February 5, 2013 – Paris – An AJC Board of Governors delegation concluded a three-day visit to Paris today. It followed stops by the group in Amman, Athens, Jerusalem and Berlin.
Among the highlights of the visit were meetings with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Manuel Valls, as well as with the Secretary General of the Elysée, René-Pierre Lemas; the Diplomatic Adviser to President François Hollande, Paul Jean-Ortiz; and the head of the main opposition party (UMP), Jean-Francois Copé.
Moreover, the 20-person delegation, including AJC National President Robert Elman, met with former President Nicolas Sarkozy and, separately, with Jean-David Levitte, who served as the president's diplomatic adviser and sherpa.
In addition, the delegation conferred with the French Ambassador for Human Rights, François Zimeray; Israeli Ambassador to France, Yossi Gal; the Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan; and the U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion. UNESCO also hosted the group at its global headquarters.
Finally, the AJC group met with French Jewish leaders, including Richard Prasquier, the President of CRIF, and the Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim. The delegation was hosted by Hassen Chalghoumi, the Imam of Drancy, at a special ecumenical dinner attended by French officials, over 150 Muslim clerics, and Christian and Jewish clergy.
In Drancy, the AJC group visited the Holocaust memorial and museum, which is dedicated to the memory of the Jews transported to Nazi concentration camps from the Paris suburb.
"AJC leaders first came to France nearly 100 years ago, at the time of the Paris Peace Conference, and established an office in Paris shortly after the Second World War," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, recipient of the French Legion of Honor. "We have consistently viewed France as a critically important country on the world and Jewish stages.
A European leader with global interests, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, home to the world's third largest Jewish community (and largest Jewish Community in Europe), and a major actor in the Middle East and North Africa, France has always ranked near the top of AJC's programmatic priorities. Indeed, our long-standing and wide-ranging relationship with France and its key institutions is
entirely unique in the Jewish world."
On this visit, the AJC delegation focused its discussions on several pressing issues, including Iran's nuclear ambition (France is a member of the P5+1); upheaval in the Arab world and the implications for regional security; Hezbollah and the EU terrorism list; and the current well-being of French Jewry, especially against the backdrop of recent anti-Semitic attacks in Toulouse and Sarcelles.
"As always, we were warmly received, had productive and in-depth >discussions, and shall look forward to our next visit to Paris," Harris added.
AJC Paris is directed by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.