THE PRESIDENT – For 10 years, Ivorians have been deprived of elections, and we were happy to help restore civil peace to Côte d’Ivoire under a United Nations mandate. We’re conscious of having avoided a civil war, and since his election President Ouattara has constantly shown, through gestures, his determination to reconcile the Ivorian people. And President Ouattara can count on France’s solidarity.
We’ve signed a new defence agreement. (…) France stands alongside Côte d’Ivoire in her quest for security. But the French army isn’t in the business of interfering in Côte d’Ivoire’s affairs, either from nearby or from afar. That period following the end of colonial rule is over for good. The President – France – has no candidates in Africa; France doesn’t support any candidate in Africa. France intervened to support President Ouattara because the United Nations had recognized President Ouattara’s election, the validity of the elections and the legitimacy of the campaign. And now France is going to put all her effort into helping the Ivorians rebuild their country, take responsibility for everyone’s security and give all young Ivorians a future. So Alassane Ouattara is being received here as a friend, and I’d like to express my personal admiration for his career, his courage, his tenacity and the way he’s continuing to reach out to everyone in Côte d’Ivoire.
It’s only strong people who reach out; it’s strong people who reconcile others; and these Ivorian young people – after so many sterile debates about “ivoirité” [the concept of “Ivorianness”], after so many divisions – are lucky enough to have a president who keeps his promises and has a single obsession: to establish lasting democracy and progress in his country. And on that path, cher President Ouattara, France will be at your side. (…)
Q. – You’ve just signed a new defence agreement. Can you tell us basically what’s changed?
THE PRESIDENT – The last agreement dated back to 1961; it was secret. This one will be debated in parliament and published in full by the Defence Ministry. There are no more secret defence agreements.
As for the spirit of it, it’s cooperation between the Ivorian forces and the French armed forces, with a procurement effort, a training effort, to help you. And a very clear determination to accept no mixed approaches. But the Minister will publish the agreement in the coming days and will stand up for it in the French parliament.
Q. – (on France’s support for Côte d’Ivoire’s debt reduction request)
THE PRESIDENT – We’re asking quite simply for Côte d’Ivoire to benefit from the initiative to support the highly-indebted poor countries. And given the decisions taken by the Ivorian government, there’s no reason to put Côte d’Ivoire on watch: she needs her debt cancelled now and help to get moving again. That’s the challenge, because reconciliation depends on political initiatives and also economic progress, so that everyone can find hope in Côte d’Ivoire. That’s crucial. There’s no time to lose.