Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, June 8, 2007)

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


(…)

FRANCE/POLAND

European Affairs Secretary Jean-Pierre Jouyet will travel to Warsaw on Monday, June 11, to meet with Ewa Osniecka-Tamecka, Secretary of State and head of the Office for European Integration.

The talks will focus on the main European issues, in particular the discussion on the future of EU institutions, and come a few days before the president’s visit to Poland and with a view to the European Council on June 21-22.

LEBANON

France condemns in the strongest possible terms the new attack which killed one person and injured several others last night at Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut.

France offers its sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and informs the Lebanese authorities of its sympathy and solidarity in this new trial.

This heinous and cowardly act comes on top of the series of attacks recently carried out in the Lebanese capital and at Aley. The perpetrators of this attack, like those of the attacks that have preceded it over the last two years, will have to answer for their crimes.

In the face of what appears to be a new attempt to destabilize Lebanon by sowing terror, France reaffirms its solidarity with the Lebanese people and calls on all Lebanese to remain united behind the authorities of the State in the face of those who wish to undermine their country’s stability.

Q - The Lebanese media are taking a lot about a French initiative that is being prepared, specifically a proposal for a political meeting in Paris What can you tell us about this?

As you will remember, when the minister was in Lebanon on May 24 and 25, he told the Lebanese he met that he was willing, as a friend of the country, to facilitate the resumption of dialogue between the various Lebanese parties.

That is why on the strengthen of this experience, the minister, who has been going to Lebanon for over 20 years ago and has many contacts in the country, has taken the initiative to invite to France representatives of all the Lebanese political forces and civil society to take part in an informal meeting to promote the re-establishment of dialogue between all the communities in Lebanon.

This is definitely not intended as a substitute for intra-Lebanese dialogue. Nor is it a matter of convening an international conference. The only aim of Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner’s proposal is to help the Lebanese find amongst themselves a convivial, dispassionate framework that will, we hope, lead to dialogue being restored between the various parties.

Q - When is the meeting to be held? Where will it be held and which representatives from Lebanon’s political spectrum have already been invited?

We’re talking about the end of this month for the date. But the dates haven’t yet been decided definitely. As for the place, it’s one we wish to remain discreet about; we’ve no intention of giving out any information about the place. We want this meeting to go off in as calm and dispassionate a climate as possible.

As for the participants, they will, as I said, be representatives of the main political forces mandated by the leaders of these political factions, and representatives from civil society who could contribute to the resumption of this dialogue with the various parties.

Q - Is it a purely French initiative or a French-Saudi one?

I am talking about the initiative of the minister, Bernard Kouchner.

Q - Can you list the political forces? Will government representatives also be invited? Have all these various forces already consented to the meeting?

As I said, we want to make it an exercise that is as inclusive and as representative as possible of the diversity of the Lebanese political spectrum. That’s the whole point of a meeting like this. It is essential for there to be representative interlocutors.

Will there be government representatives? Once again, there will be representatives of representative Lebanese forces. It’s not a meeting for taking decisions, for deciding on specific points, but to encourage the resumption of dialogue among all Lebanese parties.

So we expect duly mandated representatives who will be able to speak or who are sufficiently representative of civil society to also take part.

As regards the various contacts that have been made, as I said, the minister made a start during his visit to Beirut at the end of May. He has since had other conversations either by telephone or directly with Lebanese leaders. So far we have had consistently positive signs from the people we’ve spoken to.

Q - You say the end of June—is that because you’d like Ms Rice to attend the meeting? Do you expect other ministers or representatives of the major Western countries to take part in the meeting beside France?

Once again, as I’ve said, it’s not an international conference so we don’t wish other countries to take part in principle. It’s the minister’s initiative, and he wants to bring together a certain number of representative Lebanese interlocutors. We don’t envision at this stage that ministers will take part other than Bernard Kouchner.

Q - ...Lebanese dailies are talking again about a French-Iranian-Saudi initiative…. Can you tell us about it?

I’ve no knowledge of a French-Iranian-Saudi initiative. Like you, I’ve seen the press reports but I can’t confirm them.

I’m talking about a French initiative, from the minister himself, to convene a meeting for certain prominent Lebanese.

To answer your question as to whether the idea is identical, no. There is the minister’s initiative, which I’ve just been telling you about. There may be other initiatives that I’m not necessarily aware of. The simple fact is, as you’ve understood, that an important resolution was adopted and it now means that the international tribunal can be set up and the work can begin in conditions of calm, we hope.

We consider, as we’ve said, that this is an important event that will allow other questions to be addressed with regard to Lebanon, and will eventually lead to a response to various questions concerning Lebanon’s integrity, independence and sovereignty, the country’s stability and its environment.

All this is the subject of various initiatives, various actions on the part of various countries. We consider that with this initiative we are making an important contribution to the resumption of dialogue among the various Lebanese parties.

Q - So you can tell us nothing about the tripartite initiative?

As I’ve said, I’ve no knowledge of a particular tripartite initiative by France, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Q - Will parties outside Lebanon attend the meeting?

