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French Ambassador Araud's statements about Charlie Hebdo

French Ambassador Araud’s statements about Charlie Hebdo

Published on January 14, 2015

Statement of French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud

The French Embassy, January 8, 2015


I will say first a few words in English. The very first thing is that we have been overwhelmed by the outpour of messages expressing the grief, the solidarity of our American friends. I think that in these terrible moments you really see what friendship is, and once more to our American friends—officials, some of them here—we say we are grateful for their presence, but also to individuals, ordinary Americans. All these messages have been for us a great moment in our friendship, in our long history. Thank you very much—especially for the messages we have received not only from President Obama, but also from the Secretary of State. And now I will speak in French.

Comme vous le savez Mesdames, Messieurs, mes chers compatriotes, le Président de la République a déclaré un deuil national aujourd’hui et nous a demandé à midi de respecter une minute de silence.

Je voudrais simplement en quelques mots vous dire ce que pourrait être la signification de cette minute de silence. Tout d’abord évidemment une minute de silence pour douze individus qui sont morts. C’est un chiffre, ce sont des visages, c’est difficile de le comprendre mais il est important de ressentir à la fois ces douze vies qui ont été brisées, mais aussi les souffrances de tous ceux qui les entourent : les compagnons, les compagnes, les parents, les enfants, les amis qui portent désormais en eux, en elles cette douleur qu’ils sont seuls à pouvoir porter.

Je voudrais également que dans cette minute nous puissions penser à la France. La France c’est évidemment les morts qui nous ont précédés, c’est évidemment l’histoire qui nous enveloppe. Mais La France c’est vous, c’est chacun d’entre vous. La France de demain, c’est vous, c’est vos enfants qui la font et qui la feront. Cette attaque est contre la France. La France ce n’est pas une religion, la France ce n’est pas une origine ethnique, la France c’est une volonté de vivre ensemble. Et bien cette volonté de vivre ensemble on essaie aujourd’hui de la tuer et c’est à nous de la réaffirmer. Vous savez ce n’est pas facile mais nous devons dans notre vie, dans notre enseignement, dans nos votes, dans nos discussions, nous devons rappeler, prouver que la France c’est la France de la Cathédrale de Chartres mais la France de la révolution, que c’est la France de St Louis et la France de Voltaire. Et aujourd’hui, la France c’est la France de Frank et la France de Ahmed. Tous deux sont morts pour la France, tous deux sont morts pour notre liberté et je vous propose donc de penser à eux dans ces moments.

Je vous prie d’observer maintenant une minute de silence.

ABC’s "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

Participants: Attorney General Eric Holder; Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Gérard Araud, French Ambassador to U.S.
Sunday, January 11, 2015



And we are joined now from Paris by the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Mr. Attorney General, thanks for joining us this morning.

We’ve heard about this concern, AQAP still a lethal threat, good morning, and we have also have this new video out this morning where Coulibaly appears to be pledging allegiance to ISIS.

What more do we know about which group may have been behind this attack?

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, at this point we don’t have any credible information that would allow us to make a determination as to which organization was responsible. I think it’s clear that both organizations pose a threat to the United States as well as to its allies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there any evidence that any other sleeper cells have actually been activated?

HOLDER: Again, I don’t think that we have any information that would indicate certainly with regard to the homeland that there is any ongoing threat or any threat that was activated by what we see so tragically here in France with regard to sleeper cells here in France, that is an investigation that is ongoing and being conducted by our French allies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the French have said that if they can determine who is behind this, they will retaliate. Will the United States join in that retaliation?

HOLDER: Well, we’ll certainly have to see exactly who was responsible, determine what kind of retaliation would be appropriate. We have certainly worked together quite well with our French allies in a whole variety of ways bringing people to justice who are responsible for these actions, certainly something that would work together with our French counterparts. And to the extent that there is something more than that, we will certainly consider whatever it is that they would propose.

But we stand in solidarity with the French.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This, Mr. Attorney General, do you understand how these gunmen slipped through the cracks? They had been arrested. They had been on the radar of the French, yet they fell off and were able to carry out his massacre?

HOLDER: Well, you know, these are the kinds of things that we have to do an after action report and try to make determinations about how these events actually unfolded. It is something, you know, it is something we have done in the United States as well as we have had to deal with these kinds of incidents.

We exchange information with each other. We had a good meeting today with a number of interior ministers from around Europe. There’s a meeting going on now with world leaders meeting with the president of France.

