France re-establishes diplomatic ties with Iraq

12th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 12 (AFP) - France and Iraq on Monday re-established diplomatic ties cut more than 13 years ago by ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at the start of the first Gulf War in 1991.

PARIS, July 12 (AFP) - France and Iraq on Monday re-established diplomatic ties cut more than 13 years ago by ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at the start of the first Gulf War in 1991.

As the announcement was made simultaneously in Paris and Baghdad, a French flag was raised above the newly-established French embassy - used as France's interests section since 1995 - in the Iraqi capital.

France thus becomes the latest country to re-establish ties, following in the wake of the United States and Britain which led last year's war to oust Saddam.

"The government of the French Republic and the government of Iraq... on the basis of mutual respect for their sovereignty and in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter have taken the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations from July 12," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The two governments are convinced that this decision will contribute to a strengthening of links between France and Iraq and to an intensification of their exchanges, in the best interests of the two countries," it said.

The statement, issued by foreign ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous, said the two countries would exchange ambassadors "as quickly as possible".

At the weekend, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told AFP in an interview that Baghdad would soon name ambassadors to 43 countries around the world, including neighbouring Iran, Kuwait and Syria as well as European states.

He called the move a "major step towards the rehabilitation of Iraq's foreign policy." Iraqi officials have already accepted the credentials of seven ambassadors, including representatives from the United States and Britain.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said on June 29 - the day after the US-led occupation of Iraq formally ended with the transfer of power to the interim Iraqi authorities - that Paris was ready to resume diplomatic ties.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said last week that despite continuing "problems of perception" - taken to mean France's opposition to the US-led invasion - his government was hoping to "start a fresh and healthy relationship based on mutual interest".

The United States officially resumed diplomatic relations with Baghdad the day it handed limited sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government.

Saddam ordered ties with France to be cut in February 1991, after the start of the Gulf War in which France was one of 34 countries allied in pushing Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

In September 1993, Iraq opened an interests section in the French capital that was operated out of the Moroccan embassy.

France in turn created an interests section in Baghdad in early 1995 after Iraq recognized Kuwait's borders and sovereignty.

French President Jacques Chirac led international opposition to last year's war, sparking a year of ill-will between Paris and Washington.

In May last year, Paris voted in the UN Security Council in favour of a resolution to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 and put its oil revenues into a new development fund.

Late last month, Chirac and US President George W. Bush sparred again over Iraq, with the French leader strongly opposing a NATO-sponsored operation in the war-ravaged and unstable country.

"I am completely hostile to an implantation of NATO in Iraq," Chirac told reporters at a NATO summit in Istanbul. "I think it would be dangerous, counter-productive and badly understood by the Iraqi population."

Barnier reaffirmed last week that France would not send any troops to Iraq. Instead, he said Paris would be "present in the process of Iraq's political and economic reconstruction alongside our other European partners."


Timeline of Franco-Iraqi ties since 1991 breakdown     

The following is a chronology of events since 1991, when Saddam Hussein broke off ties with Paris:     


- February 6: Baghdad breaks off diplomatic ties with France and five other members of the coalition allied against Iraq in the first Gulf War that began January 17. Last French embassy staff had left Iraq on January 15.  

- February 24: Start of the ground offensive against Iraq. France has deployed about 15,000 men to the region. Offensive ends four days later.  

- March 1: The Soviet Union is tasked with representing French interests in Iraq and Iraqis in France.     

- March 7: Following a Kurdish insurrection in northern Iraq and a Shiite uprising in the south, France, the United States and Britain set up an air exclusion zone in the north and launch the "Provide Comfort" aid operation for Kurdish refugees. In August 1992, they also set up a 'no-fly' zone in the south.     


- January 13-18: France takes part in several allied air raids in northern and southern Iraq. Paris openly distances itself from Washington during the US bombing in the Baghdad suburbs on January 17, saying UN Security Council resolutions have been overstepped.  

- September 30: Baghdad opens a section for Iraqi interests in Paris, represented by Morocco.  

- October: Iraq's deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz goes to Paris for "medical reasons" in the first visit by a senior Iraqi official in a coalition country since the war.  


- June: A delegation of French businessmen visits Iraq with a view to a possible lifting of the international embargo imposed on Iraq in 1990. Paris, Beijing and Moscow favour relaxing the embargo but face opposition from Washington and London.  

- September 27: First public meeting in New York between Tareq Aziz and then French foreign minister Alain Juppe.     


- January 6: Tareq Aziz visits Paris and announces the opening of a section of French interests in Baghdad to be represented by Romania. It opens March 1.  

- April 14: Paris helps to push through a UN Security Council resolution permitting Iraq to sell a limited quantity of oil in order to buy food and medicines. Baghdad takes 20 months to accept the text which gives the UN control over oil revenues.     


- December 27: France refuses to take part in the new air surveillance force in Iraqi Kurdistan, which will replace Operation Provide Comfort.     


- October 23: Paris abstains from a vote on resolution 1134 calling for new sanctions to force the Iraqi authorities to cooperate with the UN and allow the body to continue inspections of Iraqi weapons. France wants a diplomatic solution, unlike the United States and Britain who favour a tough line.     


- January-February: France plays a key role in a peaceful resolution of a new clash between Baghdad and the UN. Paris proposes solutions to allow UN inspectors free access to sites which may be used to conceal illegal weapons and pushes for a visit to Baghdad by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.     


- January: Paris launches an initiative calling for the lifting of the oil embargo and the setting up of a new monitoring system on Iraq's disarmament and its financial revenues.     


- August 29: French President Jacques Chirac condemns all unilateral and preventive military action by the United States against Iraq, saying such a decision must come from the UN Security Council.     


- February 10: France vetoes US requests for NATO support for Turkey in case of war in Iraq.  

- February 14: Speech by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin at the UN Security Council, opposing the use of force in Iraq and calling for the continuation of weapons inspections.  

- March 20: Several hours after the first bombings of Baghdad, Chirac says France regrets the action which does not have the backing of the UN.  

- May 22: Paris votes in favour of UN Security Council Resolution 1483 ending 13 years of sanctions and giving US-British forces control of Iraq's economy and its political future.     


- June: Washington and Paris clash over a NATO role in Iraq. Chirac opposes a major role for NATO in Iraq and refuses to cancel all of Iraq's debt.  

- July 12: France and Iraq re-establish diplomatic relations.




Subject: French news

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