Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(excerpts)

(Paris, June 1, 2007)

[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]


MOROCCO

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will receive Foreign Minister Mohammed Benaissa and Foreign Minister Delegate Taieb Fassi-Fihri on Monday June 4. The meeting will be followed by a working dinner,

They will discuss our bilateral relations and also talk about regional and international questions of common interest.

France and Morocco maintain close and regular political dialogue. In terms of bilateral cooperation, Morocco is the foremost recipient of our official development assistance. Through this cooperation France means to support the democratic process in Morocco and contribute to the efforts for the kingdom’s economic and social modernization.

At the economic level France is Morocco’s leading trade partner, its foremost client and the top foreign investor. Nearly a thousand French companies have operations in Morocco. Cooperation between French and Moroccan companies also offers opportunities for strengthening ties between both countries’ business communities with a view to trade, greater investment and mutually advantageous partnerships.

(…)

SERBIA

We welcome the arrest of Zravko Tolimir, one of the most important war criminals sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, charged specifically with genocide for his responsibility in the Srebrenica massacres.

The arrest is an encouraging step towards bringing to justice all those charged who are still in hiding. We now expect all the authorities in the region, particularly in the Srpska Republika and Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serb government, to continue their efforts towards full cooperation with the ICTY to quickly find and deliver to The Hague the last of the accused, among them Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadiz.

Q - Is France is favor of reopening negotiations between Serbia and the European Union?

We are talking about the negotiation of a stabilization and association agreement between Serbia and the European Union. We have taken note of the statements made the day before yesterday by Commissioner Oli Rehn on a resumption of negotiations soon. Such a decision falls within the competence of the European Commission, and we are satisfied that the commitments of the new Serb government have made resumption possible. This is a positive signal for Serbia whose key role in stability the region as a whole is known to everyone.

This signal must encourage Belgrade to cooperate with the ICTY—we remain very attached to this, and it will remain fundamental for deepening relations between the European Union and Serbia. The French government reaffirms its complete support to the action of the Tribunal and Ms Del Ponte in the search for war criminals.

INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON AFRICAN PERSPECTIVES

France will take part in the 7th International Forum on African Perspectives in Paris on June 5. The event is jointly organized by the African Development Bank and the OCED Development Center. The gathering will be based on the findings of the annual BAfD/OCED report on the economic perspectives for Africa which this year gives priority to the theme, ‘Access to Water and Sanitation’.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is one of the partners in this event together with the Ministry for the Economy, Finance and Employment, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Commission.

(…)

KOSOVO

Q - Your Russian counterpart, Mikhail Kamynin, announced that the amended resolution on Kosovo still didn’t suit Russia. Your reaction?

We’re currently engaged with all our partners in the Security Council in a process of negotiation on a new resolution. We have distributed to all the delegations in New York a draft resolution on the future status of Kosovo, based on Mr. Ahtisaari’s proposals.

We hope that delegations will take a constructive attitude so that a compromise acceptable to all can be reached and the resolution adopted soon.

As you know, we have already amended the draft resolution. There have already been changes to the text.

So we expect to continue discussing it with all the delegations in New York, including the Russian delegation, with the objective of reaching an agreement on the draft as quickly as possible. We don’t have a deadline in mind but we hope the agreement is reached soon.

Q - The objective you want is still Kosovo’s independence?

The resolution itself doesn’t mention it. The resolution has three main objectives.

The first is to scrap SCR 1244 which was adopted immediately after the conflict in Kosovo and no longer fits the present situation.

The second objective is to support Mr. Ahtisaari’s proposals because we think they are the most likely to lead to a final status for Kosovo.

And the third is to provide for an international presence in Kosovo which of necessity must be covered by a UN Security Council resolution.

Independence is not in itself a question within the competence of the Security Council. It’s not the Security Council that will proclaim Kosovo’s independence. That's not how things happen.

An important element in the resolution, which appears in Mr. Ahtisaari’s plan, is the protection of Serb minorities. It’s an element we are very committed to. The minister referred to it at the G8. As you know, the minister knows Kosovo well because he was the UN administrator there for two years. He insisted a lot on the importance of the future status of Kosovo because he thinks it’s the only way to ensure stability in the region. And he also insisted on the fact that it was probably the best way to protect Serb minorities in a lasting way.

(…)

Q - You said there was no deadline for adopting the resolution. Does the US share this view because the Americans seem to be in a great hurry to see the resolution adopted?