And one of the things that we have certainly gleaned from these interactions is there’s a greater need for us to share information, to knock down these information sharing barriers so that we can always stay on top of these threats. One nation cannot buy itself hope to forestall the possibility of terrorism even within its own borders.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The head of British intelligence Andrew Parker of MI5 has been sounding the alarm about this threat. He said al Qaeda in Syria has been planning what he called mass casualty attacks in the west and added this, "my sharpest concern as director general of MI5 is the growing gap between the increasingly challenging threat and the decreasing availability of capabilities to address it."

Does the U.S. share that concern? Do we have what we need to defeat this threat?

HOLDER: Well, I certainly share the concern that he expressed about the continued viability and the threat capability that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula especially, ISIL growingly, poses to the United States.

I do think that we have adequate resources to detect these kinds of threats, to disrupt plots. But it will really entail a whole of government approach. It means that we have to have our intelligence community, we have to have the law enforcement community, we need to have our state and local community counterparts, and we need to have American citizens be vigilant. We have that program of see something and say something.

It will take the entirety of the American nation to try to keep us, to keep us safe.

But I am confident that would have, do have that ability.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you’re not aware of any specific credible threats against the United States right now, but you told Pierre Thomas earlier this year that the entire threat environment is as dangerous as anything you’ve seen since 9/11.

Is that still the case?

HOLDER: Yes, I would say that that’s true. Although there’s not a specific credible threat that I can point to, I certainly think that the environment has changed over the years. We have decimated core Al Qaeda and I think we have decreased if not eliminated their ability to do the kinds of things that they did on September the 11th.

On the other hand, when one looks at what happened here in France with a relatively small number of people, when we look at some incidents that have happened in other parts of the world, when we look at what’s happened in the United States, we have a very small number of people, without huge amounts of planning, without huge amounts of resources, inflicting very severe damage.

That environment is the one that I was referring to. And that environment is still one that gives me great concern, especially those we identify as lone wolves.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The French prime minister said yesterday that France is at war with radical Islam.

Is the U.S. At war with radical Islam?

HOLDER: Well, I certainly think that we are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and who would corrupt the Islamic faith in the way that they do, to try to justify their terrorist actions.

So that’s who we are at war with. And we are determined to take the fight to them to prevent them from engaging in these kinds of activities.

Our president has indicated that we will be calling, on February the 18th, a summit, so that we deal with better ways in which we can counter violent extremism and really get at the core, come up with ways in which we prevent people from adhering to, being attracted to this terrorist ideology.

We certainly have to work, I think, in a dual way. We need to confront people who engage in these acts, hold them accountable. But we also have to somehow come up with a counter-narrative that too many people, especially young men, find attractive.

And, as I said, February the 18th, the White House will host a summit that I announced at the meeting here today in Paris.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, on another subject. "The New York Times" reported yesterday that the prosecutors have recommended bringing charges against former CIA Director General David Petraeus for mishandling classified information. It’s drawn a sharp response from Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. They say this leak is "a shameful continuation of a pattern in which leaks by unnamed sources have marred this investigation in contravention to fundamental fairness. No American deserves such callous treatment, let alone one of America’s finest military leaders."

Your response?

HOLDER: Well, I can’t really comment on what is an ongoing matter. But I will say that I share those concerns expressed by two senators who I have a great deal of respect for.

But I also want to assure them and the American people that any investigation that is ongoing will be done in a fair and an appropriate way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you have not received a recommendation?

HOLDER: As I said, I don’t want to really comment on what is an ongoing investigation. But I will say that frequently, those things that we characterize as leaks, they are frequently inaccurate. I’ll just leave it at that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Attorney General, thanks very much for your time this morning.

HOLDER: All right, thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by the French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us this morning.

Our condolences for the loss of your French citizens.

We’re at all feeling it here as well.

Several days out now, as those marchers gather in Paris, has French intelligence been able to determine with any greater specificity if there were any direct terror links between the gunmen and AQAP or ISIS?


Now, first, I want to say that we have been overwhelmed by the expression of grief, of solidarity of all the Americans, you know, from the president of the United States, who came to the French Embassy, to the ordinary American. It’s really the American people are a compassionate people, indeed.

What we, at this stage, you know, what we know is that actually the two killers on one side, the two brothers, on the other side, the guy who attacked the grocery, the kosher grocery shop, actually were linked, were friends, were linked. And one of them said that they had organized their attack, they synchronized their attack.

But at this stage of the investigation, it’s too early to go beyond that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And President Hollande has said that the French have actually thwarted several possible attacks in the last several weeks and months.

Are you now concerned that there are actually active sleeper cells being activated?

Is this threat level continuing?

ARAUD: You know, we have to consider the threats that we are facing. You have in Europe thousands of young radicals, thousands of them. And of course, we are democracies and you don’t arrest somebody because of his ideas.

We have, in France, hundreds of young people who came to Syria or who came to Yemen and were getting their military training.

