French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius received a standing ovation in the country’s National Assembly on Wednesday after announcing that he was leaving the government, ahead of a wider cabinet reshuffle.
Clearly moved, the 69-year-old Socialist told MPs:
“Under the authority of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and under your supervision, I have led French diplomacy with pride and I have served it with pleasure.”
Although his departure was widely anticipated, Fabius, who was France’s youngest prime minister in the mid-1980s, did not explain why he was quitting.
A familiar figure on the world stage, he played a key role in sealing an international deal with Iran to limit its nuclear programme and won praise for helping to broker a global climate change agreement last year at a UN summit in Paris. For now, he will stay on as chairman of that process and head France’s top constitutional court.
Among those tipped to replace him at the Foreign Ministry are President Francois Hollande’s ex-partner and current Environment Minister Segolene Royal, and his former Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Whoever ends up around the table in a new cabinet ahead of next year’s French elections, analysts say a reshuffle is unlikely to give a much-needed lift to Hollande’s popularity ratings.