Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, March 9, 2007)

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


FRENCH-LANGUAGE WEEK

The French language and la Francophonie will have place of honor in a few days with the launch in France and abroad of French-Language Week on March 10 and International Francophonie Day on March 20.

The theme of the 12th Semaine de la langue française, is “Mots migrateurs.” This theme attests to the importance we give to cultural and linguistic diversity. The ten words from our language that have been chosen for 2007 (abricot, amour, bachi-bouzouk, bijou, bizarre, chic, clown, mètre, passe-partout, valser) each illustrate the migration of words from one language to another and from one civilization to another, whether they’re borrowings in French from other languages or returning words that change meaning en route, thereby enriching French.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides active support to French-Language Week and to International Francophonie Day. The diplomatic and consular networks, cultural centers, businesses and French expatriate associations organize many events at this time in partnership with French-speaking countries.

The list of events can be consulted on the following internet sites: www.semainelf@culture.gouv.fr and www.20mars.francophonie.org

Q - A few weeks ago, the Association for the Defense of the French Language organized a colloquy in the Senate to condemn Britain’s decision to replace French and German by Mandarin, Urdu and Arabic in schools and universities starting next September. What’s the situation exactly?

I’ve heard about it but I’ve no specific information. Our embassy in London is following the issue closely and has undoubtedly been in contact with the British authorities about the situation. But I’ve not seen the results of any steps.

Naturally we wish, especially in the context of the European Union, to see French and other European languages continue to retain a special place in the British university and school system just as English has a firm place in our own school and university system.

(…)

2012 INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION

Q - Does France support Tangiers' candidacy to host the 2012 International Exhibition? What advantages does the Moroccan city have?

Yes, France has decided to support Tangiers’ candidacy to host the 2012 International Exhibition.

We consider that the candidacy, which was presented as you said by the governor of Tangiers-Tetouan, who is president of the Tangiers 2012, preparatory committee, has several advantages in our opinion.

It’s the first international exhibition that would be organized in a country on the African continent but also in an Arab country, belonging to the Muslim world.

Another advantage of the candidacy is the theme chosen which is the meeting of cultures. France is, as you know, very much attached to the dialogue of cultures and civilizations, and to the promotion of cultural diversity.

France, which has an important presence in several areas in Tangiers, wishes through this decision to show its commitment to stand with Morocco. We now hope that Tangiers wins the support of the majority of members of the International Exhibitions Bureau in December since that’s when the choice will be made.

(…)

LEBANON

Q - Do you have any comment about yesterday’s meeting between Mr. Hariri and Nabih Berri?

Generally speaking we support all initiatives to enable the Lebanese to return to the path of dialogue and reach a compromise that will let the legitimate and democratic government and parliament work to address the challenges facing Lebanon, whether in regard to the country’s reconstruction or the implementation of resolution 1701. We consider of course that the utmost importance must be attached to the establishment, as soon as possible and with respect for Lebanese procedures, of the international tribunal which was decided on in resolution 1664.

Q - Mr. Olmert said he had prepared for war against Lebanon well ahead of Hezbollah’s attack. Do you have any comment?

I’ve no comment. We made a statement at the time the war began saying very clearly that the Israeli response to the kidnapping of the soldiers was disproportionate. That’s our position; it has been repeated several times by the minister and it hasn’t changed.

Now, there are internal proceedings in Israel to try to ascertain how these events took place, but I’ve no particular comment. This is being done on the Israeli side, especially with the legislators, and I’ve no comment.

Q - Syrian Foreign Minister al-Mouallem mentioned during a press conference with the Belgian foreign minister the possibility of closing the border between Lebanon and Syria if international forces were deployed between Lebanon and Syrian. Where did this idea of positioning international forces develop?

Resolution 1701 provides for the possibility of such a deployment, but it can only be done at the request of the Lebanese authorities. So far as I know, there’s no request from the Lebanese authorities to do so. So no international deployment is being considered.

Q - But why did Mr. al-Moullem mention this possibility after meeting the Belgian foreign minister?

May I remind you of the framework which exists with 1701 which provides for the deployment of UNIFIL in the southeast and also the possibility of international assistance at the border if the Lebanese authorities request it.

I repeat, unless I’m mistaken, there has been no such request. So the question doesn’t arise.

Q - Do you have any particular expectations concerning Lebanon before the Arab summit which is going to be held in Saudi Arabia?

We note that there has been considerable diplomatic activity recently, involving Saudi Arabia in particular. One can see clearly that Saudi Arabia is being very active on these matters. There is indeed an Arab summit scheduled to be held in Riyadh at the end of the month.

We have said all along--and I just said so again a moment ago in connection with the meeting between Mr. Hariri and Nabih Berri--that obviously we’ve supported all efforts to bring the Lebanese together, including mediation or intervention by countries such as Saudi Arabia. We hope that these various diplomatic efforts will converge on the same objective and help to unblock the situation in Lebanon. If the Riyadh summit can help, it will certainly be a good thing.

Q - Do you think it will, because there’s been a lot of talk about a Saudi initiative in recent days?

I’ve no specific information about what the initiative consists of, or about the specific ideas that have been floated by various parties. We support these diplomatic efforts in principle and hope that they succeed, but without passing judgment on the proposals which are not known to us.

Q - In a few days there may be a meeting of the Lebanese parliament in ordinary session. Normally it’s supposed to consider the statute of the international tribunal. If the bill doesn’t pass--it’ll be a test--what do we do? Do we move to Chapter 7 or continue to wait?

