Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, April 2, 2007)

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


UNITED STATES/FRANCE

The two co-chairs of the French caucus, Representative Jim Oberstar, Democrat from Minnesota and chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Representative John Boozman, Republican from Arkansas, will be in France from April 3 to 5. They will be accompanied by a bipartisan delegation of ten legislators from the two chambers.

The French caucus, founded in fall 2003, now has 100 members, of whom 22 are senators and 78 representatives.

The delegation of US legislators will arrive from Brussels by the high-speed TGV train. They will be met in Paris by Mr. Perben, Minister for Transport, Capital Works, Tourism and Marine Affairs, Ms Lagarde, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, and Civil Aviation Director General Didier Lallement. The legislators will also have meetings with the directors of Air-France-KLM, Airbus and FedEx. A half-day visit to Toulouse will enable them to visit the Airbus plant. They will be received by several French legislators for dinner at the National Assembly.

The visit comes just after the adoption by European Union transport ministers of the ‘open skies’ agreement and the inauguration of the new TGV east European line.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - What’s your reaction to Ehud Olmert’s statements about a conference with Arab countries? Which countries do you think should take part in such a conference? Do you see a role for Syria in this context and how do you assess the trip by the speaker of the US House of Representatives, which includes Damascus?

Anything which is directed to reviving the peace process and has the agreement of the parties is a good thing. For the rest, I refer you to the press briefing that Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will be having with his Palestinian counterpart Ziad Abu Amr in the early afternoon, after their lunch.

With regard to your second question, it’s not my place to comment on the activities of a foreign legislator. We have had occasion to recall our position regarding Syria during Mr. Solana’s visit to Damascus.

SUDAN/DARFUR

Q - Sudan has agreed to UN logistic support for the African force in Darfur. Does France intend to take part in these UN efforts? Second, what’s your reaction to the deterioration in the security situation (a helicopter of the African force was hit by fire and about 40 people have died in inter-tribal clashes)?

We are concerned about the situation on the ground. The attacks on civilians are unacceptable. We call on the Sudanese authorities to fully investigate the actions you refer to. The attacks on the African Union peacekeepers are equally unacceptable. They are a violation of the cease-fire commitments and undermine the efforts being made by the international community to improve the humanitarian situation.

With regard to the UN logistic support that Sudan would be prepared to accept, we take note of the statements attributed to President Bashir. They need to be confirmed.

In any case, the question continues to be examined by the UN Security Council, which will have to be informed of the positions of the various parties. In light of these elements, France, with its Security Council partners, will consider all measures that might help advance this aspect of the question which remains the determining factor for the security of populations and for improving the security situation.

As regards the composition of the UN force, I will remind you that it was agreed that it would be composed essentially of African contingents.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

Q - Which points is Mr. Douste-Blazy going to insist on at his meeting with the Palestinian foreign minister? When does the meeting start?

As we said at Friday’s briefing, the meeting will afford the opportunity to discuss the revival of the peace process in the wake of the Arab League summit, and examine the conditions for a resumption of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority and the modalities for our contacts in light of the Gymnich discussions. The two ministers will also review the situation in the Palestinian Territories, including the question of prisoners, in particular Corporal Gilad Shalit’s release.

The meeting between the two ministers will begin in a few minutes and will be followed by a press briefing. (…)

Embassy of France, April 2, 2007