- Almost 150 world leaders expected for UN's COP21 climate talks
- Security measures add to steps taken after terror attacks
France stepped up already-heavy security in Paris Saturday as more than 140 world leaders are set to descend on the French capital for climate talks that will bring a massive police presence and extensive traffic restrictions just over two weeks after terror attacks shook the nation.
Stores in the greater Paris region have been ordered to pull from their shelves gas cylinders, domestic solvents and firecrackers as part of security measures that will also include shutting down major traffic arteries around the capital for two days and stricter border controls.
France has barred almost 1,000 people from entering the country since the Nov. 13 terror attacks because they were deemed to represent risks to security or public order, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday during a visit to the eastern city of Strasbourg.
From Sunday afternoon through late Monday, the highways leading north and south out of Paris will be shut to normal traffic, as will a northern stretch of the “peripherique,” the road that circles the city. Major boulevards will be closed, while truck traffic in the Paris region will be banned. The police have asked Parisians not to use their cars and to avoid public transport Sunday and Monday, even though it will be free.
The sale of inflammable substances in stores in and around the capital is banned through Dec. 13, according to a spokeswoman for the Paris police.
Organizers say 147 heads of government and state, including U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s Xi Jinping, will attend the Nov. 30 opening of the UN’s COP 21 climate talks, which will take place at Le Bourget, an airport 14 kilometers north of Paris where an international air show is held every two years. The site will officially be UN territory during the duration of the talks. Some of the leaders plan to stay in Paris.
The talks come to a city still recovering from a series of attacks by Islamic radicals at a stadium, restaurants and concert hall that left 130 dead. While museums, cultural venues, street markets, and metro stations that were closed after the attacks have all re-opened, crowds of Parisians continue to flock to impromptu memorials at the sites of the killings.
On Friday, President Francois Hollande presided over a national homage to the victims at the Invalides, a 17th-century military monument in central Paris that houses the tomb of French emperor Napoleon.
Soldiers Patrol Popular Spots
The attacks brought changes to the city. Soldiers patrol popular tourist spots such as the Eiffel Tower, and private security guards search bags at the entrances to department stores. French flags hang from some balconies, a practice previously reserved for major sporting events. As part of emergency measures imposed after Nov. 13, the Interior Ministry canceled a series of public demonstrations planned during COP21.
Some campaigners are under effective house arrest during the climate talks because they have to report to their local police stations more than once a day, Greenpeace France head Jean-Francois Julliard told BFM-TV Saturday. The environmental group landed a hot air balloon near the Eiffel Tower to promote the need for renewable energies, according to a statement.
Even before the terrorist strikes, the government was planning heightened security measures for the climate talks. Border controls -- further accentuated after Nov. 13 -- were planned for the duration of the discussions. France has mobilized 2,800 police to guard the site of the talks. Nearly 15,000 police and customs officials are manning the borders, Cazeneuve said Saturday. He has previously described an “unprecedented” number of mobile police ready to respond to threats.
The meeting formally starts at 11 a.m. Monday, with leaders making short speeches all afternoon. Hollande will host Obama for dinner that evening, after having dined with Xi the previous night. On Tuesday, after the leaders have left, delegates get down to the real negotiations that could last as long as two weeks. There are 40,000 delegates expected, including government negotiators, city mayors, business people, and representatives of civil society.
The meeting will be the largest diplomatic gathering in France since 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.