So it’s a very, very specific threat, because we don’t know when these people are coming back and whether they are coming back. And we don’t know when they’re, when these radical people are going suddenly to become terrorists.

So for the moment, I don’t, you know, it’s simply, it’s very likely, unfortunately, that we are going to face other attempts of terrorist acts.

The (INAUDIBLE) of the French government, as said, we are not over with it.


ARAUD: And all of us, the Europeans, but also the Americans, when the president, Obama, came to the French Embassy, he told me, he said, we are all vulnerable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what do you do as you pointed out, these thousands of young men, some women, potentially, as well, are woven into the fabric of your society?

Your prime minister says you are at war with radical Islam.

How do you prevent this war from being a war against Islam?

ARAUD: I think, you know, we need a global strategy. On one side, there is the military response in Iraq and Yemen. We need information sharing. Actually, the French and the Americans, we are working quite well. But I guess we can improve it.

We need working on law enforcement and eventually, we need to work with the Muslim countries and the Muslim people, because they’re on the front line of this crisis, the front line, because they are the first victims, and they are also the breeding ground of the crisis.

So I guess that the idea of having a summit in Washington in February which has been announced by the attorney general, is a very good idea, because, you know, in a sense, France was not attacked as France. France was attacked as a Western democracy.

And it could have happened everywhere in Europe, and, unfortunately, I guess, also in the US.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If AQAP in Yemen was tied to this attack, if ISIS in Syria was tied to this attack, will France attack those groups in those countries?

ARAUD: Well, as you know, we are already actually fighting with the Americans in Iraq against ISIS, you know. The French are also fighting in the Zaire (ph) region against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. So we are doing our job. We and our Western friends. And we are U.S./France.

And as the prime minister said, if necessary, we’ll strike back still more.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for your time this morning.

ARAUD: Thank you very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And coming up, after that horror in Paris, more on the threat here at home.

Pierre Thomas and the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee with the latest on America’s high alert.

We’re back in just two minutes.


STEPHANOPOULOS: We want to bring in now the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us. You’ve heard the French ambassador; you’ve heard the attorney general and our experts here right now from your perch, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, what’s the most important threat you’re seeing coming in right now?

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), N.C.; CHAIR, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, George, I think that the thing that worries me the most right now is the buzz on social media, whether it comes from a specific brute like ISIS or whether it’s just on the chatrooms.

The target is to just go out and kill law enforcement and other officials. And I think it’s some of your guests have displaced for figure (ph) Ray Kelly. That’s a very difficult thing to detect and I think that we’re going to be spending weeks and months taking some of what we’ve learned from this attack in France and tracking down leads that hopefully get us in front of a terrorist act and we’re able to thwart it, whether it’s in Europe or whether it’s here in the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve actually warned that you’re worried that these attacks in Europe could become a weekly event.

BURR: Well, I think certainly that’s a tempo that could — that we could reach given the number of folks who have gone in and out of Syria and now we’re learning the extent of how much they went in to places like Yemen early on.

So I think we’re going to learn a lot more as time goes on. This is an event that continues to unfold from a standpoint of intelligence. And I think what we’ve got to do is be vigilant at home to make sure we keep in place those tools that give us the ability to triage that data and —


BURR: — that we can track down anybody here in the U.S.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s what I want to ask you about, because you heard that — the chair of British intelligence, Andrew Parker, say he doesn’t think they have the capabilities to match the threat; the attorney general said no, right now we do.

Your opinion?

BURR: Well, I think that we’re stretched with the best in the world, both from an intelligence gathering capacity and from a standpoint of a law enforcement capacity.

But George, let’s be realistic. The French have many more tools from a standpoint of law enforcement, how they can detain people, the interrogations they can put people through than we do in the United States. So to believe that this slipped through with the massive surveillance that they have and the ability to get inside of really the terrorist element in France, they were unable and this slipped through.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve also criticized the president, saying his language does not adequately convey how severe the threat is from terrorism.

What is he failing to say or do?

BURR: Well, listen, George, I give the attorney general credit. He used the word "war" this morning. I’m not sure he meant to.

But when you look around the world, whether it’s in Yemen, whether it’s in Syria, whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s in Afghanistan or in North Africa with Boko Haram, we’ve got terrorist elements that are carrying out terrorist acts and if you put that collection together, what you’ve got is a war on Western civilization. It really doesn’t matter which terrorist group we insert into the blank. The commitment is that they’re out to kill innocent people. And whether it happens in Paris or London or New York, we’ve got to collectively do our best to make sure that we thwart those attacks.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, let me ask you also about this potential prosecution of General David Petraeus, the former CIA director. Do you think he should be prosecuted for mishandling classified information?

