Fabius, France's top diplomat and climate summit leader, steps down

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is leaving his post after playing a key role in the country's major foreign policy challenges such as the Syrian war, and overseeing a pivotal international climate summit.

President Francois Hollande intends to appoint Fabius as the head of the Constitutional Council, which supervises elections and interprets the constitution, the Elysee Palace said.

"This is a position that I've enjoyed very much," Fabius said Wednesday in an interview with broadcaster iTele. "I think we have done a good job of which France can be proud."

"Especially with the COP21, we have accomplished things that are useful to the world," he said, referring to the UN-sponsored climate summit that resulted in the first global accord to keep the planet's temperature rise within a certain limit.

Fabius said he regretted that the world had not followed France's position on Syria, where conflict has raged since 2011. France has consistently called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down as part of a political transition, and Fabius again referred to the leader's "fearful brutality" to his people.

As chief diplomat, Fabius was deeply involved in the negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran. He and his team at times took a tougher stance towards Tehran than the United States, by insisting on additional nuclear concessions by the Islamic Republic.

At the same time, Fabius never lost sight of France's business interests in Iran. Only two weeks after the nuclear deal was struck last July, he travelled to Tehran to prepare the ground for resuming business ties.

Concern over Fabius' health had risen since he collapsed during a public meeting last year, and observers have long speculated over his departure from the cabinet. Fabius has rejected journalists' questions about his health.

His successor is still unclear. French media have speculated that Environment Minister Segolene Royal and former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault are being eyed for the role.

Hollande is expected to pursue a broader reshuffle of the cabinet, led by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, as he looks towards the 2017 elections.

Last month, he lost one of the cabinet's leading leftist voices when Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, resigned in protest over a proposed constitutional amendment aiming to legalize stripping French citizenship from convicted terrorists.

Fabius, 69, who will remain in his ministerial post until the nomination process is complete, has been France's top diplomat since 2012. In the 1980s, he became one of the youngest politicians to hold the office of prime minister, under the presidency of Francois Mitterrand.

Last update: Wed, 10/02/2016 - 22:39
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