We have worked very well with the US and with our European partners on this question. We shall continue to do so. I don’t know exactly what the US position is with respect to a timetable. I’m recalling our position and I believe that the minister, at the G8 in his final press conference, said that the time was close now when everyone will have to shoulder their responsibilities. But we’ve not discussed a specific date or given a specific timetable. There is some room to continue contacts and discussions, especially with the Russians. But the minister said clearly that the time is approaching when everyone has to meet their responsibilities.

Q - Are there changes in the resolution? Did they come out of negotiations between Russians and French?

The point of the changes is to get an agreement. So we’re taking into consideration the viewpoints of various delegations, including the Russians. But there’s no specific negotiation with the Russians. As always in this kind of resolution, there’s a draft and then an effort is made to refine it so that there’s the broadest possible agreement.

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - About the meeting between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani yesterday. Mr. Solana spoke of useful ideas. Do you have any comment? Has Mr. Solana briefed you on his talks with Mr. Larijani?

As far as we’re concerned, we’ve not had a, exact report on the talks. We are waiting for Mr. Solana to give us an exact report of his meeting with Mr. Larijani.

As you know, the members of the Group of Six want a resumption of negotiations in order to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. The conditions in which these negotiations could be resumed were clearly set out in the three Security Council resolutions which you know, SCR 1696, 1737 and 1747. One of the conditions is a return to suspension of enrichment and reprocessing-related activities.

So we are waiting to know, and for Mr. Solana to tell us, if the Iranians are ready to make the gestures which we expect of them in order to resume negotiations, in particular the gesture I have just mentioned with regard to the suspension of enrichment activities. From this point of view we’ve no indication from Mr. Solana that the Iranians have accepted this condition.

Q - Is it true that Iran is suggesting a partial suspension of its activities and that the Group of Six has rejected the proposal?

I don’t know whether Iran has proposed that. But in any case the Security Council resolutions stipulate the suspension of all activities linked to enrichment and reprocessing. Partial suspension does not therefore comply with the Security Council demands.

Q - Suspension is not negotiable?

We have talked about this many times. Before formal negotiations can be entered into, there has to be double suspension, suspension by the Iranians of their enrichment and reprocessing activities, and suspension of talks on new sanctions. That is what we are demanding before we start negotiations. This must be clearly understood. Then, negotiations can take place, and everyone will come with their proposals.

If the Iranians come to the negotiations and tell us they would like to continue certain enrichment activities, that will be one of the elements in the negotiation. What’s important is that in order to begin negotiations, there is still this requirement for double suspension.

Q - Do you consider that the non-proliferation treaty is still valid?

Obviously. Iran is a signatory and Iran must comply with the provisions of the NPT. There’s no doubt about it. Moreover the Iranians themselves are not disputing it.

LEBANON

Q - Now there’s a tribunal under chapter 7, what’s going to change in Lebanon?

The minister spoke about this when he was there last week and referred to it again in his statement after SCR 1757 was adopted.

What’s important in our view is that the Security Council has met its responsibilities, that it has helped the Lebanese authorities resolve the deadlock over the tribunal. In passing, I would remind you that the Lebanese authorities still have the possibility, until June 10, to convene Parliament and ratify the agreement.

It is important to remember that the resolution has provision for this situation. If between now and June 10 the Lebanese authorities, those who are responsible, decide to convene Parliament and approve the agreement that there will be no further difficulty.

In any case we have helped Lebanon get through a rather sensitive phase. The minister explained to his Lebanese hosts that it was important now to look to the future and to be as resolutely positive as possible.

The tribunal is now established. It is going to be set up. Meanwhile the work of the commission of inquiry continues.

Also, what’s important is the political process. The minister underlined several times that one had to look at things from the standpoint of rallying together, that dialogue had to be established among the Lebanese, that they had to move forward on issues that had not been resolved so far and also prepare for the upcoming elections, including of course the presidential elections which are to be held in the fall.

Our message to all the Lebanese whatever community they belong it, is to urge them to be forward-looking, to rally together and work to advance this political process.

Q - Is France ready to finance the tribunal which is going be set up?

In the tribunal’s statute, as annexed to the resolution, there is a provision that 51% of the cost will be borne by the UN member states in the form of voluntary contributions and that 49% will be paid by Lebanon.

Q - But the government has no money. Paris III was held to help it!