BURR: Well, George, let me say this, I have tremendous trust in the FBI to do their investigation. I still reference back to the president’s remarks when he announced Gen. Petraeus’ resignation, where he said this did not reach a level that put national security in jeopardy.

And I think the statute of the law says it has to reach that for there to be a prosecution. I’ll let the FBI and the Justice Department work through this. But I always will go back to what the president told us when he announced the resignation of David Petraeus.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you believe there was no harm to national security?

BURR: Well, I think it’s — the burden of proof is on the bureau and on the Justice Department. I think to present to American where it was and why the president was wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for your time this morning.

MSNBC’s "Andrea Mitchell Reports": Interview with French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud

January 12, 2015


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: And Gerard Araud is the French ambassador to the United States and joins me now. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us. Our condolences to you on behalf of all of us here and me personally. I can’t even imagine what you and the people of France are going through right now.

GERARD ARAUD, French Ambassador to the United States: Thank you very much. You know, actually we have been overwhelmed by the expression of solidarity, of grief, of friendship coming from all corners of the American people, you know, from the highest level of the administration since President Obama came to the French embassy and Secretary Kerry, to the ordinary Americans. I can say Americans are compassionate people.

MITCHELL: You can understand that there is controversy here, the newspaper’s filled with it. We as well have been talking about it because Eric Holder, the attorney general, was in Paris, he was doing network interviews, the president was in the White House, the vice president was at home in Delaware, and Secretary Kerry was in Asia, in India and on his way then to Pakistan so he was previously engaged. But there is a question as to why no cabinet level or higher presence when you had 44 world leaders, including the prime minister of Israel, and others who are also under security protection.

ARAUD: To be very frank, for us the first impression that we have had is the support expressed by President Obama. As I have said, he came to the embassy, he made several declarations. Secretary Kerry made a speech, the speech in French, and he will come back to Paris before the end of the week. So, from the French side, there is absolutely no feeling — no hard feelings.

MITCHELL: The tradition of free speech, it all began in France during the 1700s and the 18th century, but there are laws in France, laws that say you cannot deny the Holocaust, laws that say you can’t deny the Armenian genocide. Why is it permissible to be as provocative as these anti-Muslim cartoons were? This is a debate we’re having journalistically here in the United States as well, you know.

ARAUD: Actually, there is under Armenian genocide there is no about the denial of then Armenian genocide. There is only one law about the denial of the Holocaust, because it’s not an opinion. The Holocaust took place, so, you know, you don’t express an opinion when you say that the Holocaust didn’t take place. It’s a fact, it’s an aggression against the victims, against the Jewish community. So for us it’s not an opinion. But apart the Holocaust, everything is allowed of course if there is no libel, you know, against one person, an individual.

MITCHELL: What about the investigation now? Was there, do you think, a failure of intelligence? These people were known to the French, they were known, in fact, on a no-fly list to America. Should they have been followed after one of them got out of jail, after the Yemen trip?

ARAUD: Sort of correction, I think this guy was not on a no-fly list of the Americans but on the he couldn’t get a visa to go to - -he couldn’t get the (INAUDIBLE), you know, from the American administration, but there was no fly zone — no fly — he was not on this list.

The problem that we are facing, you know, you have a few thousand young people who were radicalized. You have a few of them(ph) went to Syria or are coming back from Syria. And if you — the fact that you are radical, it’s not enough to get arrested. We are a democracy. You know, you can’t arrest somebody on his opinions, so we have to monitor them. But a few thousand people, to monitor one person, you need ten agents. It’s simply that you can’t monitor all of these people 24/7. So of course there will be an investigation to say what went wrong, certainly something went wrong at some moment, but at the same time, the fight that we are facing is really very, very specific.

MITCHELL: What about Boumeddiene? What do we know about her, and how she escaped the net, and what threat she could still pose?

ARAUD: Well, apparently, you know, she was — but again, we’re only in the first hours of the investigation. You know, really she was married to Coulibaly who is the murderer of the Jewish grocery shop. We didn’t know — she was in contact right away. She was in contact with one of the girlfriends or wives of the two other terrorists, they have exchanged hundreds of phone calls in the last year. So she was part of that. She left, she’s apparently in Syria. So we have to see, you know, really what was her role. The question was whether she had an active role or whether she was only supporting her husband.

MITCHELL: One of the suggestions from that fact of the phone calls is that the men may have understood that they were under watch and may have feared that, and the women may have been communicating to do the operational planning. Are there any other accomplices at large?

