Snowden case: France apologises in Bolivia plane row

LONDON: France has apologised to Bolivia for refusing to allow President Evo Morales’ jet into its airspace, blaming “conflicting information”.

Bolivia accused France, Italy, Spain and Portugal of blocking the plane.

It said some wrongly believed US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board.

Speaking in Berlin, French President Francois Hollande said he granted permission as soon as he knew it was Mr Morales’ plane.

President Morales was flying back to Bolivia from Moscow when the plane was forced to stop in Vienna.

Angry reactions

The French foreign ministry issued a statement on the incident.

Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said: “The foreign minister called his Bolivian counterpart to tell him about France’s regrets after the incident caused by the late confirmation of permission for President Morales’ plane to fly over [French] territory.”

The episode sparked angry reactions from heads of state across Latin America.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner referred to “not only the humiliation of a sister country, but of the South American continent”.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Twitter: “I reaffirm all our solidarity with Evo [Morales] and from Venezuela, with dignity, we will respond to this dangerous, disproportionate, and unacceptable aggression”
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa tweeted: “We express our solidarity with Evo [Morales] and the brave Bolivian people.”
A statement by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said: “The embarrassment to President Morales hits not only Bolivia, but all of Latin America.”
Demonstrators marched on the French embassy in La Paz, burning the French flag and demanding the expulsion of the ambassador to Bolivia.

President Correa asked that the Unasur group of South American nations call an urgent meeting over the matter.

The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, expressed his “deep displeasure” with the “lack of respect” shown by the countries that denied airspace to Mr Morales’ jet.

Bolivia’s Vice-President Alvaro Garcia said a group of Latin American leaders would meet in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on Thursday over the case.