Interview of Ambassador François Delattre on CNN
EB: Raids accross Europe are deeply worrying to many people. More arrests in France, an eminent attack disrupted in Belgium. How worried are you about further attacks?
FD: President Hollande has been crystal clear from day one. We are worried. We are in maximum alert in terms of our intelligence, in terms of our law enforcement, in terms of our military that we deployed all over France on the most sensitive sides.
EB: As you talk about the incredible show of unity and also that France is mobilized, there are tens of thousand of extra police troops who are now watching the country. We keep hearing about this issue of open borders . Your colleague Ambassador Araud, French Ambassador to the US, told me “There are hundreds in France who have travelled to Syria. The French authorities are aware of many of them, thousands more radicalized.” Of course we know the Kouachi brothers in the aftermath of the attacks were known to French intelligence, they might have been in Syria.
It raises the question of how free can France afford to be at this point. Do you say “if you have been to Syria, if you have been to Yemen, forget about it, we are not going to put you on a list, we are just not going to let you in”?
President François Hollande and the Prime Minister Manuel Valls have announced very strict measures in terms of making sure that France is able to to fight against terrorism, not only abroad, but also at home in France and to make sure that these jihadists coming from Syria or other places are not able to go against our institutions, to go against our people. So yes, we are completely mobilized in this respect.
EB: And with all these raids now happening which are all in part linked to the Paris situation. Maybe the plots were not linked together, but in Belgium, they say they were in part, because of Paris, they moved more quickly with some of these raids. The borders in Europe are opened, right? So if I am in France, I can just drive to Germany. Are the intelligence quarters opened? Do you know anyone who went to Syria that goes to Germany? Do they know anyone who went to Syria that comes to France?
That is the key challenge, Erin. Let’s be frank about it. It’s to be able at the European level and, as I said, worldwide, to be able to have the same information, the same intelligence in order to better fight against this scourge. You know, we are slowly but surely going there. At the European level it is crystal clear and at the American level also. The partnership between the European Union, France and the US has never been as strong as it is today in terms of intelligence sharing. You are absolutely right, that’s the key.
EB: So it has never been as strong as it seemed before. Of course the President of the United States was not there at the unity gathering. In fact, only the US Ambassador to France was there. Our Attorney General was in Paris but he actually didn’t show up. The White House is admitting they made a mistake. Secretary of State John Kerry was in India, but he showed up on Friday. He went to visit President Hollande. And here is what John Kerry did (video). So there is John Kerry who brought James Taylor to sing “You’ve got a friend”. We have to give him points for humor, making a point to France that America is France’s friend. Was that a touching moment in some way? Was it the right tone?
The Secretary Kerry’s visit to France was very important and very successful. To see the Secretary of State, whom I have known well for years, together with President Hollande, together with Minister Fabius – and there is a strong partnership between Fabius and Kerry, to see him at the office of Charlie Hebdo, to see John Kerry at the kosher supermarket where this tragedy happened, means a lot, deeply for each and every French man and woman, for my country as a Nation. We know John Kerry is a friend of my country. And again, this visit says a lot about the fact that the US and France are solidly together in this fight against terrorism. It says a lot about the fact that in terms of intelligence sharing, as I said, we have never had in our history so close coordination. It also says a lot, Erin, about the fact that we are committed together to many fronts in the world. Let me say a word about France’s commitment to Mali and Sahel at the heart of Africa. There, and it was not really underlined by the American media, we had to fight and still have to fight against one of the best funded, best equipped, and best trained Al-Qaida branches in the world, based on years of drug trafficking, weapons smuggling; human trafficking. So what we do under French leadership in Sahel in the heart of Africa is critically important in the fight against global jihad. We do it with strong and much appreciated American support. That is what John Kerry’s visit to Paris is all about. How we will be able to win together, arm in arm, this global fight against terror.
EB: Before we go, I must ask you about the people targeted in these attacks. Some were targeted for their religion. Your President Hollande said when talked about the attack in the kosher supermarket that it was an “appalling anti-Semitic act”. I spoke to the cousin of the only woman who was murdered in the Charlie Hebdo offices, Elsa Cayat was her name. She was also Jewish. I spoke with her cousinand here is what her cousin said (video).
We know the number of Jews who have chosen to leave France last year was twice the number of the year before. Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would be their home. That’s got to be hard to hear in some ways, that there are many now who believe France is not safe for Jews.
Let me be clear about it, Erin. Anti-Semitism is an existential threat to each and every one of us, Jews and non-Jews. It is the exact opposite of French and universal values that we strongly believe in, that our parents died for. So this fight is also an existential fight against anti-Semitism, against Islamophobia, against any kind of racism. Prime Minister Manuel Valls says that France without French Jews would not be France. And I think it is very profound in our DNA. For 2000 years, the Jewish tradition has been a key part of France’s DNA, so it is part of ourselves. Again, an attack against any Jew in France is an attack against France itself.