France on Wednesday summoned the US ambassador to explain allegations of what French President Francois Hollande branded “unacceptable” spying by the United States on French officials.
Hollande held an emergency meeting of ministers and army commanders after WikiLeaks revelations that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on the last three French presidents.
“France will not tolerate actions that threaten its security and the protection of its interests,” a statement from the president’s office said, adding it was not the first time that allegations of US spying on French interests had surfaced.
“Commitments were made by the US authorities. They need to be recalled and strictly respected.” The French Foreign Ministry summoned the US ambassador to discuss the matter, a French diplomatic source said.
The US Embassy declined to comment. A statement from the US National Security Council said it was not targeting and will not target Hollande’s communications. The statement did not say whether spying had taken place in the past.
While Paris and Washington have good ties in general, UN Security Council veto-holder France fiercely maintains its independence on foreign policy and over the last two years, there have been moments of friction and irritation on both sides.
Hollande was disappointed by US President Barack Obama’s last-minute decision not to strike Syrian government positions in 2013. US officials have frequently, in private, lambasted France’s tough stance in talks over Iran’s nuclear programme.
More documents to come:
The revelations were first reported in French daily Liberation and on news website Mediapart, which said the NSA spied on presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande during the period of at least 2006 until May 2012.
According to the documents, Sarkozy considered restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks without US involvement and Hollande feared a Greek euro zone exit back in 2012.
The latest revelations of spying among Western allies come after it emerged that the NSA had spied on Germany and Germany’s own BND intelligence agency had cooperated with the NSA to spy on officials and companies elsewhere in Europe.
WikiLeaks said on Twitter it would release more documents giving “further evidence as to US true goals in its mass espionage of France.”
“We find it hard to understand or imagine what motivates an ally to spy on allies who are often on the same strategic positions in world affairs,” French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told TELE television.
Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s former chief of staff and one of the reported targets of the NSA, told RTL radio: “Considering the very close relationship we have with the United States, considering the fact we are extremely loyal allies, I feel like trust has been broken.”
The documents included summaries of conversations between French government officials on the global financial crisis, the future of the European Union, the relationship between Hollande’s administration and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, French efforts to determine the make-up of the executive staff of the United Nations, and a dispute between the French and US governments over US spying on France.
The documents also contained the cell phone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysee presidential palace, including the direct cell phone of the president, WikiLeaks said.