Late yesterday afternoon, French forces intervened in Côte d’Ivoire at the express request of the United Nations Secretary-General, on the basis of UNSCR 1975, in support of the UNOCI forces and with one goal and one alone: to neutralize the heavy weapons of the forces supporting Laurent Gbagbo in order to prevent a blood bath and protect the civilian population.
Four French helicopters intervened, targeting their gunfire at armoured vehicles and artillery units. There have been no further interventions since this morning. At the same time, and with the agreement of the elected President, Alassane Ouattara, the French forces took control of Abidjan airport, gathered our nationals at secure points and began evacuating those who so wished, who were fairly few in number.
Laurent Gbagbo’s foreign minister and armed forces chief of staff took refuge at the French embassy yesterday, and this morning they appealed for an end to the fighting.
As I speak, two generals close to former President Gbagbo are in the process of negotiating the conditions of a surrender.
This morning Alain Juppé, President Sarkozy and I were able to take part in a telephone conference with President Ouattara. I want to tell you that President Sarkozy restated to President Ouattara the commitment of France to participating in Côte d’Ivoire’s reconstruction. He also told him of his wish to see a broad national unity government constituted in Côte d’Ivoire, to ensure all Ivorians are reconciled.
Right now my wish is that today will mark the end of four months of efforts by the international community to ensure democracy is respected in Côte d’Ivoire, and I want to remind you of France’s commitment on the first day – and particularly President Sarkozy’s commitment – to spurring the international community into action and ensuring human rights and democracy are respected, both in Côte d’Ivoire and subsequently everywhere in Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen deputies, I think France can today be proud of taking part in the defence and expression of democracy in Côte d’Ivoire./.