ARAUD: We don’t know. We have to know, you know, really it’s — For some time the French authorities have been fearing, you know, such a terrorist attack. You know, the minister of the interior, who is now the prime minister, told me personally, he said sooner or later there will be something because we simply can’t prevent these hundreds of people, you know, from doing it. It happened. In a sense it was worse than what we were expecting because these people were acting in a professional way as a military commando, so it’s extremely worrying. Obviously we are not over with this fight.

MITCHELL: And one other question, it’s a political question, you have from the pen forces the right wing, do you fear an anti-Muslim backlash? Do you fear that France could go too far? There are suggestions that this country went too far after 9/11 in some of the security procedures. I mean, there’s been a lot of criticism. How do you achieve a balance and not lose what is sacred in France?

ARAUD: Well, you know, we are facing the same challenge as our American friends. There were, you know, a lot of incidents against Muslims in France today. So, and of course it’s a blessing for — in a sense, you know, really it’s a very good argument for the extreme right, which everywhere in Europe, in Germany, in the U.K., in France, was very anti-Muslims. So at the same time, you saw what happened in Paris and it was moving. I was moved to tears. You know, it was really a will of the French people to affirm the national unity, and it’s also the message of the president of the French republic. So, let’s hope that we keep the spirit of national unity.

MITCHELL: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so very much. Thanks for being with us.

ARAUD: Thank you very,very much.

French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud addresses a "Gathering of Solidarity and Remembrance with the People of France and Its Jewish Community" at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC

January 13, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, first let me say thank you. First, for inviting me. I was very moved by your invitation; it is an honor for me. And second, thank you to all the Americans who have shown incredible compassion for what happened in Paris, from the highest level of the administration, from President Obama who came to the French Embassy, to the Americans in the street. We have been overwhelmed by the grief and solidarity shown by Americans. We have received thousands of messages at the Embassy and have been very touched by that. You Americans are truly a compassionate people.

On a personal note, I was posted to Israel twice. The first time was my first diplomatic post, and the second was my first ambassadorship. That my French Jewish compatriots could be forced to leave my country, their country, our country because they are afraid – as my Prime Minister just said, it would be a moral failure if France were not able to protect the Jews of France. France without the Jews of France wouldn’t be France. And he just delivered a very eloquent speech before French Parliament this afternoon. Words are not enough. We have been aware for nearly a decade now of the rise of a new type of anti-Semitism.

The French authorities have been working with Jewish organizations to combat it. We have been providing protection to synagogues and schools. We have instituted heavy legal penalties against anti-Semitic speech. We have introduced the teaching of tolerance in our school curriculum. We have organized student field trips to Auschwitz. Obviously that was not enough. And maybe we have not done the right things. Maybe we have not done enough. It is obvious.

So we are stepping up our efforts. As you know, we are increasing the protection of synagogues, schools, and Jewish institutions. But let’s be frank. First, can you imagine the community living under the protection of the army and police? It is unbearable. Unsustainable. Unacceptable. But we have to do it. And second, we can’t protect everybody everywhere.
In human terms it is impossible. So I think what we have to do right now – and this is what the Prime Minister said - is to consider ourselves at war. You know, the first line of democracy is journalists and the Jews. When you attack democracy, when you attack enlightenment, the first victims are unfortunately very often journalists and Jews. That is exactly what happened in Paris.

So we are at war. We are at war against terrorism. We are at war against radical Islam. We have to be aware of it. It will be a long fight. It is not a specifically French one. What happened in Paris could have happened anywhere in Europe. You know, the head of the British MI5, said yesterday that an attack in London is highly likely. That’s the threat that we are all facing. It’s a global threat that we must fight together.

And when I had the honor of receiving President Obama at the French Embassy, that is exactly what the President said. First, that we’re facing the same threat and that we must fight it together. Again, I want to assure you on behalf of my authorities and on behalf of the French citizens who have shown their commitment in the streets of Paris that we are determined to defend the soul of our country, as has been said, because it is the very soul of our country that is at stake. We want the Jews of France to stay in France, if they want to. And if they want to make Aliya, to go to Israel. But not to go because they are forced to do so, which would be a shame for my country.

We need your support. We need to have the support of the United States. We need to have the support all the world’s democracies. We’re in the forefront only because of our geography. We are in the forefront because we have the largest Jewish community and largest Muslim community in Europe. That’s exactly what the Prime Minister told our National Assembly today. So thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to address you. Thank you.

CNN’s "Erin Burnett Out Front": Interview with French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud

January 12, 2015


Tonight, French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, our condolences of course to you sir. I know that this has to be a horrible shock for you as you’re going through the mourning process of this horrible event at your home. I know you went to the White House today, you met with President Obama’s top counter terror official. Do you know at this point who ordered or orchestrated these attacks?

