Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, June 5, 2007)

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


COLOMBIA

I will read a joint communiqué issued by France, Spain and Switzerland:

“France Spain and Switzerland welcome the important initiative which Rodrigo Granda’s release on the decision of the Colombian president represents.

“With this act, the Colombian authorities have shows their willingness to advance the humanitarian exchange.

“The three countries encourage the FARC to respond to this initiative constructively.

“France, Spain and Switzerland will pursue their efforts to reach a humanitarian solution as soon as possible and thus clear the way for peace.”

Q - Are the FARC on the European list of terrorist organizations?

To my knowledge the FARC are on this list.

Q - And you talk to them?

What we’ve been seeking to do from the start in this matter is bring about the conditions for a humanitarian solution, a humanitarian exchange, involving the Colombian authorities and the FARC. That’s our role in this matter. It’s a role aimed at encouraging this exchange.

Q - Now that the Colombian president has announced Rodrigo Granda’s release at France’s express request is the question of admitting him to France less hypothetical?

So far as I know, the question of his coming to France is still hypothetical. I’ve no information about Mr. Grande coming to France.

Q - All the more so as the Colombian president seems to be making it a Franco-French matter. He says that France asked for the man to be released and that he himself doesn’t know France’s reason.

With regard to your first point, I refer you to the communiqué issued by the Office of the President which says President Uribe was expressly asked to make this. The Office of the President recalls that the context for these efforts is to obtain the hostages’ release, and that we hope this development will be heeded by the FARC and that they will respond to it. This is the spirit in which we’re working and we’ve not changed.

As you saw, President Sarkozy met this morning with the family of Ingrid Betancourt, and he’s going to be discussing the question at the G8. So there’s a great deal of activity on this matter by the president and the minister, Mr. Kouchner.

Those are our reasons in this matter, there’s nothing secret.

Q - Is France prepared to take any of the FARC members who are released?

Our idea in this matter is to promote a humanitarian solution, a humanitarian exchange. First, we have to see if a request is made or not. I don’t know of any. Then whether a gesture of this kind might contribute or not to bringing about the conditions for a humanitarian solution. These are our criteria.

Q - And what about the proof the hostages are alive that Mr. Granda is supposed to bring to France?

I don’t know if Mr. Granda is supposed to bring proof. As you know we’ve been waiting for such proof and haven’t had any for a long time. There’s been eyewitness reports recently, but we

are waiting for proof.

SOMALIA

France condemns the attack on June 3 on the prime minister of the Somali transitional government, Ali Mohamed Ghedi, which caused numerous victims and was intended to undermine the entire process of peace and reconciliation in Somalia.

We support the Somali transitional government’s efforts to establish a national reconciliation conference which is to start on June 14. The attack forcefully recalls the need for a political process, the only way to end the cycle of violence in Somalia which has now been going on for 16 years. That is why we call for a truly inclusive national conference at which all parties that renounce violence can be represented.

France is taking part in the current political stabilization process in Somalia, providing assistance to a Burundi contingent which is due to be deployed shortly in the context of the African Union force, AMISOM.

Q - Does the decision to assist the Burundian contingent go back sometime?

So far as I know the decision in principle was made quite a while ago. I believe that the contingent is moreover ready to deploy. So we took the decision in principle to support it, knowing that it had been trained by France.

Q - Are any French troops going to be accompanying the contingent?

It’s support, as we say, but there is no direct participation by French soldiers since it’s an African force.

FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY

France will be taking part in the annual meeting of the CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) which will be held in Stockholm from June 6- 8, 2007. The meeting will review the progress in the third Strategic Plan (2003-2008) and begin discussions on defining the fourth strategic plan.

