Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, April 5, 2007)

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


WORLD HEALTH DAY

On the eve of World Health Day, whose theme this year is international health security, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Health and Solidarity Minister Philippe Bas will open a seminar on ‘Strengthening the health security of French nationals living abroad’ on Friday, April 6.

They will present the main issues in health security and announce the implementation of a system to share emergency health information.

The event will take place at 9 a.m. at the Ministry for Health and Solidarity, 14 Avenue Duquesne, Paris 7me.

MOROCCO/FRANCE

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy is meeting today with a ministerial delegation from Morocco led by Foreign Minister Delegate Taieb Fassi-Fihri. The talks will focus on the upcoming events at the United Nations concerning the Western Sahara.

We have already underlined the constructive nature of Morocco’s demarche. The ideas the Moroccans presented to us, which are due to be submitted to the United Nations in a few days, seem to provide a possible basis for the resumption of negotiations. As the question has been at an impasse for several years, the process which is opening offers the possibility of leading to a political solution endorsed by all the parties within the framework of the United Nations.

ACTION AGAINST MINES

As we’ve just held, on Wednesday, April 4, International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action proclaimed by the United Nations, France recalls its commitment to the fight against this scourge. We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines this year.

France, the first permanent member of the Security Council to ratify the Ottawa Convention on July 23, 1998, has fully met its commitments. At the national level it has discharged all its obligations, often way ahead of the prescribed deadlines; for instance, all its stocks of anti-personnel mines were destroyed on December 20, 1999, that is, more than three years ahead of the deadline set by the Convention.

France is taking part in mine clearance in the countries most affected. In a bilateral capacity, mine clearance action was undertaken in 2005 and 2006 in Angola, east Africa, Yemen, Mozambique, Senegal, Burundi, in the Balkans and in Tajikistan. Our country is also participating in multilateral de-mining activities, including those of the European Commission and the United Nations. Our contribution to mine clearance accounts for nearly 10% of that performed by the EU which is by far the leader globally. Our total contribution to demining amounts to 15 million euros a year.

As Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said when the annual report of the National Commission for the Elimination of Anti-Personnel Mines (CNEMA) was officially presented on February 26, 2007, we must intensify our efforts this year of the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Convention and accentuate the three main areas of our country’s commitment to the fight against anti-personnel mines: continue action to see the Ottawa Convention become universal; continue mine clearance by French peacekeeping soldiers, in particular in the Balkans and Lebanon; and place our aid in a perspective of solidarity with the poorest countries, especially in Africa.

FRANCE/UNDP CONSULTATIONS

France and representatives of the UN Development Program (UNDP) are holding strategic consultations in Paris today which were opened by Brigitte Girardin, Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophony, and UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis.

The discussions will focus on the role of UNDP at the heart of the UN operational system, in the context of the process of reform at the UN and in the wake of the report to the UN secretary-general on the overall coherence of the system presented on November 9, 2006.

The French authorities reaffirmed their support for UNDP as the central agency for following progress towards the Millennium Goals, by continuing to increase their financing for the general budget. For 2007 France has already provided 26 million euros for the first installment of just the voluntary contributions. A total of 76 of our compatriots are working for UNDP.

France and UNDP will also examine joint projects during the consultations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, notably in the areas of governance and the management of post-conflict situations.

AFGHANISTAN

Q - About the two Frenchmen kidnapped in Afghanistan. Do you have confirmation they were taken by the Taliban? Are you in touch with the kidnappers? Where are they? What steps are you planning to take?

We have taken note of the contact established with the wire services by a person claiming to be a spokesman for the Taliban and claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of a humanitarian team from the NGO Terre d’Enfance.

We are obviously fully mobilized on this matter and are working in liaison with the Afghan authorities and the NGO concerned.

As always in this type of situation, we will exercise the utmost discretion.

(…)

SYRIA

Q - What’s your reaction to Nancy Pelosi’s statements that Syria is ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel?

I shall make no comment about Ms Pelosi’s visit to Syria.

With regard to our position on the parameters of a negotiation to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, it is known and hasn’t changed. We believe the Syrian track must be taken into consideration in the peace process.

We hope that the window of opportunity opened by the Riyadh summit will revive a process of discussion among all the parties involved in this question.

(…)

Embassy of France, April 5, 2007