Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, March 6, 2007)

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


HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

France will host, at President Chirac’s initiative, an international conference on March 15 and 16 entitled, “Health insurance coverage in developing countries: breaking the vicious cycle between sickness and poverty."

The international community has pursued resolute action against poverty and the major pandemics in the last few years, especially at the Millennium Summit in September 2000 which set several objectives concerning health issues. At the same time a debate has started on improving health insurance coverage in developing countries. It is known today that the health of people in developing countries will not improve significantly without at the same time consolidating their health system which requires a mechanism for health insurance coverage.

The G8 summit at Saint Petersburg in July 2006 encouraged “stepped-up discussion at the international level on practical approaches to the expansion of public, private and community-based health insurance coverage in developing countries.” The high-level meeting in Paris is being held in the context of a controlled and humanized globalization. It will be attended by some 50 health ministers together with representatives of the main international organizations concerned (International Labor Organization, World Health Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and OECD in particular), civil society and the private sector.

All the proceedings are open to the press.

Nicole Ameline, ambassador at large for social issues and parity in international relations, and French government delegate to the ILO, and Professor Michel Kazatchkine, ambassador at large for the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and transmittable diseases, will outline the issues and objectives at the international conference for the press on Thursday, March 8, at 5 p.m. at the Centre d’Accueil de la Presse Etrangere (Maison de la radio).

(…)

FRANCE/YEMEN/OMAN

Brigitte Girardin, Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophony, will visit Yemen on March 7 and 8, then Oman on March 9 and 10, 2007. The visit comes in the context of the excellent relations that France has with these two countries.

In line with the presentation of the 2006 edition of the UNDP report on human development in the Arab world, in Sana’a in December, Ms Girardin will take part in International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8, organized by the Union of Yemeni Women. She will also meet with Yemeni Human Rights Minister Khadijah Ahmad al-Haisami, and persons interested in the question of women’s rights.

In Yemen Ms Girardin will sign the France-Yemen framework partnership document (DCP) with her counterpart. This document, prepared in conjunction with our Yemeni partners, sets out the priorities for cooperation between France and Yemen for the next five years, with a French contribution that could reach 95 million euros.

The minister will be received in audience by Yemen’s President Ali Abdallah Saleh to whom she will deliver a message from President Chirac.

In Oman Ms Girardin is due to meet with Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi. During her meetings she will discuss regional questions and various matters of bilateral interest. Ms Girardin will also convey a message from President Chirac to the Sultan of Oman His Majesty Qaboos bin Said al-Said.

Q - Ms Girardin is going to Oman and then Yemen and Mr. Douste-Blazy is going to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. What’s the meaning of this diplomatic campaign to the Gulf states?

I recognize it’s a group approach but it’s more of a coincidence. I don’t believe it was planned.

Ms Girardin’s trip to Oman and Yemen had been planned from some time.

The visit to Yemen coincides with International Women’s Day, and there will be a strong bilateral cooperation component with the signing of a DCP, a framework partnership document.

As for the foreign minister, there’s been a plan for him to go to Kuwait and the Emirates for some time, and it’s due to happen at the end of the week. We will give you the program in more detail in a day or two.

So I’d say it was more a fortunate coincidence. It reflects our interest in these countries in the region.

Q - Culture Minister Donnedieu de Vabres is also going to Abu Dhabi?

He’s already there to sign an agreement.

(…)

ETHIOPIA

Q - Is there anything new about the business in Ethiopia and the disappearance of the Europeans?

I’ll read you the statement made by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy:

“As confirmed by the United Kingdom, five people working for the British Embassy in Addis Ababa have been kidnapped in northern Ethiopia.

“One of these persons is a French national.

“We are in permanent contact with the British authorities, in London and in Addis Ababa, and I am personally following this matter.”

(…)

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC/SUDAN/CHAD

Q - Do you have anything new regarding the Central Africa Republic?

No element in particular. Ms Girardin made a statement yesterday.

We condemn the attacks that took place Saturday and Sunday, which were carried out by UFDR rebels. We consider these attacks complicate the process of political dialogue.

I would remind you that the United Nations is studying the deployment of a force in the northeast of the Central African Republic in order to prevent problems overflowing linked to the insecurity in neighboring Darfur. The events at the end of last week confirmed this again.

For all questions pertaining to the engagement of French forces, I refer you to the Ministry of Defense. Keep in mind that we intervened, as Ms Girardin said yesterday, in the context of our agreement with the Central African Republic.

Q - Is it a defense agreement with the Central African Republic?

It’s a defense agreement.

Q - Do you get the impression that there’s a link between what’s happening in the Central African Republic and what’s happening on the borders between Sudan, Chad and the Central Africa Republic?

Yes. We feel that what’s happening in Darfur has a destabilizing effect on the neighboring countries, especially Chad and the Central African Republic. That is why we’ve been asking for some time for the deployment of an international force along the borders. The idea for an international presence was well received nearly two months ago. We’re now working on bringing it to fruition. As you know, there are still certain reservations and difficulties to overcome, but we’re still working in that direction.

Q - Where are the rebel bases?

I don’t know precisely where they are located, but it is obvious to everyone that there is a link between the instability in Darfur and what we’re seeing on the borders with Chad and the Central African Republic. In some cases, these rebel movements can take advantage of the instability in Darfur to conduct operations.

Q - Are the Sudanese responsible?