The consultative group, started in 1995, is a consortium of 32 donors whose mission is to facilitate access to financial services for the poorest populations in the developing countries. It identifies and spreads best practices in microfinance, grants subsidies to select microfinance institutions and supports the preparation of national policies favorable to microfinancing.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is financing the program for strengthening microfinance institutions and its environment (PRIME). The program contributes to the CGAP’s objectives by providing support for the capitalization of practices, the development of regulatory frameworks for microfinance (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in particular) and to strengthening the office for training in microfinance. The French Development Agency (AFD) is also a member of the CGAP executive committee and represents the group of European donors.

DARFUR

Q - Can you tell us about the meeting between the minister and Mr. Adada? The president reportedly asked the minister to submit proposals on Darfur before the G8 summit on June 6. Do you have any comments?

The minister has had a series of talks about Darfur. He met this morning with Mr. Adada, the UN representative who will be responsible for supervising from a political standpoint the deployment of the hybrid force. He also met recently with the Ghanaian minister since, as you know, Ghana currently holds the African Union presidency. He’s also had a series of telephone contacts on this question.

With regard to the state of affairs, there are several aspects. First of all, the political aspect. The minister reminded his interlocutors that we wanted to work very actively on the political aspects, in support of the UN and African Union, especially with regard to expanding or enriching the Abuja agreement. This is obviously a very important point.

He also repeated our proposal to extend the contact group to the G8 countries, to countries like China and certain African countries, and to organize a contact group meeting, if possible at ministerial level, in Paris—possibly for the end of June.

This morning he reviewed with Mr. Adada the prospects for the implementation of UNSCR 1706 and for deploying the hybrid force, which will be phase 3, but also what can already be done in the case of phase 2, especially in order to continue support for the African mission. This is very important since, as you know, the European Union actively supports the African mission.

This is the general framework. Then there’s another aspect which concerns the humanitarian emergency. The minister, like the president, is very sensitive to the humanitarian emergency both in eastern Chad where there are a number of displaced persons who don’t necessarily have access to humanitarian aid and then also in Darfur. A number of ideas have been floated, a number of options are on the table, and we’re examining them with the Defense Ministry obviously. And as the Elysée spokesman said, there is to be a meeting in a few days to determine more precisely the French position on these various options.

The general idea is to see how the three levels of intervention can be organized in practice. The national level, since we have personnel at Abeche who could eventually be used. The European level, since we are keen for there to be a very strong European component and for this to take place in a European context. We have begun working on this. We’ve asked the European Commission and Council secretariat to think about it and to make proposals ahead of the general affairs/external relations council on June 18.

The third level is the United Nations since this type of intervention makes sense only if it ties in with the UN and if it is conducted, I would say, under the UN umbrella.

I can’t tell you what will come out of the meetings which will be held in a few days. It is up to the president to make a decision about these French ideas and an eventual French contribution to such an operation.

(…)

MOROCCO/FRANCE

Q - Can you tell us about the meeting last night between Mr. Kouchner and Mr. Benaissa?

The minister received his Moroccan counterpart, Mohamed Benaissa, accompanied by the minister delegate Tayeb Fassi-Fihri, for a meeting followed by a working dinner.

It was a very warm and informal initial contact between the two ministers who discussed as a priority the proposed Mediterranean union that President Sarkozy is seeking.

The Moroccan minister showed a keen interest in the French initiative and wants to be involved as soon as possible in the exchanges of ideas, which the minister agreed to with pleasure.

The question of migrations was discussed at length in this context, with particular attention being given to co-development projects which are the best way to help countries that are sources of immigration improve their economic and social situation.

Security issues and the fight against terrorism were also discussed at the meeting. Then the ministers turned to a broad review of international questions, foremost among them the Western Sahara and the Middle East. Lastly it was agreed that Morocco and France would keep up a sustained pace for their exchanges and consultations. But there was no doubt about that.

(…)

Q - Did they talk about the meetings UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is having in Madrid today with Mr. Zapatero and Mr. Moratinos about the Western Sahara?

They went over the various aspects of the question. What is important is to see how we can work. We welcomed at the time the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco. We considered it was a constructive element and we have to see how things can move forward, and particularly if the meeting that’s been mentioned can be held.

