to matters of trade? I’m told that France and South Africa regard each other as strategic partners. Given that the trade balance is in France’s favour at this stage, have you been in a position to tick off certain fields where you could redouble your efforts, in order perhaps to restore that trade balance and ensure there are more imports to France? That question is addressed to both presidents .

THE PRESIDENT – We took stock. The figures are impressive. The French Development Agency and its subsidiary, PROPARCO, have released €1.7 billion for South Africa. Today we’re the second-largest donor. France believes in South Africa’s development and stability.

France wants to invest in South Africa’s democracy. It’s a strategic choice we’ve made, which translates into activity by hundreds of French companies in South Africa and hundreds of millions of euros in investments. And the best demonstration that France has complete confidence in South Africa’s future and stability is that she wants to work on developing nuclear energy in South Africa, as she did a few years ago. And if France didn’t have confidence in South Africa’s democracy, she wouldn’t be engaging as she is in competing to supply South Africa with nuclear energy.

You know, nuclear energy is the energy that enables us in France to be independent. And our partners’ choices are extremely sensitive and very important, because in the nuclear industry you think in decades, not simply in a few months’ work. This choice is a strategic choice.

South Africa needs energy. France has nuclear ability. So France wants to share that ability with South Africa. And it’s a constant position we’ve expressed. What better illustration of our strategic partnership? Of course it’s up to our partners to set the timetable, but we’ve clearly set out the practicalities and our availability./.

      top of the page