GERARD ARAUD, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: No. One of the questions that we have is to know whether al Qaeda or the Islamic caliphate towards assault of a professional headquarter for the attacks or simply that they gave some moment assault of general guidance to attack French interest. At this stage, we don’t know what was the network and where, whether there was a network, how the network was working.

ERIN BURNETT: Now the French prime minister today said, and I want to quote him, he said he has quote no doubt that there are accomplices to the attacks and they are still at large tonight. I know obviously, that is something that is very terrifying. Do you think another attack is possible?

ARAUD: Well, you know, we — the president — the French president said that we are not over with this threat. In a sense, we have been fearing such an attack for some time. We have hundreds of young French who have come to Syria or to Yemen who have been military trained, so we have thousands of people who were radicalized, so at any moment we’re fearing that somebody could go, we say in French (SPEAKING FRENCH) and it happened.

BURNETT: And let me ask you about that. I know that French authorities were watching both Kouachi brothers at some point. The brothers were also of course on the American terror data base, they were on the American no-fly list. Did the United States, I guess this is the first question, did the United States share all of its information with you in advance? Did you know everything that the United States knew?

ARAUD: Well, by definition I don’t know, you know, because I’m not working in the intelligence field, but what I know and what actually President Obama told me is that the intelligence sharing between the two countries is working very well. So, I guess there is always room for improvement but we have been working very well.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you about the key question. I know you just heard our reporter alluding to it. But part of the problem here of course is that both brothers were known to French intelligence of course under surveillance at some point in time, you know, in part because of involvement in trying to free a terrorist and also perhaps because of their travels. I mean, and they went off the radar because they weren’t blatantly violating the law but they were traveling reportedly, possibly to Syria, also to Yemen. But they dropped on the terror priority list. So, they weren’t under direct surveillance. Tonight we have more than 18,000 French police and troops that are trying to protect sensitive locations. I know that you and France believe in free speech just like here in the United States, but I guess the question is when you’re aware of people going to places like Syria or Yemen or somehow who tried to free a terrorist, you know that they did those things, are you considering just detaining them, saying, you know what? Yes. This free speech thing is great but if someone is involved, we’re not going to detain them, we’re not going to risk this happening again?

ARAUD: So, first, if you remember with the 9/11, you know, afterwards it’s very easy to see, to say, well, actually you should have seen the attack coming. You know, afterwards it’s always easy to put the pieces of the puzzle together. So maybe some mistakes have be committed. There will be an investigation of that. You have to understand that basically, we have a thousand of radical youth in France and you can’t arrest them because of their opinion. We are democracy. And at the same time, you can’t monitor them 24/7 because it would mean those are thousands of policemen. So it’s very complicated in this type of threat how to face the challenge.

BURNETT: I mean, I guess it’s hard. I understand what you’re saying but in a sense that it’s admitting that there is no way. You have to accept that this could happen again.

ARAUD: Well, I think, you know, I think it was the head of the MI-5, the British secret service who said that an attack against the UK is highly likely. I think that every head of secret service throughout the world could say the same right now.

BURNETT: Today the White House Spokesman Josh Earnest, it was an unusual move. I know you heard it at this point but he admitted the Obama administration should have sent someone with the higher profile. Those are his words to that march in Paris yesterday. It was a big deal for the administration to admit a mistake. Did they apologize to you directly, Ambassador?

ARAUD: No, and they didn’t need to do it. You know, the president came to the French embassy, the secretary came to the French embassy, they made several or very moving from the decorations.


ARAUD: You know, the controversy is very real but the French’s newspapers are reporting the controversy as an American controversy because in France it didn’t really create any out feeling towards the Americans. We have felt the support of the Americans and that matters.

BURNETT: And finally, Jewish schools and synagogues are now getting extra protection from French forces. I know last year we’ve been reporting 7,000 Jews left France for Israel, that’s twice the number of the year before in response to a rise in reported anti-Semitic acts. Prime Minister Netanyahu of course was in Paris this weekend and said to French Jews, quote, "the state of Israel is your home." That’s got to be something that sort of hits you both ways. It’s, you know, in a sense it’s a slap to France and whether Jews can be safe there. Can you protect the Jewish population?

ARAUD: Well, I think I’m going to be a bit personal because I’ve been ambassador. So, I can say that personally I’m devastated by the idea that some of my compatriots are going to Israel, not that going to Israel because they shows to go to Israel. But are going to Israel because they feel they don’t feel safe in France. It would be a major political human failure of the French republican if you are not able to protect the Jewish compatriots and the president said it to the prime minister, for us, it’s a major challenge. And we’ll do our best to face it.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Ambassador, I really appreciate your time and thank you so much again. I know, an incredibly difficult time for you.

