Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, May 2, 2007)

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


WESTERN SAHARA

France welcomes the unanimous adoption on Monday, April 30, of resolution 1754 on Western Sahara renewing the mandate of MINURSO for six months.

France voted in favor of the resolution in the hope that it will lead to a breakthrough in the present stalemate and be a step towards a mutually acceptable political solution.

After years of the status quo, a new momentum started after Morocco, whose efforts were welcomed as serious and credible by the UN Security Council, presented a plan for autonomy that we had judged constructive and useful.

France hopes that by taking into consideration these new developments as the Council urges, the parties will re-start good-faith negotiations without preconditions and with respect for the principles of the United Nations.

(…)

FRANCE/RUSSIA/CWC

In accordance with its commitments under the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (PMG8) adopted at the G8 summit in Kananaskis in June 2002, France is contributing to the destruction of chemical weapons.

Four priorities have been identified: the dismantling of nuclear submarines, the elimination of fissile material, the recruitment of former researchers in the arms sector, and the destruction of chemical weapons.

In this context France, like its G8 partners, had pledged to support cooperation projects with Russia.

So for the tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the intermediate deadline set for Russia to destroy 20% of its chemical weapons under the chemical weapons ban (CWC), France is carrying out two projects at the Russian site for the destruction of chemical weapons located in Schuchye:

- Under a French-Russian intergovernmental agreement, we will be providing 6 million euros for the installation of environmental monitoring equipment which will permit the facility to operate in complete security.

- We are co-financing, with a contribution of 6 million euros, the project to build a second chain for destroying chemical weapons, being handled by the UK.

These efforts are part of the action begun by Russia to destroy its entire stock of chemical weapons by 2012, the deadline set by the Convention.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY VOLUNTARY SERVICE

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting the European conference on international solidarity volunteering which will be held in Paris on May 3 and 4. The meeting is co-organized by the French Association of Volunteers for Progress (AFVP) and the network, 'International Voluntary Service Forum for Development.’

Founded in 1964 the FORUM network is made up of volunteer organizations (associations, agencies, international organs,) from about 20 countries including the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania and the UK. Forum member organizations are working in about a hundred developing countries and field 12,000 volunteers.

The Paris meeting aims to strengthen exchanges between volunteer associations, and share practices, especially in the sphere of training. Associations also get the opportunity to present strategies to the public authorities in each country represented to improve the consideration given to volunteering in national and European public policies. Forty-five members of FORUM, including several representatives of French organizations (AFVP, the NGO volunteer service liaison committee, the Catholic Delegation for Cooperation) will be taking part in the event.

(…)

TURKEY

Q - The Constitutional Court of Turkey has decided for the first time in the country’s history to annul a presidential election that had sparked a crisis between the army and the Islamic Movement-led government. What’s your reaction?

As you said, the Constitutional Court of Turkey last night issued a decision invalidating the first round in the presidential election on the grounds that the requisite quorum had not been achieved.

During a speech to the press on Monday, April 30, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said it was ‘for the Turks and the Turks alone…to decide what they must do for this presidential election.’

The decision by the Constitutional Court of Turkey comes in this context. It is not for me to pass comment.

IRAQ

Q - In February France called for a withdrawal of American and allied forces from Iraq by 2008 as the only way to resolve the civil war. Yet President Bush has just vetoed a bill demanding a military withdrawal from Iraq as of October. What’s your reaction?

Our position hasn’t changed.

We’ve always advocated the prospect of a withdrawal of foreign forces. The objective of the international community must remain the re-establishment of Iraq’s complete sovereignty.

Q - What do you expect from the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting on Iraq? Could you give us the composition of the French delegation?

As you know, there are in fact two meetings being held at Sharm-el-Sheikh, on May 3 and 4.

The first, May 3, is the meeting for the official launch of the International Compact with Iraq. All the UN members have been invited.

We believe that the compact can contribute to the stabilization of Iraq if it leads to the mobilization of Iraqis on the key objectives which are national reconciliation and the equitable sharing of resources and powers.

France and its EU partners support the idea of a compact resting on reciprocal commitments where respect for these is the condition for continued international assistance. The EU is already making a major contribution to Iraq’s reconstruction (1.8 billion euros in financial assistance in 2007 in the form of loans and debt cancellation). It stands ready to contribute to the financing of the compact and intends to be present in the follow-up mechanisms.

The second meeting, which is being held on May 4, is the International Ministerial Conference of the Neighbors of Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, the permanent members of the Security Council and the G8. The UN secretariat, the Arab League, the OIC, the high representative for EU foreign and security policy and the commissioner for foreign affairs are also to attend as observers.

The intensified dialogue between Iraq and all its neighbors in order to strengthen the country’s stability, unity, independence and national reconciliation strikes us as excellent so long as these countries show they are willing to contribute constructively to Iraq’s stability.

France will be represented at the meeting to launch the international compact with Iraq by Ambassador Jean-Pierre Guinhut, Interministerial Delegate for the Reconstruction of Iraq, and at the Iraq neighbors’ conference by our ambassador to Egypt, Philippe Coste.

SUDAN/DARFUR

Q - The judges at the ICI have issued their first two arrest warrants for persons accused of crimes in Darfur, one for a Sudanese minister and the other a leader of the Janjaweed militia. Your reaction?

I would like to remind you that it was at France’s initiative that the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur (resolution 1593, March 2005) to the International Criminal Court (ICI).

According to the initial information in the press which I have, the ICI judges decided to issue the arrest warrants for two officials named by Chief Prosecutor Ocampo in his report of February 27.

We hope the Sudanese authorities cooperate fully with the implementation of these measures.

AFGHANISTAN

Q - Is France trying to obtain an exchange of Taliban prisoners in Kabul before Saturday? Is it the only solution in your view to the hostage crisis given that the ultimatum expires Saturday?

France is fully mobilized, in Paris and on the spot to obtain the release as soon as possible of the hostages held in Afghanistan. Given all the circumstances, you will understand that we are observing the utmost discretion on this matter in accordance with our practice in such situations./.

Embassy of France, May 2, 2007