At the minister’s invitation, there could, if you like, be a few people invited who’re not necessarily linked very specifically to Lebanese parties, if necessary. But the minister wants the meeting kept small, with only a small number of participants. An outside person or persons would truly have to be individuals who could make useful and strong contributions to the resumption of these talks.

Q - Will there be Lebanese factions from outside the Lebanese parliament?

There will be a number of representatives of Lebanon’s main political parties and then representatives of civil society. So given this context, you may have representatives of organizations that aren’t represented in parliament.

Q - France said it was ready some days ago to receive a Lebanese Hezbollah deputy, at his request. The meeting finally didn’t take place. Why?

I can confirm what you said, i.e. that there was a request for a meeting. The meeting wasn’t held because of scheduling reasons. So the deputy wasn’t received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Q - What do you mean when you refer to the participation of a few invited people not linked to Lebanese parties?

I already answered when I said that there would be people from civil society. The list hasn’t been established. The minister is working on it himself. So I can’t answer your question more precisely. But we understood that it hadn’t been ruled out that there may be individuals who could make a contribution but there would be a very small number of them.

Q - Representing regional forces, for example?

That could be the case but, as I’ve said, I’ve no further details.

Q - What’s the agenda?

As I said, the minister’s ambition is to bring together these representatives without necessarily having an established agenda. What we want is to re-establish dialogue and maybe define together an agenda of the issues to be addressed. But what’s important is to work on the re-establishment of the Lebanese state—in all its dimensions, integrity, independence, political and economic stability. All these subjects are part of the range of important questions that we’d like to address.

(…)

Q - In your statement about yesterday’s attack, you call on the Lebanese to remain united behind the Lebanese authorities. You usually speak of Mr. Siniora’s government. Is there a change here?

Our statement is clear—it says the authorities of the State I don’t believe that one should make a particular semantic analysis of the statement, but certainly we are referring to the State authorities.

Q - About the aid allocated at the Lebanese III summit. Has there been any follow-up if ever I want to know how much has been disbursed at a given date?

We gave out some figures a few days ago at a previous briefing. But I suggest you contact the Ministry of the Economy and Finance on these financial questions or the AFD, which is also very much involved.

Q - There were talks between Mr. Bush and Mr. Sarkozy about Lebanon. Can you tell us about them?

You may say that the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs took the initiative to propose an informal meeting to encourage dialogue among all the Lebanese parties.

Q - The reason I asked the question is that you’ve kept on insisting that it’s an initiative from the minister. So it’s a French initiative?

The minister is the minister of foreign and European affairs of France.

KOSOVO

Q - About Mr. Sarkozy’s proposals to continue the negotiations. What are the reasons for the change in the French position? Does Mr. Kouchner agree? What’s going to happen with the resolution now in the Security Council? Can you confirm there’s a difference of opinion in the EU on the future status of Kosovo?

You’re referring to what happened at the G8. The G8, as you know, is a summit of heads of state and government. So I suggest you contact the Elysée spokesperson and the various heads of state and government there.

You saw that the French president said this morning that progress was still necessary to achieve an agreement on the scenario that he had proposed, to allow an additional six months for discussions.

This sequence was pretty much approved by his partners. He had asked the representatives of the various heads of state and government to continue the discussions which they did, to my knowledge, for part of the night and even into the morning. These discussions are continuing.

I prefer to refer you to the statements that will be made by the heads of state and government in Heiligendamm in the course of the day.

To answer your question, there is no change in our position. France has said all along that it was in favor of Marti Ahtisaari’s proposal and that it was necessary for the various parties to reach agreement so the plan can be implemented.

We obviously hope to reach an agreement. We’ve made every effort and are continuing to do so to get an agreement by the various parties. So we’ve not modified our position, and there are no disputes between the parties.

Q - ...A few days ago your minister wanted to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Mr. Ahtisaari says in his proposal several times that there’s not the time needed to continue negotiations.

To my knowledge, we’ve never for our part set an exact deadline. We said we wanted the matter to be resolved quickly, that we wanted to avoid an indefinite situation for too long. We said at the same time, and have said so for a long time…that we were ready to make a contribution to the dialogue between the various parties to find a solution that is acceptable to all. Will that take six months? Will it take more or less time?

In any case the proposal made by President Sarkozy in Heiligendamm yesterday was well received by his partners. As I was saying, the talks are continuing between delegations to see just how far we can go.

But I refer you to what will be said today by the heads of state and government.

Q - (…) Is it a point on which the EU members differ?

I don’t believe so. The various general affairs/external relations councils which have issued statements on this question have always shown unity among the EU member states and at the same time a willingness to pursue dialogue to get an agreement among the various parties.

I don’t see divergence. On the contrary, I see the EU member states thinking on the same lines on this issue.

FORCED DISAPPEARANCES

Q - What’s your response to Mr. Marty’s report that the French intelligence services knew about illegal plans for secret prisons in Europe?

