Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
France sought to spearhead peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, planning a 2011 initiative to exclude the Middle East Quartet, new documents released by WikiLeaks revealed Tuesday.
According to a US National Security Agency cable, dated June 10, 2011, French president Nicolas Sarkozy was hesitant to include the Quartet, composed of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia, "because that group might not bow to Paris's wishes."
"France would have no control over what transpired in one of its meetings, and if the group elected not to support direct talks, the French initiative would be a non-starter," the leaked cable reads.
As a non-member, Paris feared that if direct talks were to take place, French efforts would be subject to the Quartet, and dominated by then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Russia, however, was considered as a potential partner to facilitate talks. According to the cable, Sarkozy had been "giving thought to appealing to Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev for a possible joint initiative."
Another option weighed by Sarkozy was the possibility of issuing an ultimatum to the Oval Office regarding Palestinian Statehood. The ultimatum would have apparently asked the White House to back France's efforts and warned that failure to do so would compel Paris not to "side with the US in September," an apparent reference to the UN General Assembly's deliberation over Palestinian statehood.
The publication of the cable online comes as a massive cache evidencing US espionage directed against French leaders emerged on Tuesday, including current President Francois Hollande and former President Jacques Chirac.
The documents also come weeks after US President Barack Obama ended his administration's policy of mass telecommunications dragnet, which had also previously targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Reacting to the surveillance carried out by their American ally, French President Francois Hollande called the act "unacceptable," and summoned the US ambassador to explain the transgression.
"France will not tolerate actions that threaten its security and the protection of its interests," a statement from Hollande's office said, adding that surveillance on French interests by the United States was not a necessarily new phenomenon.
"We have to verify this spying has finished," said French government speaker Stephane Le Foll, but warned her country's ministers and diplomats to remain wary and vigilant when speaking on their cellular phones. Reuters contributed to this report.