NEW YORK — Claude Cheysson, who as an outspoken foreign minister in the socialist government of François Mitterrand in the 1980s barreled into difficult issues with often undiplomatic zeal, died Oct. 15 in Paris. He was 92.
President Francois Hollande called him ‘‘a great servant of the state and a passionate and lucid politician.’’
Mitterrand became France’s first leftist chief of state in almost 25 years in 1981. When he appointed four Communists to government posts, it was Mr. Cheysson’s job to reassure the newly installed Reagan administration. ‘‘France is France,’’ he said in an interview with The New York Times. ‘‘She honors her signature.’’
Mr. Cheysson, who was viewed as a moderate, was reported to be a candidate for prime minister if Mitterrand’s opponent, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the incumbent, won reelection. Under the French system, the president exercises top authority, while the prime minister handles day-to-day affairs.
When it came to expressing his views, Mr. Cheysson was frank. He was pleased to say that he often heard Mitterrand call him the ‘‘least diplomatic of all the diplomatic corps.’’
He called President Augusto Pinochet of Chile ‘‘a curse on his people’’ and said Soviet leader Yuri Andropov was ‘‘lacking in human warmth.’’ When President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was killed, Mr. Cheysson said the death removed ‘‘an obstacle to rapprochement within the Arab nation.’’
Mr. Cheysson’s outspokenness could put him at odds with his boss. When Britain went to war to defend the Falkland Islands against Argentine claims, Mr. Cheysson demanded that France side with Argentina against what he saw as British colonialism. But Mitterrand countermanded him, saying Britain supported France in two world wars and that it was France’s duty to help Britain.
In the Middle East, Mr. Cheysson scolded Israel for violating UN resolutions and the Palestine Liberation Organization for relying on violence. He said that developed nations must provide ‘‘tens of billions of dollars’’ to the Third World, an idea the US secretary of state, Alexander M. Haig Jr., called unrealistic. George P. Shultz, Haig’s successor, said dealing with Mr. Cheysson was ‘‘aggravating.’’
Mr. Cheysson was born in Paris, graduated from Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale d’Administration, and fought against the Nazis in North Africa. He rose through a succession of diplomatic and governmental posts.
He was a member of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, from 1973 to 1981 and again from 1985 to 1989. He then served as a Socialist member of the European Parliament until 1994.
Mr. Cheysson leaves his third wife, Daniele, three sons, and three daughters, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
Mr. Cheysson did not lack that French quality of honneur that some Americans interpret as superciliousness. In answer to Washington’s worries about Communists in the French government, he said in a radio interview, ‘‘It is possible the Americans’ analysis is not precise enough for them to understand that the situation in France is quite unique.’’