|Kerry in Paris on Sunday and (right) French foreign minister Laurent Fabius (Reuters)
Paris, Sept. 8 (Reuters): French, it is said, is the language of love.
US secretary of state John Kerry flaunted his fluency in the language yesterday to deliver something of a love letter to France, one of the few world powers that seems likely to join the US in any military action against Syria.
Following the British parliament’s August 29 vote to reject any British use of force against Syria, France has made no secret of its desire to play Washington's supporting partner.
Speaking in French for eight minutes beneath the gold-painted cherubs of one of the Quai d’Orsay’s elegant salons, Kerry traced the history of US-French relations beginning from the American Revolution, while glossing over their many tiffs.
“When he visited General de Gaulle in Paris more than 50 years ago, President Kennedy said, and I quote, ‘the relationship between France and the United States is crucially important for the preservation of liberty in the whole world’,” Kerry said.
“Today, faced with the brutal chemical weapons attacks in Syria, that relationship evoked by President Kennedy is more crucial than ever,” he added.
Not to be outdone, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius broke a taboo by speaking in English at a news conference in the foreign ministry’s elegant building on the banks of the Seine, where he once chided a reporter, “Here, sir, we speak French.”
An IFOP poll published on Saturday showed 68 per cent of French were against an intervention in Syria.
France took no part in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which it strongly opposed, but joined the US, Britain and others in a military intervention that helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Kerry, who learned French as a boy, found his fluency a liability during his 2004 US presidential campaign, feeding an image of the Democrat as a wealthy elitist that his Republican opponent, then-President George W. Bush, exploited.
As a diplomat, however, it is an asset, allowing him to speak directly to the French about their unhappy history with chemical warfare during World War One.