Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, January 2, 2007)

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


IRAQ

I will read the communiqué issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday, December 30:

“France, which, like all its European partners, is arguing for the universal abolition of the death penalty, takes note of Saddam Hussein's execution, on Saturday, December 30. This decision is the responsibility of Iraq's people and sovereign authorities.

“France calls on all Iraqis to look to the future and work for reconciliation and national unity. More than ever, the goal must be Iraq's return to full sovereignty and stability.”

Q - Your communiqué takes note of Saddam Hussein’s execution. Other European countries condemned it far more explicitly on the grounds of their opposition to the death penalty. Why the absence in the French communiqué of explicit references to direct condemnation of this particular execution. Your communiqué is rather general in spite of everything.

I don’t know if one can see all the nuances you’ve just said in the various European countries. All the European countries have one position, a European Union position, which is opposed to the death penalty and wishes to see it universally abolished. That is stated in our communiqué.

Also, in the case of Saddam Hussein, a decision was handed down by the Iraqi judicial authorities. We therefore take note of this decision, which does not of course mean that we approved it and does not bring into question our opposition to the death penalty.

(…)

Q - In the last paragraph of the communiqué, you said that France invites all Iraqis to look to the future. Isn’t that a provocation after the execution?

I don’t believe it’s a provocation. On the contrary, it’s something that seems to me fully justified. It’s an appeal for the Iraqis, now, to look to the future and work for national reconciliation, to overcome the divisions between the communities. It seems to me, on the contrary, to be very pertinent for Iraq.

Q - What do you think of the images of the execution being shown on all the major TV channels…? What do you think of the eventual impact of these images on the situation in Iraq and beyond?

With regard to the principle itself, that is something which is more a matter for the Iraqi authorities and the measures they took or didn’t take to prevent such images from being seen. As for the consequences, you can see clearly that there’s a risk in that publishing these images and the comments that were made at the time of the execution might fuel the divisions between the communities. It would obviously be completely regrettable.

That is why we said in our communiqué on Saturday, and this is the link, that now the Iraqis must look to the future and work for national reconciliation.

(…)

SPAIN

I will read the statement by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy issued Saturday, December 30:

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Philippe Douste-Blazy, condemns the attack today at Madrid airport and offers his deep sympathy to the victims and their families.

“France stands in solidarity with Spain in this adversity. It stands alongside it in the fight against terrorism.”

INDONESIA

I will read the communiqué from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued Saturday, December 30:

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Philippe Douste-Blazy, has sent the following letter to his counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia.

‘Mr. Minister,

‘It is with profound shock that I learned of the capsizing of the Senopati Nusantara with considerable loss of life.

‘In these particularly painful circumstances, I wish to offer you my sympathy at this difficult time for your country.

‘I would be grateful if you would kindly convey to the victims’ families and friends my very sincere condolences and deep sympathy.

‘[complimentary close].’”

EUROPEAN UNION

I will read the message Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna issued Sunday, December 31.

“Together with Catherine Colonna, Minister Delegate for European Affairs, I wish to offer my warmest wishes for the success of the German presidency of the European Union. We have appreciated how intimately linked our two foreign services are and how they work together every day.

“That is why France will continue, with Germany, to work to promote a strong political Europe. The debate on the future of the European project—whether it is enlargement or institutional issues—will be at the center of our shared concerns. We will also have to continue the integration of a tangible Europe, project-based Europe, in particular through a European energy and research policy.

“Catherine Colonna and I also take this opportunity to express our thanks to Finland as its presidency of the EU comes to a close. It successfully handled important matters for the Union, and directions were set for the future. These will lead to a better response to our citizens’ expectations, whether in regard to EU enlargement, the priority that is being given to innovation or the affirmation of a space of freedom, security and justice in Europe. On the international scene, the European Union, during this period, has shown its unity and determination, particularly in Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

I will read the joint communiqué from Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna issued Sunday, December 31:

“We welcome the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the European Union this January 1.

“The arrival of these two countries in the European Union completes the fifth enlargement, stage one of which took place in 2004 and sealed the unification of Europe after the fall of the Communist regimes and the end of the Soviet grip on central and eastern Europe.

“Romania and Bulgaria made substantial efforts during the preparatory phase to reform their political and economic systems and absorb the community acquis. They benefited and will continue to benefit from EU support, and in particular French support, so they can continue the path they have marked out for themselves. The accession of these two countries, members of La Francophonie, are a positive contribution for the European Union and will strengthen still further our bilateral ties which are already very close.”

SOMALIA

Q - You were opposed to the intervention of neighboring countries in Somalia. Today, the Ethiopians are in Somali towns. Are you in favor of an immediate withdrawal of these forces, and what is France’s position?

We are paying close attention to the development of the situation in Somalia. Troops of the transitional government, supported by the Ethiopian army, appear to have regained control of the capital, Mogadishu, and most of the southern part of the country, particularly the city of Kismayo. The security situation is still very unstable however.

We welcome the resolve demonstrated by the transitional government to begin a broad political dialogue with all the Somali political components. The international community must ensure it gives its entire support to the strengthening of democratic institutions in Somalia.

To answer your question more precisely, we’ve taken note of the statements by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that he intends to withdraw his troops from Somalia as soon as possible. Lastly we hope that IGAD and the African Union continue to consider the most appropriate support to offer for consolidating peace in Somalia through the deployment of an African protection force, as provided for in resolution 1725. This African force could among other things assist the government in setting up Somali national security forces.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - Do you have any information about the AFP photographer who was abducted in Gaza yesterday?

We call for the release of AFP journalist Jaime Razuri who was abducted Monday, January 1, in Gaza. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy phoned AFP chairman and CEO Pierre Louette to express his support and tell him the Foreign Ministry was mobilized.

In Jerusalem our consulate general is in contact with the Palestinian Authority so as to gather information on the journalist’s situation and obtain his release. We are also in contact with the authorities in Peru as Mr Razuri is a Peruvian national.

IRAN

Q - President Ahmadinejad said again this morning that the UN Security Council resolution was illegal and the motivation was political. What is France’s response?

We’re not going to engage in polemics with the Iranian authorities every time they make statements. The resolution is obviously entirely legal and entirely consistent with the UN charter. It was taken on the basis of Article 41, Chapter 7 of the Charter. It was adopted by the Security Council members and is clearly legal. There’s no doubt about that for anyone.

What is important, and the Iranian authorities must keep this in mind, is that the resolution is part of a dynamic process. As you know, at the end of a certain period, after 60 days, another assessment will be made which could lead, depending on the conduct of the Iranian authorities either to suspending the measures taken under Article 41 or lifting them or if the Iranian authorities still do not comply with their obligations, to the consideration of new measures.

That is what the Iranian authorities should be thinking of, the end of the 60 days. We hope of course that their response goes in the right direction and that we’ll be able to work with Iran, we’ll be able to return to a dialogue with the Iranians. As we’ve said many times over, the resolution, which is entirely legal, is not punitive with regard to Iran, it aims to be an incentive for Iran.

(…)

Embassy of France, January 2, 2007