Terrorist threat/French nationals abroad
Q. – The French Embassy in Yemen is closed for several days due to al-Qaeda threats: “extremely serious threats”, President François Hollande has said. The United States, Germany and the United Kingdom had already taken this decision; the United States also decided yesterday to extend the closure of 19 of her embassies in total until 10 August. What’s the reason for this deterioration in the security situation?
THE MINISTER – August is an anniversary month linked to several terrorist attacks in the past. So we’ll have to take the threats made very seriously. As you’ve recalled, a number of embassies have closed; we fear al-Qaeda attacks against Western interests. France is being cautious and we’re taking the appropriate measures to protect our local staff and visitors. We have very few French people – some 600 – still in Yemen, and they’ve received security instructions from us.
Q. – So France has closed only her embassy in Yemen for the moment; the United States has closed her embassies and consulates in 19 countries in the Middle East. Might we see other French diplomatic posts also being closed in the coming days?
THE MINISTER – For the moment that’s not on the agenda. For a few months we’ve been working to step up the security at our sites in a large number of countries. We’ve strengthened the security measures, and we also have confidence in the local authorities in a large number of countries. (…)
Q. – The information that the United States has – on the basis of which she has announced embassy closures – was obtained thanks to, among other things, the very controversial American surveillance programmes. Isn’t this a mere diversion tactic aimed at retrospectively justifying those programmes?
THE MINISTER – I don’t think so. I think it’s in all our interests to be cautious and, in any case, take every appropriate step to protect our nationals.
Q. – And are those surveillance programmes therefore intrinsically justified?
THE MINISTER – In the present case, if it can prevent attacks and the deaths of innocent people, certainly.
Q. – We’ve been talking about the deterioration in the security situation in certain countries. Are there any regions where, by contrast, it’s improved?
THE MINISTER – We’ve recently changed the colours on the security maps on the travel advice [section of Foreign Ministry website]. We’ve gone from three to four colours: green, yellow, orange and red. That allows us greater flexibility in descriptions of the different countries, so that we can give a clearer idea of the safety measures to take.
Of course, a number of regions on the African continent are unfortunately still red. People are strongly advised not to go there, but we’ve introduced – particularly for North Africa – a colour breakdown to make it easier for people to move around, particularly during tourist trips.
Q. – Are certain areas in the same country perhaps more dangerous than others?
THE MINISTER – Yes, absolutely. That’s the case with Tunisia, for example, where the coastal area is green whereas unfortunately southern Tunisia is red. (…)./.