Q - You said the Moroccan minister discussed the situation in the Middle East. Did he also discuss the Mediterranean initiative? Which countries are going to be part of it?

The minister presented our ideas at this stage. It’s President Sarkozy’s project. We have begun working on it but we’re not going to be doing it alone.

There was a meeting of the Mediterranean forum last week at which France was represented by Jean-Pierre Jouyet. He presented the main lines of this idea and talked about it with our Mediterranean partners. We shall continue discussing it with our European partners and with our Mediterranean partners.

We don’t have a turn-key project. You can well imagine that with a project like this it is not up to us to say who the participants will be or what areas are to be covered. We shall present ideas, and then they will have to be refined with our partners.

To answer your question about the list of participating countries, you obviously have the countries along the Mediterranean. Then there may be a question about the link with the European Union. Do we take into account all the EU countries or just those in the south? There will necessarily have to be some link between the EU and the Mediterranean union. It’s a point that we have to think about.

We don’t have all the answers, but there is willingness to begin thinking about the idea.

Q - Are you going to undertake a promotional campaign for it?

To undertake a promotional campaign would mean that it was some gimmicky project and that we already had completely set ideas about it. That’s not at all the situation. It’s a very serious initiative on which we shall be conferring and working together with our partners.

Q - Is it a project that’s going to replace the Barcelona process?

We have to think about the link between this project for a Mediterranean union and the Barcelona process which has existed since 1995 and has resulted in some very important ideas. One shouldn’t minimize the importance of Barcelona. The idea is not to dump Barcelona. It’s to see how we can launch this initiative, which is perhaps more ambitious and more political also than Barcelona was, so that we could deal with issues of common interest, as the president has said. Then we have to think about the link between this initiative and the Barcelona process, to which our partners are very committed, especially the Spanish.

Q - In your view, can this initiative be realized without a comprehensive settlement in the region?

That’s the question that was already asked regarding Barcelona. The problem is that if we wait for all the region’s political problems to be settled before launching an initiative of this kind, we might wait quite a long time. The gamble too is that this type of initiative may lead to a resolution of any eventual political questions. That was a bit the gamble at the time Barcelona was launched except that the political dimension was perhaps not sufficiently developed in this framework. Obviously these questions will have to be discussed.

Q - That presupposes first a start towards normalization between Morocco and Algeria. And it also presupposes a definitive reconciliation between France and Algeria.

With regard to your second question, France and Algeria have excellent relations, and I don’t think the word “reconciliation” is the right one.

As for your first question, it’s what I was saying a moment ago. The more the resolution of political questions advances, the easier it will be to launch the imitative. At the same time this political initiative may also help resolve outstanding issues, including in the Maghreb. The Maghreb dimension is very important. We have tried to promote it through the Barcelona process, and it is an important element as well behind the Mediterranean initiative.

SPAIN

Q - This morning ETA announced the end of the truce it has kept for two months in Spain. What is France’s reaction?

The French government regrets ETA’s announcement of an end to the permanent cease-fire instituted on March 24, 2006. The announcement by the terrorist organization is bad news. It confirms the refusal to end violence tragically expressed in the attack on December 30, 2006 at Barrejas airport which killed two people.

President Sarkozy reaffirmed to the president of the Spanish government, Mr. Zaptero, during his visit to Madrid on May 31 the “complete and determined support of French democracy” for Spain in its fight against ETA terrorism and said that “in confronting terrorism there is only one policy for democracies: unity.”

France will therefore continue to work in total cooperation with Spain until the effective end of ETA violence and terrorism.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - Do you have any comment on Amnesty International’s report on the situation in the Palestinian Territories? The situation is disastrous. Lebanon is confronted with extremist groups. For the Palestinians, the situation is even more difficult. Your comments?

I’ve no particular comment about this specific report. There have been several reports in this same vein which indeed show that the situation in Gaza and the Territories is very disturbing whether from a humanitarian point of view or political and economic.