NPR’s "All Things Considered" (January 14, 2015)

January 14, 2015


MELISSA BLOCK, host: In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, French authorities today announced the arrests of more than 50 people as part of a crackdown on hate speech - speech that’s anti-Semitic or speech defending the attacks. Among those arrested was the popular and controversial French comic Dieudonne. He’s been convicted numerous times before for racism and anti-Semitism. We’re going to talk about this and more with the French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud. Welcome to the program.

GERARD ARAUD, French Ambassador to the United States: Thank you. Good evening.

BLOCK: And how do you explain to Americans the distinction drawn in France between permissible, if offensive, free speech and speech that is punishable by law?

ARAUD: That’s the debate that we have had with our American friends for some time because of your First Amendment. For a long time, for instance, you know, we have a debate on the Internet because you accept on the Internet that you could have hate speech.

BLOCK: Hate speech.

ARAUD: You know - yes, apology of Adolf Hitler and so on - why it’s forbidden in France. In France, the speech is free, but if it could lead either to a crime or if it could be seen as libel, which is, of course, under the control of the judge. It’s to the judge to decide whether the red lines have been crossed.

BLOCK: What do you think the message should be to France’s Muslim population, who have - many of them - been deeply offended by what they’ve seen in the paper, in Charlie Hebdo, and also have been the target of attacks, reprisal attacks after what happened last week?

ARAUD: You know, France is a country of 65 million inhabitants. There are something between five and six million Muslims and I guess 99.9 percent of the Muslims are peaceful citizens. All the polls are showing their commitment to France. They are French; most of them are born in our country. So the message that we have to send to them is that they are part of the nation. I do think that the main problem is not so much religious. The main problem is a social problem of integration. We have had a high level of unemployment for 10, 20 years. And as usual, you know, that’s - the immigrants are the first victims of unemployment, so to have a rate of unemployment of 20 percent and - which means you have a lot of these youths - Muslim youths - who are excluded from the social life. And they fall into petty crimes - you know, drug trafficking or small thieves - they go to prison. And in prison, they are radicalized. They find a sort of raison d’etre, you know, in religion.

BLOCK: I want to ask you about new security measures that the French prime minister presented to parliament yesterday, including anti-radicalization programs, more air travel monitoring, more monitoring of phone calls and Internet communication, things like that. In hindsight, do these all appear to you as measures that should’ve been in place before. If they had been in place, maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

ARAUD: Maybe. Obviously, you know, there is somewhere - something went wrong in our monitoring systems. The question is the balancing between the public liberties and the need of the police forces. And it’s a very - in a democratic society, it’s a very delicate balance that we have to find. This - we had one, and obviously, we have to find a new one.

BLOCK: Does the French government give credence to the claims of responsibility for last week’s attacks that we were just hearing about, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula saying we ordered this, we are behind this?

ARAUD: That’s one of the questions we have to solve. You know, the French authorities have been expecting for some time a terrorist action. We have 5,000 radical youth. We have 1,200 young people who are in Syria or are coming back from Syria. They are trained; they are radicalized. I say 1,200 means that we have identified 1,200. There are more than that, so we were sooner or later - unfortunately, we were fearing that something would happen. And what happened was, in a sense, maybe worse than what we were expecting because it was done in a very professional way.

BLOCK: Well, let me ask you about that. Given what you just said - we were expecting this - these attackers were men who were well known to French intelligence authorities, Charlie Hebdo, the target, had been targeted before, was under threat. Was this a real failure of intelligence here?

ARAUD: We are conducting an investigation and we will see what went wrong. I think that something went wrong and we have to adjust our work abilities. But, you know, let’s say we have 5,000 radicalized youth. We are a democracy, so it means that we can’t arrest them for their opinion. But it’s impossible to monitor 24-7 5,000 people. It means you need between eight to 10 agents a person. It’s impossible.

BLOCK: Except in this case, of course, at least one of the attackers had been convicted of recruiting jihadists, had served time in prison.

ARAUD: Yeah, he served time in prison. But even if you monitor them, it’s difficult to know when they become dangerous.

BLOCK: Mr. Ambassador, you were not so long ago France’s ambassador to Israel. And the number of Jews emigrating from France to live in Israel doubled last year, many people saying they’re leaving France because they don’t feel safe, that there’s a dangerous and rising climate of anti-Semitism in your country. How troubling is that for you and what do you do about it?

ARAUD: No, it’s not troubling. It’s devastating - it’s devastating. The French prime minister said in parliament yesterday that without the Jews, France wouldn’t be France. And would it be a royally major failure of the French Republic if we couldn’t protect our compatriots. For some time, we have introduced - in the curriculum of the schools, we have introduced teaching about the Shoah. We are organizing trips to Auschwitz. But obviously, it’s not enough.

