Sarkozy and Kouchner still not on the same page

French President Nicolas Sarkozy took to the pages of Le Monde yesterday with a partial defense of the Swiss minaret ban: “How can you not be amazed at the reaction that this decision has produced in certain media and political circles in our own country,” Sarkozy said. “Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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575747_091209_sarkokouchner2.jpg
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) speaks with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner during a UN Security Council meeting at the United Nations headquarters September 24, 2009 in New York City. The council approved a U.S.-drafted resolution calling on nuclear nations to disarm. (Photo by Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy took to the pages of Le Monde yesterday with a partial defense of the Swiss minaret ban:

"How can you not be amazed at the reaction that this decision has produced in certain media and political circles in our own country," Sarkozy said. "Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, we should try to understand what they meant to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including people in France."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy took to the pages of Le Monde yesterday with a partial defense of the Swiss minaret ban:

“How can you not be amazed at the reaction that this decision has produced in certain media and political circles in our own country,” Sarkozy said. “Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, we should try to understand what they meant to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including people in France.”

The “political circles” he mentions, may be a reference to his own Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who declared himself “scandalized” by the minaret ban last week:

“I hope that the Swiss will go back on this decision rather quickly,” Kouchner said on France’s RTL radio. “It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance.”

It’s  of a head of state-foreign minister pair who disagree as often or as profoundly as Sarkozy and Kouchner. The Medecins Sans Frontieres founder has described his frequent frequent arguments with the president as “thrilling,” though he’s also admitted that it’s essentially impossible to reconcile his passion for human rights with the realities of modern statecraft.

It should be interesting to see how much longer this unlikely partnership can last. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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