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CAR/Mali

Published on November 27, 2013
Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense, to the daily newspaper Le Figaro (excerpts)

Paris, November 26, 2013

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Q. – An intervention in the Central African Republic is imminent. What will the French deployment be?

THE MINISTER – The situation is totally different from that of Mali. Currently, the Central African Republic (CAR) no longer has a state.

Rival groups are killing each other and brutalities are being committed every day. The humanitarian situation is tragic. The country is a lawless area, at a major strategic crossroads between three sensitive regions: the Sahel, the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. That’s a concern for our security, that of the neighbouring countries and Europe. An initial resolution has already been adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council. In a few days’ time, a second resolution will give the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA [AFISM-CAR]) a mandate to restore the security conditions in the CAR. This resolution will incorporate France’s support into the African force’s security mission. We’ll act in support of MISCA.

MALI

Q. – In Mali, the difficulties are piling up. Has the mission been accomplished?

THE MINISTER – We’ve moved from war to counter-terrorism. The initial goals have been achieved. The jihadists’ advance was halted and their havens were destroyed. Democracy has returned, including with the people in the north, who had candidates in the first round of the general elections, which has just taken place. The necessary conditions for development exist. There must still be vigilance about acts of terrorism, a few of which have occurred in recent months, one of them tragic for the RFI journalists.

The number of troops in [Operation] Serval – currently 3,000 – will now be reduced. But we’ll keep a 1,000-strong force tasked in particular with conducting counter-terrorism operations. The United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is being set up. I welcome the fact that the Netherlands has decided to send 400 seasoned troops with helicopters. And the Malian army is being restructured. The EU plans to extend its training operation by two years.

AFRICA/SECURITY

Q. – In your opinion, what should be the priorities of the summit on security in Africa being held in Paris at the beginning of December?

THE MINISTER – In terms of defence, the goal is to bring about in Africa a collective security concept adopted by the Africans. We’re working on two issues. Firstly, the idea of African intervention capabilities able to react rapidly to crises, in coordination with the existing regional bodies. Secondly, the maritime question. The Gulf of Guinea, from Senegal to Angola, is one of Africa’s great weak spots. Action by the African states at sea to guarantee their security is essential. France is ready to lend its assistance to put these mechanisms in place and support the Africans in taking responsibility for their own security, on which our own very often depends. (…)./.

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