France is not barring entry to its lands, says French ambassador to Cairo

Ahram Online , Ahram Online , Monday 16 Nov 2015

France is reinstating checkpoints along its borders after the recent coordinated Paris attacks that killed 129 people

French ambassador to Cairo André Parant at the French community in Egypt's national mourning event (Photo:The French embassy in Egypt)

France is not barring entry into its lands, but is restoring inspection procedures around its borders, French ambassador to Cairo Andre Parant told reporters on Sunday at the embassy in Cairo.

He added that travellers can still apply for Schengen visas and that those with valid visas are not prohibited from entering France.

The French ambassador's statements came two days after French President Francois Hollande ordered the reinstatement of systematic border checkpoints in response to a series of coordinated attacks on Friday that left at least 129 dead in Paris. The attacks are the deadliest Europe has seen since the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

According to a statement by the French foreign ministry, the reinstated systematic border checks are to be "performed at road crossing-points, rail, sea and airports."

France is one of the members of the Schengen agreement, a collective of 26 European countries that have en masse decided to eliminate passport and immigration controls at their joint borders.

According to the Schengen agreement, travelling from one Schengen country to another is done without any passport and immigration controls or any other formalities that were previously required.

The reinstatement of checkpoints in France sparked confusion among travellers with valid Schengen visas on what a French closure of borders would mean, especially with several airliners saying their flights are to continue to France.

Hundreds of roads lead into France from neighbouring countries like Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany and Switzerland.

Parant said that security procedures at French airports are to remain normal.

The French ambassador also said that he does not expect a shift in France's foreign policy on the Middle East, adding that his country will continue to combat ISIS and will not respond to blackmailing or threats.

"These attacks will invigorate our will and will not stop us from moving forward with fighting terrorism," Parant affirmed.

He also said that although France has thwarted several terrorist attacks in the past, it is still never possible for a country to know when and how each attack is to take place.

"France has long been a target due to its [political prominence in] the world and its fight against terrorism, especially in the Middle East and Africa," Parant said.

He did, however, add that "we do not know if this attack was in response to us fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq."

France was one of the first countries to join the US-led coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq, launching its first airstrikes in the middle of September.

On Friday, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi strongly condemned the Paris attacks in a phone call with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, saying that the attacks will not dissuade nations from combating terrorism and extremism.

The Egyptian cabinet said on Saturday the terrorist threat against France is similar to the one Egypt is facing, reiterating the importance of unity to combat extremist militants.

Parant described Egyptian-French relations as "excellent," hailing the reinforcement of military cooperation between the two countries represented lately in Egypt's Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazy's visit to France last week, as well as the recent sale of Rafale fighter jets and a Mistral warship by France to Egypt.

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