March 11, 2009 / 5:20 PM / 11 years ago

FACTBOX: France's on-off relations with NATO

(Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday that France will rejoin NATO’s integrated command structure, more than 40 years after the then president, Charles de Gaulle, pulled out of the inner circle.

Here are some details about France-NATO relations.

The United States, Canada and 10 West European states signed the Washington Treaty to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949.

LEAVING NATO:

* General Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces from NATO’s command in 1966 at the height of the Cold War and expelled the alliance’s headquarters from Paris and Fontainebleau the next year in protest at what he saw as U.S. hegemony in Europe.

FRANCE OUTSIDE NATO:

* France, after its military withdrawal, championed the idea of more independent European defenses, particularly the idea that the then 12-nation European Community should take on such a role as it developed a common foreign and security policy.

* By 1993 France was again taking part in all planning of peacekeeping operations — part of the alliance’s new role. France also sent planes to Bosnia as part of a NATO force.

— France and Germany also set up a joint corps of 35,000 troops which would be available to NATO or the Western European Union alliance.

CLOSER TIES AGAIN:

* France attended a NATO defense meeting for the first time in 28 years in September 1994, said it was ready for closer ties with the alliance but there was no question of it rejoining the U.S.-led military wing.

* In 1995 aircraft from seven allied countries began the first NATO exercise in France since Paris withdrew.

* France upgraded its links with the alliance later that year, taking up its seat on the military committee and participating fully in formal defense ministers’ meetings. Paris’s move stopped short of France rejoining the alliance’s integrated military structure.

— France announced in January 1996 it would re-establish a permanent military mission to NATO but not rejoin the NATO Defense Planning Committee or the Nuclear Planning Group.

— In October 1997 France, locked in a duel with the United States over distribution of command posts, told NATO again it would not soon rejoin its military structure but would still take part in peacekeeping and other allied troop missions.

* In early 2003 France and Belgium vetoed NATO’s planning for steps to defend Turkey in the event of war against Iraq, apparently unmoved by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s description of their stalling as a “disgrace.”

— NATO eventually broke its month-long deadlock over its plans after talks in a committee where France has no seat.

REJOINING NATO?

* President Nicolas Sarkozy signaled a revolution in French security policy in 2007 by announcing he was considering returning to NATO’s military command. He confirmed the decision in a speech in Paris on March 11.

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