Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, December 4, 2007)

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


INTERNATIONAL DONORS’ CONFERENCE FOR THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

France has sent invitations to states and the international organizations concerned for the donors’ conference on the Palestinian Territories which will be held in Paris on December 17.

As the minister had announced at the Annapolis conference, all the countries at that conference have been invited along with the other European Union member states, the main contributors, the United Nations and the regional and international economic and financial organizations. About 90 delegations are expected.

France, the host country, will chair the conference. There will be three co-presidents: Tony Blair, Quartet representative for the Middle East; Norway, president of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) of international donors; and the European Commission.

This conference will be the largest international donors’ conference for the Palestinian Territories since the Paris conference in 1996. Following on the Annapolis conference and based on the Palestinian Authority’s reform and development program, the purpose is to mobilize donors and provide financial and political support to the Palestinian Authority. This support should enable it to acquire the capacities to build a viable state.

List of invitations:

- Palestinian Authority.

- UN secretary-general whose delegation will include the agencies concerned.

- Algeria, Argentine, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Oman, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Yemen.

- European Union: the presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the secretary-general/high representative for the CFSP, the European Parliament.

- Arab League; Organization of the Islamic Conference; Gulf Cooperation Council.

- World Bank; International Monetary Fund; European Investment Bank; Islamic Development Bank; Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development; Abu Dhabi Fund for Development; Kuwait Fund for Arab Development; Arab Monetary Fund; Saudi Fund for Development; OPEC Fund.

Q - About the list of invitations for the donors’ conference. Could you tell us about the choice of the participants? Is the purpose solely to pledge help? We see Iraq which has just obtained billions of dollars in aid—are you inviting it to help the Palestinians?

The purpose of the conference is to provide financial support to the Palestinian Authority but also, we’ve emphasized this point a lot, to provide political support. As the minister had said, in order to keep up the momentum of political support that came out of the Annapolis conference, it was agreed to invite all the participants to this meeting. So you’ll find on the list those who were at Annapolis along with the other contributors and international and financial organizations.

Q - So who was the first choice?

You’ll have to ask the Americans.

Q - You took the list just as it was, without looking at it closely?

The minister wanted to invite all the countries that were there to keep up the momentum from Annapolis. The December 17 conference is part of the momentum that developed at Annapolis. It was politically logical to say to those who were at Annapolis: we’ll see you in Paris along with all the representatives of the international community directly involved in support for the Palestinian Authority.

Q - Has France invited only the Palestinian Authority or civil society and Palestinian NGOs as well?

We invited the Palestinian Authority.

Q - Do you have any comment about the serious deterioration on all fronts that we’re seeing in Gaza? The Israelis are attacking and launching air strikes, and cutting back fuel, and the situation is really very difficult, not to say catastrophic.

We are extremely concerned about the situation and we’ve said so repeatedly.

We hope, thanks to the momentum initiated at Annapolis and what will be happening at the donors’ conference on December 17 and subsequent meetings, that we will at last manage to produce a solution for this region with two states living in peace, side by side, which would at last improve the situation, especially in Gaza.

(…)

IRAN

Q - US intelligence published a report yesterday saying that the Iranians froze their military nuclear program in 2003. I’d like your comment on the report and especially the fact that it seems to contradict what’s being said in Paris--and not only in Paris--about how far along Iran is and its intention of acquiring a nuclear weapon.

I want to say first that since 2003 the international community has based its action on facts, in particular the facts reported by the IAEA, not on an assessment of Iran’s intentions. As the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency shows, we can see that Iran has not always answered all the questions that were asked about its past and present activities. We note, with the Agency, that Iran is pursuing its efforts to master enrichment technology. In the circumstances, it appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations, and our position therefore remains unchanged. We must keep up the pressure on Iran. I refer you to what I said yesterday following the meeting of the E3 + 3 in Paris on Saturday: we will continue preparing a resolution of binding measures in the framework of the United Nations.

Q - You say the United Nations. Does that mean there will be no more contacts at other levels of the international community?

Just because we’re working at the UN doesn’t mean that we’re not also working within the European context. This has been the case all along, and will continue to be.