As we’ve said repeatedly, we hope that the Lebanese Parliament and the Lebanese authorities move forward in the procedure to approve the tribunal’s statute. This will actually be a test to see whether this session of the Lebanese Parliament allows the question to move forward.

Then if that’s not the case, if there’s a continued impasse, other options exist, at least in theory, including Chapter 7.

Q - Is it becoming more and more likely?

I see a number of people are mentioning this option. People know it exists. But once again, at this point it’s not the approach that was chosen; the approach that was chosen, and it’s not been abandoned, is an agreement between Lebanon and the United Nations. That’s the line we’re continuing to work on.

Q - But you still agree that Chapter 7 isn’t appropriate in the case of Lebanon, which is not a failed state.

The problem isn’t whether it’s a failed state or not. The problem is that we opted for this approach because it seemed preferable to involve the Lebanese authorities in the establishment of this tribunal. It’s an approach that we chose with the Lebanese authorities.

Q - So the next meeting of Parliament will be a test for you?

It will be a stage.

Q - The Maronite bishops in Lebanon have said that if Chapter 7 were used for the international tribunal, Lebanon would be in a very dangerous situation.

Once again, we’re not at that point. It’s not the path that was chosen. At the same time, as we’ve said many times, we want to see this tribunal established because we consider there is an obligation to see justice done. Justice must be served. The perpetrators must not only be identified but also punished--that is why we are committed to the establishment of this tribunal. I believe that on the Lebanese side there is a strong commitment to the establishment of this tribunal.

IRAQ

Q - Will France be taking part in the meeting in Baghdad tomorrow?

Absolutely.

Q - At what level?

It’s our ambassador in Baghdad who will be attending the meeting on Iraq. We’ve supported this initiative from the outset just as we did all the earlier regional initiatives to this end.

France has long championed the idea of mobilizing all the help in order to restore peace in Iraq. It welcomes the Iraqi government’s initiative to convene a meeting, in the presence of the ambassadors of the permanent members of the Security Council, of its neighbors who show legitimate concern about the evolution of Iraq, along with the international organizations concerned.

This preparatory meeting must first send a message of solidarity and also hope to the Iraqi people who face so many difficulties and so much suffering every day. It must also provide support to the indispensable process of national reconciliation. The presence at the same table of representatives of all the states bordering on Iraq constitutes an encouraging element.

France hopes that this meeting and the ministerial conference of neighboring states that it is to prepare will mark a stage in building up trustful relations between Iraq and its neighbors, and in the adoption of tangible measures to strengthen Iraq’s integrity and integration into its regional environment.

Q - Will President Chirac be sending a message?

There will be an address by our ambassador to Baghdad since he’s the one representing us at the preparatory meeting.

Q - Has the foreign minister decided to attend the meeting on Iraq in April alongside the Syrian foreign minister?

At this time we’re dealing with the preparatory meeting on March 10. Then we’ll see if a ministerial meeting is convened and where, and will tell you at that time who’s attending.

As I said, we support this initiative. I don’t want to anticipate what our response will be about taking part in the future ministerial meeting. But given that we support this initiative, I imagine that we shall consider our participation in the ministerial meeting in a favorable light. It’s quite logical. We’re taking part in the preparatory meeting. It’s logical that we should take part in the ministerial meeting per se.

Q - But does that mean resuming contact at ministerial level with Syria?

I believe you’re confusing things. You’re confusing the bilateral aspects and the Iraq exercise. This is an exercise dealing with Iraq, with the participation of Iraq’s neighbors, and certainly Syria is a country neighboring Iraq. Iran is Iraq’s neighbor. So it is perfectly natural in our view that these countries should take part in a preparatory meeting and should then be present at a ministerial meeting. It’s not a problem for us to sit around a table with these countries to talk about Iraq’s future.

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - What’s happening in the work on a new resolution concerning sanctions against Iran?

You know as much as I do since the articles in the press and wire service reports are very well documented on the matter.

Contacts are continuing in New York. That’s all I can say. We continue to work on the elements of a future resolution.

Once again there’s an agreement in principle on the idea of a new resolution based on article 41 of the Charter. No one is contesting that. We now have to agree in a more detailed way on the elements that the resolution will encompass and, as you’ve seen, we’re not at the end of the road yet. Consultations are continuing.

Q - Do you agree with the idea of progressive sanctions?

Of course. We’ve said so all along. The whole idea is to have progressive sanctions, additional measures, and that’s the goal we’re working for. For that matter, I believe everyone agrees on this.

Q - And as for the positions of Russia and China?

We’ve not heard any objection from either country on the principle. It’s just that they may have reservations about one or other of the measures being considered. But once again, all this isn’t very secret since there are very well documented articles and wire service reports. It’s just that it’s not for me to say this kind of thing. We respect a certain confidentiality in these discussions.

Q - Does that mean the disagreement is persisting still among the Six?

Remember that before resolution 1737, it took a while before there was agreement. As you know, these matters are always a bit complex. There may be differences of approach on one or another measure, but we are in agreement collectively on the objective. We continue to work to that end.

Q - Will there be a delay? The last time it took six months.

There’ll be no delay. It was less than six months for 1737 since the resolution was adopted on December 23 and we began working on it in September. So that makes four months. We’re going to try and do better this time.

(…)

Embassy of France, March 9, 2007