You’re referring to the Council of Europe report. There was a mission assigned to this legislator, and we have taken note of the publication of the second part of his report. We said as soon as the inquiry started and when the first information came out that we wanted the fight against terrorism to be waged with respect for human rights, the right of refugees and respect for international humanitarian laws. These are concepts we value.

We have condemned arbitrary detention. We have condemned secret places of detention whatever the place or countries where they were located.

For its part France played an important role in the negotiations that led to the adoption in December of the UN convention against forced disappearance, which formally bans clandestine places of detention, and we signed the convention on the first day.

With regard to the actions cited in this report, France, as you know, did not take part in these secret flights, did not host detention centers, and the various reports in the inquiry have confirmed this. So we are not directly involved in this situation.

Q - Do you have any comment on the trial taking place in Italy now?

We’ve no particular comment on the situation. What I have just said applies in general to the conditions in which this kind of question has to be dealt with.

SUDAN/DARFUR

Q - About the international conference on Darfur on June 25. Who’s taking part and what will be discussed?

President Sarkozy has discussed convening a ministerial conference in Paris on June 25. The president wanted France to take an initiative in response to the urgency of the situation in Darfur and in the region.

The aim of the initiative is to maximize international mobilization in the search for a solution to this crisis. He said quite clearly that we could not stand by idly and do nothing. That is the reason he assigned European and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner a mission to galvanize the international community on this question. It was a task which the minister started working on immediately he took office and has continued by approaching a number of interlocutors.

As you know, he’s seen the Chinese minister, whom he met in Germany, and then the various colleagues he has met at the G8 ministerial meeting. So it’s a meeting of the international contact group on Sudan enlarged to include other key actors such as China, as I’ve said, and also countries in the south and north of Africa, South Africa and Egypt—that’s not a complete list.

So we’ve had contacts with various countries that we wish to invite. The responses are beginning to come in, and so we’ll have quite a number of participants at this conference which will focus first on the political process, that is, reviving peace negotiations but also on the humanitarian questions, security issues and questions of regional stability. There’s no agenda I can give you specifically today. We are conferring with our partners.

(…)

Q - Are there contacts with the Arab League per se?

There are contacts on this question as on many others with the Arab League.

Q - I remember one day, after a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, that Darfur had been discussed. The Arab press was astonished that Darfur had been discussed with Jordan. And now we’re surprised that there are no Arab countries there.

There’s no surprise on this question. You may remember that the previous minister, on his visit to Darfur in November, stopped off in Cairo on his way and that he met not only his counterpart but also the secretary-general of the Arab League to talk about this question. So I don’t see any incongruity in the situation.

Q - Has an invitation been extended to Libya and Chad?

I don’t wish to announce the list of all the countries invited, for one because I don’t have it and also because talks are going on. We’ve talked about it with a number of interlocutors, and the list may still change depending on the mobilization of various parties. I’ve given you some information about the nature of the exercise and the countries that could be invited or that we’ve already invited, but there’s no definitive list at this stage.

RUSSIA

Q - What do you think of Vladimir Putin’s proposal to use the former USSR’s old missile installations? It seems to have the approval of Prague. President Sarkozy has offered France’s good offices to resolve the problems between Russia and the United States but he hasn’t specifically mentioned this proposal, unless he did so this morning.

As you know, President Putin did indeed make a proposal at the G8 meeting, and we’ve taken careful note of the proposal which was presented not only to the American president but also to President Sarkozy.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that we could not be uninterested in a question which of course concerns the security of the European continent. Accordingly, the president has proposed that French and Russian military experts meet shortly in order to assess these proposals so as to have a better understanding of them and to study them. So we said, through the president, that we are ready to study them.

Q - Between military experts, then?

Absolutely.

Q - To reconfirm France’s position on the missile shield: we consider that we don’t need it because we rely on deterrence, and therefore it’s not a debate that concerns us. Is that correct?

We have said many times over that we consider this first of all to be a bilateral problem between the Americans and the countries they’ve contacted for the installation of the missile shield.

At the same time, we’ve said obviously that since there are security elements affecting the European continent, we could not ignore what is being done in this regard. We’ve seized every opportunity that came up--bilateral with the American participants who came to us to present this project and multilateral, in the context of NATO especially, in order to try to find out more about it so as to improve on this important project.

The fact remains, to answer your question, that we have a well-known doctrine based on deterrence and we’re not in that arrangement—regarding the establishment of a French or European missile shield. That is the context in which we see things.

President Sarkozy has said our country is willing to proceed to study the proposals the Russian president presented yesterday to try to move forward in regard to the fairly sharp reactions only a few days ago, as you will remember, with regard to the American project.

Q - And in regard to NATO, is France in favor of a NATO-managed missile shield? General Obering, who handles missile defense, has said it was going too slowly.

We’ve heard the presentations that were made at NATO. There is a discussion in progress but I’ve told you what our thinking on this is. At this stage, the missile shield proposals that have been made are American proposals, addressed to certain specific countries, and it’s in that context that we have said we are ready to study possible modifications./.

Embassy of France, June 9, 2007