Q - With all due respect to the IAEA which moreover has had a few set-backs in its assessment in other areas, there are 16 agencies, significant ones, in the US intelligence community, which have made this assessment. Even at the level of US policy, it upsets the given for the democrats in the US. Are you still not shifting a tad after this assessment?

Our position remains unchanged. As for your analysis of what’s happening in the US, that’s your view, and I have no comment.

Q - As far as France’s position is concerned, you say it’s not changing as a result of the US intelligence report. What’s the next step and when do you hope to adopt a new resolution, if there’s to be a new resolution?

That will depend on the talks. There too, I refer you to what I said yesterday: discussions are going on between capitals on preparing the draft resolution of binding measures. I can’t say more, it will depend on how the talks go.

Q - Russia’s political director was absent Saturday because of bad weather. Have you been in contact with him since?

Yes, absolutely. On Sunday, the two political directors spoke by phone. Russia is fully party to this exercise as always in talks in the E3 + 3 format.

Q - So they fully share the consensus reached in Paris Saturday?

Absolutely.

Q - Can we deduce from your statement today that French intelligence has different information to that of the US with regard to Iran’s military program?

You’ve a lot of imagination! Your deductions are your own. I would like to add, because I’ve not yet said so, that intelligence assessments, in general, do not requirement particular comment on our part.

So I repeated our position: we observe, in particular thanks to the IAEA report, that Iran it not resepcting its international obligations. We are continuing our demarche, which you’re perfectly familiar with and which means both negotiations and the adoption of eventual binding measures at the UN. This is what’s now being prepared in the wake of the Saturday meeting. It’s also the continuation of the September 28 meeting in New York. Our position remains unchanged. There is no new element today to cause us to alter this position.

(…)

Q - When Mr. ElBaradei’s report was handed in, the IAEA said it had no information about Iran’s military program. [Defense Minister] Morin said he had intelligence to the contrary. Hasn’t the time come to explain the French authorities’ position?

We could forward this message to the Defense Ministry but, as I said, I’ve nothing further to add.

Q - The Chinese have stated they are still against the idea of sanctions (…).

To my knowledge, the Chinese have not changed position since last Saturday’s meeting and as it turns out, thanks to the consensus that was reached, we shall be working together on preparing a resolution of binding measures.

LEBANON

Q - Apparently the minister is expected in Lebanon very shortly.

You’re well-informed. Actually the minister is in a plane right now that’s taking him to Beirut.

Q - What’s the minister going to do in Lebanon?

He’ll be doing what he’s always done, that is, continuing to provide his full support for the ongoing discussions on the election of a Lebanese president with broad support. That’s his objective in going to Beirut today. Our position remains the same.

Since the meetings at La Celle Saint-Cloud, one of his first initiatives as minister of foreign and European affairs, the minister has been at pains to help the talks among all the parties so as to get an agreement on the choice of a president. In line with what he began, it is very important to see him going back to Beirut again, marking in this way his full involvement on this question.

Q - Are French diplomats sensitive to the demand of certain Christian leaders who want to make sure that Christians have a predominance or rather that they’re not marginalized after the presidential election in the next government, the first government of this new legislature?

France is not taking the place of the Lebanese. France is there to help bring about an agreement but it’s up to the Lebanese to define the outlines. It is up to them that it belongs to decide who will be their president. We’re not taking part in this debate which concerns only the Lebanese. We’re doing everything we can to help identify a solution, but the decision belongs to the Lebanese.

(…)

Q - Does France support a package-deal among the various parties in Lebanon?

France is in favor of an agreement that leads to the election of a Lebanese president with broad support. That is our sole objective.

Q - Will the minister be staying in Lebanon until Friday?

I don’t know. He will be there as long as it’s useful. It will depend on the situation. I can’t say today how many days he’ll be staying.

Q - He must have had enough, no?

He loves Lebanon. If he’s going there, it’s because he’s happy to go there, and happy to be contributing as much as he can to coming up with a solution.

Q - What’s the reason for the minister’s visit to Beirut? Has there been a change?

What motivated the visit is the sense that it was useful for him to go to Beirut today. That’s the only thing that motivated the visit.

(…)./.

Embassy of France, December 5, 2007