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MIL OSI Translation. Government of the Republic of France statements from French to English –

Your recent comments on the Prophet’s cartoons, in the name of the defense of freedom of expression, have caused great emotion in the Sahel and the Maghreb. Do you regret it?

I regret that my words have been distorted. I respect every religion. If you read my speeches, you will see that I have been consistent in this matter. But when I decided from the start of my five-year term to attack radical Islam, my words were distorted. By the Muslim Brotherhood, quite widely, but also by Turkey, with a capacity to influence many public opinions, including in sub-Saharan Africa.

I am not attacking Islam, I am attacking Islamist terrorism, knowing that more than 80% of the victims of Islamist terrorist attacks in the world are Muslims. When I paid homage to Samuel Paty [assassinated October 16], I said that we will stand up for what is a right: the right to blaspheme and caricature on our soil. I didn’t say I supported the cartoons.

I also invite you to ask yourselves about the reaction of the international community on this subject: in January 2015, when the journalists of Charlie Hebdo were assassinated in the name of Allah, Muslim leaders came to march in our streets. And today, when a professor was beheaded for teaching freedom of expression, should we apologize? The world is going crazy. I will not give anything to these people.

French military strategy in the Sahel and Operation Barkhane are increasingly criticized. Is a gradual withdrawal envisaged?

I say it and say it again: Operation Barkhane was, after Serval, an explicit request from the sovereign countries of the region. France is only there because Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have requested it, with the support of Chad and Mauritania – the five member states of the G5 Sahel.

Last January, in Pau, we reoriented things, affirming that our operational priorities were the Three Borders area and the EIGS [Islamic State in the Greater Sahara]. This strategy has had results since we have succeeded in very strongly weakening this group and in neutralizing several of its leaders. Until recently, we carried out high-impact operations in the Three Borders area and further north, in Mali.

We have several goals. First, we really refocus on our enemies, the EIGS and the strictly terrorist groups. Then, accelerate the rise of the armies of the G5 Sahel. Finally, internationalize our presence – what we do with the Takuba task force and what we have constantly done with our European partners.

In the coming months, I will have some decisions to make on how to move Barkhane forward. But I need a clear reiteration of the wish of our partners to see France stay by their side.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown last August. Do the new Malian authorities seem to you to be up to the task?

It has not escaped everyone’s notice: the current transition is military, not democratic. Our role has been, in conjunction with African leaders, to do everything to make it as short as possible with a commitment to elections. This is what has been recorded.

There is now in Mali a president, a prime minister and a transitional government, as well as deadlines that seemed acceptable to everyone. So I have no judgment to make. I simply note that the transitional authorities have reiterated their will to fight effectively against terrorism.

Should we negotiate peace with Iyad Ag Ghali and the jihadists in Mali as demanded by many personalities in the country?

We must be part of the clear roadmap that are the Algiers agreements. These provide for a dialogue with different political and autonomist groups. But that does not mean that we have to engage with terrorist groups, which continue to kill civilians and soldiers, including our own. With terrorists, we don’t argue. We fight.

Of course, we know that the border between different groups is often porous. But to put it politically incorrectly: our military presence is not intended to combat all forms of trafficking in the region. It would be absurd.

Do you understand Presidents Issoufou and Déby when they explain that it is normal for France to repair in the Sahel the pots it broke in Libya, by causing the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011?

All those who intervened, including France, have some responsibility for the anomie that has reigned in Libya since 2011, and the situation in Libya has had an obvious impact on its neighbors. The trafficking of arms, human beings and even drugs has been stepped up throughout the Sahel, and terrorists have taken advantage of this to stock up on supplies and better organize themselves. But the Sahelian question cannot be reduced to the Libyan question.

“I am very lucid about the memorial challenges I have in front of me, which are political. The Algerian war is arguably the most dramatic of them, ”you said last January. Should France go further and apologize?

France, unilaterally and unanswered for decades, has taken a lot of action on this issue. The point is not to apologize. In fact, historian Benjamin Stora, who will give me his work in December, does not recommend it. What is needed is to carry out historical work and reconcile memories. We have to face history.

For my part, I continued to do this work of historical recognition, for example with the case of Maurice Audin. Basically, we locked ourselves, on the subject of the Algerian war, in a kind of pendulum between two postures: apology and repentance on the one hand, denial and pride on the other. I want to be in truth and reconciliation, and President Tebboune has expressed his willingness to do the same.

Arrests of Hirak activists, pressure on journalists, administrative and military purges… The Algeria of Abdelmadjid Tebboune does not seem to have broken with certain old practices of the Bouteflika regime. Has he sufficiently taken the measure of the Algerians’ thirst for change?

I tell you frankly: I will do everything in my power to help President Tebboune in this period of transition. He’s courageous. You don’t change a country, institutions and power structures in a few months. There was a revolutionary movement, which is still there, in a different form. There is also a desire for stability, especially in the more rural part of Algeria. Everything must be done for this transition to succeed.

But there is an important time factor. There are also things that are not in our standards and that we would like to see evolve. I have a dialogue of truth with the president each time, but I am never in the invective or in the posture of the lesson giver. Algeria is a great country. Africa cannot succeed without Algeria succeeding.

The intervention of the Moroccan army against the Polisario on November 13 in Guerguerate raised fears of renewed tension between Rabat and Algiers. Like all French presidents, you are faced with a delicate balancing act between these two countries. How are you doing?

We must not approach this subject with the desire not to displease anyone. Morocco is a friendly country, and its King a leader with whom I have exchanges of great confidence and friendship. We know about this conflict and its recent developments. We also know Morocco’s will to re-engage in the African dialogue and to integrate all the instances despite the disagreements there is on this subject.

I am convinced that the various protagonists know that the only way out is political. I do not believe that what happened on November 13 is likely to change this issue in depth, but France is available to help in a political discussion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.

MIL Translation OSI