It’s not for me to say. What’s clear is that there is a source of instability in Darfur which has consequences for the neighboring countries. This is the question we want to help resolve, notably with the deployment of an international presence on the borders.

Q - What’s blocking progress towards getting an international force on the borders?

We are working with the Chadian authorities to confirm their agreement and be able to move forward on deploying the international presence. As I said, there was a favorable reception in the UN Security Council, but of course the agreement of the countries concerned is also needed, and that’s what we’re working on at this time.

Q - Has a framework been defined?

Not really a framework. There was a report which was favorably received by the Security Council. There’s just an outline, and it’s the basis for what we’re working on. We have to continue working with the countries directly concerned, Chad and the Central African Republic, so that this presence can be established. As you know, the prime minister himself went to Chad a short while ago, and at the time the Chadian authorities said they tended to be positive on the principle of the international presence.

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - Are there any new developments in the talks in the Security Council?

As the ambassadors in New York said, there were consultations yesterday which are due to continue today on the elements of a new resolution. Things are moving forward, and we have to let the consultations continue. I’ve nothing very new to add on the matter.

Q - Are the discussions getting a bit more specific?

The discussions in New York confirmed what had emerged from the discussions among the Six at political directors’ level. There’s agreement on the framework envisaged, that is, a new resolution based on article 41 of the Charter which in a way deepens resolution 1737. Now, the discussions are dealing with various measures that might be considered, the possibility in fact of lengthening certain lists of entities mentioned in resolution 1737, the possibility of giving a more binding character to certain provisions of 1737 and maybe certain additional measures. The talks are focusing on all those elements.

Q - Can you go into the details about the additional measures?

It’s not easy to go into details because there’s no agreement yet on these measures. It would be premature to talk about it, but certain ideas are being aired.

Q - Do the additional measures fall within the framework of strengthening resolution 1737 or are we talking about new, binding measures?

In any case, the approach is the same. It’s still the approach of resolution 1737, which is a progressive tack which we adopted at the start. The idea is to increase the pressure on Iran by moving on to a new stage. This requires deepening 1737 by developing certain measures in the resolution, by making some of the measures there binding and then maybe adding new measures that weren’t in 1737.

(…)

COTE D’IVOIRE

Q - Can the French troops in Cote d’Ivoire go home now?

Ms Girardin and Ms Alliot-Marie both welcomed the agreement that’s been reached which addresses the substantive issues in the Ivorian question and is in line with previous agreements and UN resolutions, resolutions whose objective was the organization of fault-free elections in Cote d’Ivoire.

It’s important to emphasize that the agreement is the result of ECOWAS efforts and especially the Burkina Faso presidency of ECOWAS. We are delighted to see the Africans take a key role in resolving this question, based on all that had been done by the international community.

Now we’re waiting to see the aftereffects of the agreement, how it translates into practice. Based on that we’ll see what change we can consider in the international community’s role. Once we talk of a change in the role of the international community, then it has to be considered by both the African Union and the Security Council, which defined the legal and institutional framework for the Ivorian peace process.

Consultations are scheduled to be held at the United Nations next Monday. That is the framework for the discussions.

(…)

Q - You don’t want to pull French troops out?

The French troops, the Licorne force, is there in support of UNOCI, in the framework defined by the UN Security Council. If it seems in the wake of the agreement that the international community’s role is evolving and if the mandate is revisited, there will undoubtedly be consequences. Ms Girardin has spoken about this. Obviously, France is there to fulfill a mission alongside the United Nations. We’ve no intention on the French side of staying in the country indefinitely if the situation is normalized. Having French troops there is a heavy burden for us, as you know, first on the human level since French soldiers have been killed, and financially because of the high cost for the budget of the French state.

Q - Looking at what France did a while back in Chad and what France is doing in the Central African Republic, one gets the impression that France is continuing to intervene in African countries’ internal affairs. How do you explain this?

We’ve already discussed it.

First, in certain cases, this is the normal play in agreements linking us to these countries. Once we’ve signed an agreement, we abide by our commitments. Once a government is in place and there are attempts to destabilize it through the movement of arms, and we are bound to that government by an agreement, it isn’t surprising or unlawful for us to intervene.

Second, as you’ve seen, we’re intervening more and more frequently in a multilateral framework. That’s true with regard to the international presence on the borders of Chad and the Central African Republic. It’s true with regard to our approach to the question of Darfur. It’s also true in Cote d’Ivoire where we are acting in close liaison with the African countries and our partners in the international community. We’re also intervening sometimes in a European framework. That was the case for example in the DRC where we were part of a European operation.

Q - Are the texts of the agreements between France and the African countries public?

Some are, I believe, and others aren’t.

LEBANON

Q - Is France in favor of a Saudi-Iranian compromise for Lebanon? Can the French accept this? According to certain reports, King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia is going to convene all the Lebanese for a new Taef.

I’ve not been informed about these ideas for a compromise. With regard to Lebanon, there is an existing framework. It’s clear what the objectives of the Lebanese authorities and the international community are. If certain countries want to be a mediator among the Lebanese themselves, why not? The Arab League did a short time ago, and Mr. Moussa went there. If these mediation efforts can help to break the political deadlock we’re seeing in Lebanon, why not?

But it’s difficult for to comment on the content of a compromise when I know nothing about it. What is important is that the objectives desired by the Lebanese authorities and the international community are kept in sight.

(…)

Embassy of France, March 6, 2007