News

France, Germany set crisis, nuclear talks -paper
Fri, 24 Jan 1997 9:01:35 PST (Reuters)

PARIS, Jan 24 (Reuter) - France and Germany have agreed in a joint strategy document to hold a dialogue on nuclear deterrence in a European defence policy and to consult on interventions in international crises, the newspaper Le Monde reported on Friday.

It said the agreements were contained in a common strategic concept adopted by the two countries at a summit in Nuremberg, Germany, last month, which has not yet been made public.

Le Monde published what it said were excerpts from the German text of the document. The two governments agreed at Nuremberg to let their parliaments discuss the agreement before publishing it.

After an international furore over French nuclear testing in 1995, ended a year ago, French Prime Minister Alain Juppe called for discussion of a policy of ``concerted deterrence'' which implied Paris might consult its European allies in widening the definition of vital interests covered by its deterrent.

Apparently signalling German acceptance, Le Monde quoted the document as saying the two countries had agreed to open ``a dialogue on the role on nuclear deterrence in the context of a European defence policy.''

Germany renounced nuclear weapons after World War Two and accepted U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil under NATO.

France's atomic arsenal, and its activist international military posture, long gave it the upper hand in defence and foreign policy discussions with Bonn.

But the document stressed the two countries would conduct a ``concerted defence policy'' on a strictly equal footing.

While nothing in the document bars France from conducting unilateral military actions, both countries agreed ``to consult about an intervention aimed at preventing or settling a crisis.''

Le Monde said the text reassured the Germans on France's continuing commitment to conventional defence in Europe, despite its decision to professionalise its armed forces and focus more on highly mobile, rapid deployment forces.

``All our conventional forces, including rapid reaction forces, are primarily at the service of the defence of our allies in the framework of obligations resulting from the Brussels and Washington treaties,'' it said, referring to the founding agreements of the Western European Union and NATO.

The document said French and German security interests ``have become indissociable,'' that they faced the same risks and that they continued to have a need for territorial defence since the risk of a fundamental change in European security conditions could not be ruled out.

That appeared to attenuate President Jacques Chirac's statement, when he announced a radical overhaul of the French armed forces last February, that France no longer faced a threat of ``invading hordes.''