French minister criticizes US aid role in Haiti: ‘This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti.’

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CLash over Haiti aid flights (Financial Times):

Fuel shortages, poor communications and a logjam at the Port au Prince airport on Sunday continued to hinder a massive international aid effort to Haiti five days after a devastating earthquake in which more than 100,000 are now feared to have died.

The United Nations humanitarian agency, Ocha, warned at the weekend that humanitarian operations might be forced to shut down in the next few days if fuel supplies were not replenished.

As Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, headed for Haiti to see for himself the extent of the worst humanitarian disaster that the world body has had to cope with in decades, concern grew over delays in the airlift to the capital’s airport, which is under US control.

Alain Joyandet, French co-operation minister, told reporters at the airport he had protested to Washington via the US ambassador about the US military’s management of the airport where he said a French medical aid flight had been turned away.

In Paris, the foreign ministry tried to quash a looming diplomatic spat by insisting Franco-American co-operation was proceeding as well as possible in view of the extent of the disaster.

Mr Joyandet’s complaint underlined the frustration of relief teams dependent on the single runway at the airport to ferry in supplies if they were to avoid 24-hour delays involved in bringing supplies in by road from the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

The French news agency AFP also quoted people trying to leave Haiti as complaining that the US was giving priority to its own citizens. The US military re-established operations at the airport after its control tower was damaged in the earthquake. Kenneth Merten, US ambassador, told AFP: “We’re working in co-ordination with the United Nations and the Haitians. “Clearly it’s necessary to prioritise the planes. It’s clear that there’s a problem.”

Haiti: After a day of deliveries, US ship runs out of aid (AFP)

The solution:

Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) — More U.S. troops are arriving in Haiti today after the American commander on the ground said that security must be improved to ensure aid reaches survivors of last week’s earthquake. Source: Bloomberg

US soldiers at Port-au-Prince international airport.

PARIS (AP) — The United Nations must investigate and clarify the dominant U.S. role in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, a French minister said Monday, claiming that international aid efforts were about helping Haiti, not “occupying” it.

U.S. forces last week turned back a French aid plane carrying a field hospital from the damaged, congested airport in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, prompting a complaint from French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet. The plane landed safely the following day.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned governments and aid groups not to squabble as they try to get their aid into Haiti.

“People always want it to be their plane … that lands,” Kouchner said Monday. “(But) what’s important is the fate of the Haitians.”

But Joyandet persisted.

“This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,” Joyandet, in Brussels for an EU meeting on Haiti, said on French radio.

In another weekend incident, some 250 Americans were flown to New Jersey’s McGuire Air Force Base on three military planes from Haiti. U.S. forces initially blocked French and Canadians nationals from boarding the planes, but the cordon was lifted after protests from French and Canadian officials.

The U.S. military controls the Port-au-Prince airport where only one runway is functioning and has been effectively running aid operations. However, the United Nations has stepped forward to take the lead in the critical task of coordinating aid.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday the U.S. government had no intention of taking power from Haitian officials. “We are working to back them up, but not to supplant them,” she said.

Joyandet said he expects a U.N. decision on how governments should work together in Haiti.

“The U.N. is working on it,” Joyandet said, adding that he hopes “things will be clarified concerning the role of the United States.”

Both nations have occupied Haiti in the past.

France occupied Haiti for more than 100 years, from 1697 to independence in 1804 after the world’s first successful slave uprising. More recently, U.S. Marines occupied the country from 1915 to 1934 to quiet political turmoil.

The Associated Press
Monday, January 18, 2010; 10:08 AM

Source: Washington Post

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