Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, February 7, 2007)

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


CULTURESFRANCE TROPHIES

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy today, February 7, awarded the “CulturesFrance/Créateurs sans frontières” trophies to 14 artists and individuals in the cultural field. The awards are given annually for distinguished work in the arts and international artistic cooperation actions that have been particularly noted abroad.

The 2007 prizewinners by category are:

-Theater: Jean-Michel Ribes

-Dance: Maguy Marin

-Baroque Music: Vincent Dumestre (Le Poème harmonique)

-Contemporary Music: Camille

Street art/pyrotechnics: Christophe Berthonneau (Group F)

- Arts in Africa and the Caribbean: Salia Ni Seydou Company (Dance): Abderrahmane Sissako (Cinema), Syhem Belkhodja (Cultural Cooperation)

-Plastic Arts: Christian Boltanski

-Design: Patrick Jouin

-Novel: Alain Mabanckou

-Essay: Julia Kristeva

-Cultural Cooperation: Roland Lappuke, Latvian Ambassador to France

-Arts Patronage: Serge Tchuruk, president, board of Alcatel-Lucent.

May I remind you that CulturesFrance is chaired by Ambassador of France Jacques Blot and directed by Olivier Poivre d’Arvor. It was founded in May 2006 by the minister after the merger of the French agency for artistic action and the association for the dissemination of French intellectual life. It is the new operator for international cultural exchanges. For more information you can refer to its website: www.culturesfrance.com

FRANCE/MALI/BENIN

Brigitte Girardin, Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophony, will visit Mali on February 8 where she will attend, together with Louis Michel, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, and Spanish Secretary of State Bernardino Gross, the launch of a migration center which will receive financing from the European Union. The opening of the center follows on the conclusions at the Rabat and Tripoli conferences on taking a comprehensive, concerted approach to questions of migration and development, in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council on December 14 and 15. Mali, with which France is implementing many actions in co-development relying on the dynamism and skills of persons of immigrant backgrounds, appeared the obvious choice to conduct this controlled experiment.

In the same spirit of partnership, the minister delegate will meet with Oumar Dicko, Malian Minister for Malians Abroad and African Integration, to discuss migration issues between France and Mali. She will take this opportunity to deliver to Mali office systems and computer equipment that will help to modernize the civil registries in the Mopti region.

The minister delegate will also open the third meeting of the international association of Francophone regions, with Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré and Louis Michel.

Ms Girardin begins an official visit to Benin on February 9.

During the visit the minister delegate will have talks with Benin President Boni Yayi on questions of mutual interest to France and Benin, and will inaugurate two important projects financed by French bilateral cooperation: the education-for-all (EPT) financing program and the greater Cotonou support program (PAACO). She will also sign a financing convention for the production dynamic support program for the cotton-growing areas (PADYP).

These three programs receive subsidies from the French Development Agency amounting to a total of 36 million euros. In addition Ms Girardin will announce a special grant of 300,000 euros to support President Boni Yayi’s efforts to further primary education.

COTE D’IVOIRE

Q - Do you know any more about the circumstances surrounding the death of a French national in Abidjan? Did he have diplomatic status? Are you planning to send investigators?

As I said this morning, a French national working for the European Commission has been assassinated in Abidjan. Our consulate general is in touch with the Commission and the Ivorian authorities. An inquiry has started to clarify the circumstances of the murder. At this time we’ve not been asked to send investigators.

With regard to the victim’s exact status, I invite you to contact the European Commission for more details.

IRAQ

Q - Why is France now putting forward 2008 for the withdrawal of the coalition troops from Iraq when until now it had refrained from setting a specific date for their departure?

As you know, the United Nations Security Council annually reviews the coalition forces' mandate, based on the requests of the Iraqi authorities. This mandate was renewed at the end of 2006 and so is due to be discussed again at the Security Council at the end of 2007.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy have again stated that in our view it was important for there to be a goal for the date of the foreign military forces' withdrawal from Iraq. The date of 2008 was given for illustrative purposes, in order to take the thinking forward with this in mind.

Q - Do French diplomats on the spot get the opportunity to have contacts with their Iranian counterparts?

The French Embassy in Iraq maintains contacts with all the diplomatic representations in Baghdad, including Iran's.

We were concerned to learn of the kidnapping of a member of Iran's embassy in Baghdad. We condemn this intolerable act.

We call for his immediate release and that of all people held against their will in Iraq.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - The Israeli authorities arrested a lot of Palestinians today at precisely the moment the work in Jerusalem is taking on a political dimension in the Arab Moslem world because they’re threatening the foundations of the Al Aqsa mosque. Your comment? Are you asking the Israelis to stop the work and release the Palestinians who’ve been arrested?

We have indeed noted that the project designed by the Israeli authorities provoked negative reactions in the Arab and Moslem world.

This is naturally a sensitive issue, and we call on the Israeli authorities to refrain from any act that might fuel tensions in Jerusalem.

We also reaffirm France’s unchanged position on the status of Jerusalem which will have to be negotiated between the parties./.

Embassy of France, February 7, 2007