We entirely share these concerns, but the question is not what the facts are because unfortunately the facts are known but rather what we can do, what the international community can do. This brings us back specifically to the question of resuming direct aid to the Palestinians, the gestures we expect from Israel, in particular handing over funds that have been frozen, removing obstacles to the circulation of people and goods. We always come back to these questions on which we are very mobilized. We must continue to work with the European Union and the Quartet.

Q - What can the West do now that the Palestinians find themselves trapped in Lebanon and the Territories where the situation is truly catastrophic?

This is the type of initiative I was referring to a moment ago. The situation is a bit different in Lebanon. I don’t think you should conflate everything, especially with what is happening now in the Nahr el-Barad camp which is very specific and not representative fortunately for the vast majority of the Palestinian population. So let’s not mix these different aspects together. In any case with regard to the Palestinian territories, as I’ve just said, it’s this type of initiate that we want to continue to take.

Q - Today people in Israel and the world are commemorating the end of the Six-Day War which put an end to resolution 242. What is France’s position with respect to this resolution?

There is resolution 242 but there are others, as you know. Speaking generally, it is correct that we are commemorating the 40th anniversary of this six-day war.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as is known, is one of the oldest on earth unfortunately and probably one the most difficult to solve. We are still actuated by the same conviction--that we can obtain a just and lasting peace only by acknowledging the right of the Palestinians to build a viable state while guaranteeing of course to Israel its complete security. We shall continue to work to the end, animated by this conviction.

We have systematically condemned and will continue to condemn the use of terrorism; we have condemned and will continue to condemn the continued Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories which are liable to strip of all substance the prospect of these two viable states living side by side in peace and security.

We consider there is a desire for peace on both sides, but confidence-building is needed. The work must be directed now to rebuilding confidence, and we shall be working on this with the international community and the European Union, without of course taking the place of the parties of course but so as to create a favorable climate and ensure no irreversible gestures are made which preempt a final settlement.

Q - But resolution 242 demands withdrawal from the occupied territories. Is the resolution still valid in France’s eyes?

Resolution 242 is a resolution of the United Nations and as such continues to be valid. There’s a whole series of resolutions which exist and remain valid, of course.

Q - Can you confirm that the head of the Palestinian Authority is coming to France on June 18?

I’ve no confirmation, but a visit is possible.

LEBANON

Q - You said yesterday that France supported the Lebanese army’s efforts to extend its authority to the whole of national territory. After what’s happened at Ain al-Hilweh and Nahr al-Bared, what concrete form might this support take?

The minister commented on this during his visit to Lebanon. Actually the support may take two forms. One is political; we support the Lebanese army which is the army that acts in the name of the legitimate authorities of Lebanon to reestablish the order and authority of the state, particularly in the Nahr al-Bared camp. I note also that this action has very broad support, including among many Arab countries and many Palestinians.

Also as we’ve said before, there’s also military cooperation, already fairly long-standing, with the Lebanese army. Recently we have in fact had a number of requests from the Lebanese authorities which we decided to respond to, essentially by providing munitions and light equipment.

(…)

Q - What is your analysis of the situation in the Nahr el-Barad camp? Who is behind all this?

I’ve no particular analysis. There’s obviously a group which is called Fatah al-Islam and which is terrorist in nature. The Lebanese authorities have decided to restore order, they are on Lebanese territory and we support them in their action. But don’t expect me to tell you where the group comes from and what its possible ties are with the outside. There’s quite a lot of speculation, but it’s not my place to comment.

Q - And about yesterday’s attack?

We quite obviously condemn this new indiscriminate attack in the strongest possible terms. It injured many people and caused significant material damage. We again express our solidarity with the Lebanese and call on them to remain united and not lower their guard in the face of attempts to destabilize their country for it is unfortunately an attack that comes after many others.

(…)

Embassy of France, June 5, 2007