France has appointed lawmaker Thierry Mariani as its new special envoy to oversee its response to the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a senior official told AFP on Friday.
Mariani, a 50-year-old deputy from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing ruling party, replaces Pierre Lellouche, who was promoted to become minister for Europe in last month’s cabinet reshuffle.
He is currently vice-chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee and has contacts in Central Asia through his role in French lawmakers’ outreach groups for Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia.
While answering directly to Sarkozy, he will have an office and support team at the French foreign ministry, when not travelling to the region and liaising with his US, British and German counterparts in the “AfPak” role.
US President Barack Obama started a trend this year among Western governments to appoint high-level envoys to deal with the conflict, naming Clinton-era diplomatic heavyweight Richard Holbrooke as his ambassador.
Britain has Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles in the role, and Germany sent Ambassador Bernd Mutzelberg.
France has around 3,000 troops attached to the NATO force fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and has expressed deep concern over the growing conflict in neighbouring nuclear-armed Pakistan.