The cost of such a tribunal shouldn’t be exaggerated. It will not absorb all the funding from Paris III, I can assure you. But it is very important politically that the government be involved in financing the tribunal since it is a joint tribunal. So it is logical for its financing to be shared between the international community and Lebanon.

(…)

Q - Did Mr. Kouchner discuss it when he met Mr. Aoun on Monday?

When the minister met Mr. Aoun on Monday, the resolution hadn’t been adopted so the problems were raised in slightly different terms. With that said, the minister delivered the same message to everyone. He had a long meeting in Beirut with the speaker of the parliament, and I can assure you he told him that the best solution was indeed ratification by the Lebanese Parliament. He regretted that Nabih Berry had not convened Parliament to approve the agreement. Obviously the minister’s message is that if things can be done before June 10, this would be better. That’s perfectly clear.

Q - Is France ready to host a Lebanese dialogue?

The Lebanese are big enough to conduct the dialogue themselves. By definition Lebanese dialogue is primarily a matter for the Lebanese.

At the same time France like other countries is ready, if asked, to facilitate things. But for that, there has to be a request from the Lebanese. The idea that the minister floated when he was in Beirut was that it is very useful for Lebanese political figures to discuss their country’s problems outside their country, especially to the Europeans. The idea is for Lebanese political leaders to go to various European capitals, as they’ve done before, for the purpose or raising awareness in the EU countries about the situation in their country.

(…)

Q - Are you in favor of the formation of a national unity government?

It’s not for us to say how such a government should be composed. It’s a known fact about the present situation and the disputes between the majority and opposition which mean that certain communities are no longer represented in the government as they were before.

Our wish, the minister’s wish, is to see the Lebanese rally together as much as possible, all the Lebanese communities, including of course the Shiite community.

(…)

Q - The establishment of the tribunal has created a new given in the region… Do you think it could be a factor for destabilization? (…)

With regard to your first point, in our view the tribunal is definitely not a destabilizing instrument. Quite the opposite. It’s an instrument for justice, an instrument intended to ensure stability in Lebanon with time. We ‘re not aiming to destabilize anyone nor any of the countries you mentioned.

GLOBAL WARMING

Q - What’s France’s reaction to the proposals for the environment and global warming made by President Bush yesterday?

We have to look at things very closely. I don’t wish to react specifically to President Bush’s proposals. I want to make two points.

First, there’s the fact that the fight against global warming is one of our top diplomatic priorities. It was already this under President Chirac and continues to be so under President Sarkozy since, as you know, it’s one of the subjects he mentioned very soon after his election.

The second important element. As you know, the EU is a driving force in the action against global warming. At the last European Council, the EU took very important decisions in this area, especially regarding the development of noncarbon energy and of renewable energy sources. We are in the forefront in these issues. We are very committed on the European side to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and preparation of what is called post Kyoto in 2012.

We will be assessing President Bush’s proposals on this basis.

What is important is that at the G8, all the partners, including of course the US, share the objective of fighting global warming. This is going to be one of the important issues at the summit, and we hope to be able to reach an agreement.

We know perfectly well that not all of the countries interested in this question are necessarily at the table G8. We are well aware that there’s the question of China, India and the developing countries, which is very important and which also has to be addressed. But it is essential for the G8 to set the example and for the G8 countries to show their determination in the fight against global warming.

G8

Q - What’s the state of Russia’s relations at the G8? Has the tension eased?

There were the occasional somewhat lively exchanges, particularly between Mr. Lavrov and Ms Rice. As for our own relations with Russia, President Sarkozy has spoken with Mr. Putin by phone. He’s going to meet with him on the sidelines of the G8. The minister had contact with Mr. Lavrov at Potsdam. We are quite disposed to talk with Russia, work with Russia and develop relations between Russia and France, and Russia and the European Union. From that point of view, we hope that the mandate for negotiating a new EU/Russia agreement is approved, that Poland’s problems are taken into account, but that there’s approval of the negotiating mandating for this agreement. This is our perspective.

Then, obviously, one has to look at issues on a case-by-case basis. There are some difficult questions—Kosovo is one of them. There may be others. These are questions on which we want to talk with the Russians and find the broadest possible understanding. We’re not arguing in terms of confrontation but rather cooperation with the Russians. From this standpoint, the initial contacts between French and Russian officials have confirmed this resolve on our part and also on the part of the Russian themselves.

MISSILE DEFENSE

Q - There’s also the missile shield. Has France’s position changed?

