17 Jan 2013

Mali: ‘I beg you, don’t leave the French alone’ – Kouchner

Former French foreign minister and founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Bernard Kouchner, tells Channel 4 News the UK must help France in Mali, including providing troops.

Former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has begged Britain for more help in Mali, including providing troops on the ground, saying “part of the reason” the UK has not done more is because of question marks over David Cameron‘s relationship with the European Union (EU).

“We are waiting for the British. We are waiting for you and please come. And I don’t know if you are part of the European Union or not. I hope you will stay in the European Union,” he told Channel 4 News.

Challenged about the support the UK has already provided to the French intervention in Mali – in the form of military transport planes – he responded sarcastically: “They sent two planes, very good, thank you very much,” adding that it was “not enough”.

Mr Kouchner’s comments come as French President Francois Hollande said the Algerian hostage crisis showed that French intervention in Mali was justified.

Saying he would like the UK to send troops, Mr Kouchner – the founder of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) – made an impassioned plea to Mr Cameron’s government.

For the time being, we are alone. I beg you don’t leave the French alone. Bernard Kouchner

“The British people for such a mission are our closest friend. We need them. For the time being we are alone. I beg you don’t leave the French alone. This is a common mission, this is a common threat, we are all fighting extremism,” he said.

Asked why in his view Britain was dragging its heels, he said “part of the reason” was because of the Conservatives’ increasingly sceptical attitude to EU membership.

“I believe that this is a particularly difficult time for Mr Cameron. In or out of Europe? He promised us and he did it in Libya,” he said.

“Maybe he’s waiting for this speech to be addressed, then after he will come to us to Mali.”

Mr Kouchner also told Channel 4 News that western targets were “certainly” more at risk after the French intervention in Mali, adding: “Yes, I am very sorry.”

Islamist militants involved in kidnapping foreign workers at a gas facility in Algeria have claimed that their actions were in revenge for French military action in Mali which Algeria has supported by allowing use of its airspace.