BLOCK: Mr. Ambassador, thank you for coming in.

ARAUD: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: Gerard Araud is the French ambassador to the United States. And tomorrow on Morning Edition, we’ll visit a French district where Jews and Muslims live together.

FOX NEWS’ "Special Report": French Ambassador to US on investigation into attacks

January 14, 2015


Now, let’s bring in the French ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud. Mr. 
Ambassador, thank you so much for being here.


BAIER: Let’s start with the latest on this investigation. There is apparently a new suspect who has been identified, an accomplice.

ARAUD: Yes, because the friend (ph) we have now is that it’s obvious that these two killers or three killers were supported by a network. So we have to dismantle the network. And apparently we have first identified one member of the network, and secondly we know now from where the weapons are coming. Apparently their whereabouts in Brussels, in the neighborhood of the railway station where there is a lot of trafficking.

You know because now weapons are in (inaudible) coming from the Balkans. So you have a lot of Kalashnikov unfortunately which are — that you can buy now for (inaudible).

BAIER: The video we saw today was al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula taking credit for this attack. We know that both of the brothers, the Kouachi brothers, traveled out of the country to Yemen and there was some kind of coordination according to intelligence officials.

What do you know about the tie to al Qaeda?

ARAUD: That is one of the big questions that we have to answer because there are two main possibilities. One is that al Qaeda is the sponsor. They simply said "do and kill" and "kill these guys".

The other one would be that al Qaeda is the operational commander of the operation. And it makes a lot of difference because if we discover that al Qaeda can organize such an attack from Yemen, of course, it will be very serious. And it may be the case because the attack was very professional. It was not lone wolves the way, you know, we were expecting.
And they behave as a military commando.

So it’s really very worrying so the investigation is conducted precisely on this point.

BAIER: So just over the few hours we have another person being named here. But there are other people being looked for —

ARAUD: Of course.

BAIER: — tied to this cell.

ARAUD: Yes. You know, it’s a network. So now we have to look for the people — some names are floating around. We know the wife of Coulibaly, you know, the killer of the grocery, the kosher grocery shop succeeded to go to Syria the day before. Apparently she crossed the border the day before the attack and she was with somebody that we have identified and which is linked also to the radicals. So again, in the investigation.

BAIER: I want — you know the world has obviously reacted to these attacks — I want you to take a listen to the Turkish president and his comments and have you react to it.


TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): The hypocrisy of the West is obvious. As Muslims we never stood up for terrorism. We never stood up for massacres. But it is racism, hatred and Islamophobia that lies beneath these massacres. Officials of the countries where our mosques are attacked should take measures against these incidents. These are provocations.


BAIER: Your reaction to that?

ARNAUD: Well, I don’t — you know, I’m only an ambassador. I don’t react to a president.

What I want to say is as the French prime minister said we are at war and we are at war with radical Islam. It means that right now that Islam, and in a sense the Muslims are the first victims, but Islam is breeding, you know, radicalism which is quite dangerous for everybody.

So I think that in the coming weeks or the coming months we have to define the global strategy. And part of the strategy is to work with the Muslim countries. They have to do that part of the job.

BAIER: Are you surprised by the reluctance of the Obama administration to use the word "radical Islam"?

ARAUD: You know, everybody has its own sensitivity. Really that is the political life in the U.S. It’s not the same thing as the political life in France.

The fact is in France we have known an attack which was really an attack by Islamists. It was not only an attack only by Islamists but it was an attack on the Western democratic values. So that led our government to define the war, to say now it’s clear what we have — on one side radical Islamists, on the other side democracy.

BAIER: I have heard you and other French officials deal with the unity march and the lack of a high profile U.S. official. I’m not going to ask you about that. But I do want to ask you about the challenges uniquely to France with some six million Muslims and this question about assimilation and multiculturalism and what is happening in your country and the challenge that that involves.

ARAUD: Well, again, first in a sense it is not only a French challenge. It’s a European challenge. Why the French in a sense we are on the forefront it’s because we are the first Jewish community out of the U.S. and we are the first Muslim community in Europe. So that is the reason in a sense why we are the first. But all European countries are frightened.

You know, I think it was yesterday or a few days ago the head of the British MI5 said an attack against London is I quote "highly likely". So we — all of us we have the same problem. We have a problem (ph) of assimilation of our immigrants and most of the immigrants in Europe are Muslims. But it’s not because you are disadvantaged in a society that you become a killer. The fact is that we have an integration problem and there is also problem of radical Islam. And that is not the same, you know.
Really — one may be the breeding ground for the other.

BAIER: Mr. Ambassador, we appreciate your time today.

ARAUD: Thank you very much.