We’ve talked about this several times. France’s position hasn’t changed. The plan in question, which is to protect territories and populations, is an American project involving bilateral negotiations between the US and the Pole and Czechs. We have said all along that it was essential to discuss it with the Russians, that it was important to calm their fears and that we were ready to discuss it in the NATO/Russia Council or in other forums. That’s our position very clearly, and we’ve not changed it.

Q - You mentioned fears about it a few months ago. Fears that the missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland might revive the arms race. Do you still have the same fears now?

We did not say it in that form. We said that it was essential to take into consideration the fears and to answer the questions that were being asked, especially by the Russians. For the rest, it’s an American plan and it’s up to them to answer these questions. The Americans themselves have had contact with the Russians since and conveyed a number of messages, including explaining that for the Americans the project is not directed against Russia but is intended to confront the threat from certain countries like Iran.

(…)

The situation in Germany is perhaps a bit more complex. There’s certainly a lot of discussion about it in Germany. I don’t want to join these debates. Obviously, given that the project may have security implications for Russia or for the European partners, it is very desirable to talk about it, and for the Americans to talk about it with the Russians and also with their European partners and allies. This, the Americans have begun to do. If the Germans have questions, it is desirable for these to be taken into account.

DARFUR

Q - Could there be a decision soon about the humanitarian corridors that Mr. Kouchner has been talking about?

Everyone is focusing on this question of corridors. But it is important to clearly understand that the French initiative, as presented by Mr. Kouchner at the G8, is more than just a matter of corridors.

There’s first a political dimension which is very important. We want to support the efforts of the UN and African Union to further discussions between the Sudanese governments and rebel movements. A number of discussions are in progress to see how the Abuja agreement could be expanded and improved on.

We are also proposing, as the minister has said, to enlarge the contact group and open it up specifically to the G8, to a number of African countries, and China. The minister discussed this with his Chinese counterpart. We’re proposing to arrange a meeting of the contact group in Paris in a few weeks. This political dimension is very important.

Next, there’s a humanitarian dimension which is also important. We are working on options. We’re not doing this on a strictly national basis, we’re doing it in a European framework and at the UN.

We’re considering in particular how to respond to the humanitarian situation in eastern Chad. As you know, the situation has greatly deteriorated. This will have to be worked out with the Chadian authorities. We have French personnel on the ground. The idea is to work with our European partners to see how to set up a European operation, with a UN extension. We also hope that initiatives are taken on the other side of the border, in Darfur, and that there too they think about what the options are for humanitarian intervention, eventually with military support but this still has to be worked out and this is also being done in a European and UN framework.

From this point of view, various options are on the table. The corridor is only one option among others. Others are conceivable, an air corridor, for example. This is what we’re thinking about at this time. In France ideas are being exchanged with the Defense Minister and the Office of the President. Also in a European context. We have asked for elements for the general affairs/external relations council on June 18. We asked the Commission and Council secretariat to propose elements for consideration, options. At the UN, the minister has contacted Ban Ki-moon, and of course we’re staying in close contact with the UN.

Q - Don’t you think the minister’ proposal is a step back in relation to earlier positions when a hybrid force was being demanded?

I believe there’s a misunderstanding. The minister hasn’t proposed only a humanitarian corridor. His plan is to work on the political dimension, to work on the deployment of the hybrid force. Quite obviously it’s not been abandoned, and we continue to work on it. SCR 1706 hasn’t gone away, it is still there to guide us in our action.

But there is a humanitarian emergency which requires us to take measures in the short term, with various options, including the possibility of a corridor. One reads things which suggest that we’re focusing exclusively on this matter of the corridor and the humanitarian aspect. That’s definitely not the case.

Q - Are you saying that pending the establishment of the hybrid force you’re proposing corridors because it’s an emergency?

Actually we’re considering various options, including the possibility of corridors, to be more exact.

Q - You’re working with the Defense Ministry?

Of course, we must work with all the ministries concerned in France. The minister’s idea is that we have personnel in Chad. We have to see how they can help. And we’re quite definite that this shouldn’t be done on an exclusively national basis but that there should be a very strong European component. As we have personnel out there, we have to think about this. But we’re considering the idea of course with the Defense Minister.

Q - Are you working with Chad?

Of course. The minister has already been in contact with the Chadian authorities and will continue to have contacts./.

Embassy of France, June 1, 2007