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France’s army chief calls on troops warning of ‘civil war’ to step down France’s army chief of staff has called on a soldiers who signed an open letter warning about the risk of “civil war” in France to quit the armed forces. He had warned of sanctions when a previous letter was published last month, signed by retired generals.

“The most reasonable step is certainly to leave the institution in order to freely express their ideas and convictions,” General Francois Lecointre wrote in a letter to military personnel.

“Every soldier enjoys freedom of thought but must unambiguously distinguish between civic and military duties,” he wrote, adding that those who wrote the open letter published on Sunday “largely violated” the obligation of discretion for members of the armed services.

At the end of April, Lecointre said the 24 generals who signed a similar letter in the same publication last month would face a military council and other active-duty soldiers would receive “military disciplinary sanctions”.

In his letter this week, the army chief did not mention any sanctions in particular but simply called on the soldiers to step down.

The soldiers’ letter warned of unrest in the country because of what they called “concessions” to Islamism by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Defence Minister Florence Parly said the letters were part of a “crude political scheme”, and reminded soldiers of their obligation of neutrality.

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