Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, November 9, 2007)

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


(…)

KOUCHNER VISIT TO MIDEAST –NOVEMBER 17-18, 2007

Q - Claude Guéant announced today in Beirut that the minister would go to Lebanon next week. I see he’s already going to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Correct, but we’ve not yet set the exact date for his visit to Lebanon; that’s why the visit isn’t included in the program. The trip’s planned. As I said yesterday, the minister has always said he was ready to go back to Lebanon.

Q - Is he planning to make the trip like the last time, i.e. with his Italian and Spanish colleagues?

So far as I know, no, but I’ll tell you more about it once we have the date.

Q - Why Palestinian Territories and not the Palestinian Authority?

We’ve indicated the geographical place of the trip as we always do when we tell you about the minister’s visits.

Q - But there are no details. He’s going where in the Palestinian Territories?

We’ll give you the details of the trip next week.

Q - Might Mr. Kouchner combine the two visits at that time, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories?

I rather understood that Lebanon was to be at the beginning of the week. But as I said, matter haven’t been decided.

Q - When he goes to Israel, will he discuss the role of Mr. ElBaradei who is being criticized by the Israeli government?

He probably will. In the context of such a trip, the minister discusses all the issues of concern in the region and current events. So the question of Iran will be on the agenda along with many other matters.

Q - What do you think of the Israeli statements about Mr. ElBaradei?

We answered that question yesterday, saying that we attached a lot of importance to the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency and in that capacity we fully supported its director-general, Mr. ElBaradei.

Q - You mean he’s doing his job properly?

Of course, since we support him. We’re waiting with considerable interest for the report he is due to hand over since this report, and Mr. Solana’s, will be the basis on which we define the next stage in the work at the UN and in the European Union.

Q - Is there a more specific reason for the trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, because he was there not so very long ago?

Yes, just as he met with the Norwegian foreign minister and Tony Blair in Paris so as to prepare for the donors’ conference to be held in Paris mid-December to help the Palestinians. In order to do so it’s very important for him to increase his contacts and he wanted to return to the Mideast. There’s a momentum going which we’ve referred to before, with the meeting in Annapolis then the donors’ conference.

(…)

FRENCH AID TO MEXICO (TABASCO)

We are continuing to put in place French aid for the victims of the flooding in Mexico’s Tabasco state, which is being coordinated by our embassy in Mexico.

With the Mexican authorities’ agreement and the support of the Mexican embassy in Paris, priority has been given to the treatment of drinking water, essential for the health of the population, especially given the risks from contaminated water.

The technicians and necessary products for the purification of nine million liters of water arrived in Mexico Thursday, November 8, and were put at the disposal of the Mexican Civil Protection authorities.

In addition four portable water purification units are being flown to Mexico along with technicians to install them on the spot. This is being done in close liaison with the Mexican Civil Protection authorities and with the assistance of Eurocopter (EADS), which will facilitate delivery in areas where access is difficult. The units, which can each treat between 1,000 and 5,000 cubic meters per hour, were donated by Suez and Veolia. The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is providing transport.

LEBANON

Q - The news is very good this morning with respect to Lebanon. It’s generating a lot of hope—President Sarkozy has apparently succeeded in convincing his American counterpart to find a solution in Lebanon. Do you have any further details because this is really important for us?

We all have cause for hope with regard to these elections. All the contacts we’ve had, at all levels, have aimed at nurturing this hope. We sensed it in all our contacts, I’m thinking in particular of those the minister, Bernard Kouchner, had--he knows the region very well and he’d personally organized the meeting of representatives of all the Lebanese political forces at La Celle Saint-Cloud. At the time we’re speaking, this is all grounds for hoping that the constitutional process leading to the election of a president with broad support will be continued in satisfactory conditions.

It’s also what the Elysée secretary-general said when he arrived in Beirut.

We’ll have to see that happens in the days ahead. We’re hoping that this hope will not be disabused.

Q - Apparently Mr. Guéant may go to Damascus. Is it possible that the minister, when he’s in Beirut, might go the extra 80 km separating the city from the Syrian capital?

No decision has been taken at this point.

Q - When the minister goes to Beirut, will his mission be the same as the Elysée secretary-general’s or will the purpose be different?

Obviously it’s the same mission. France is one, and I’d like to sum up what Claude Guéant said a little while ago when he landed in Beirut. He explained the deep involvement of President Sarkozy and all the French authorities in the matter of Lebanon. When the foreign minister travels to a country, he expresses France’s foreign policy which is the president’s, of course.

It’s one and the same movement. As I said, it’s important to increase contacts. That’s our policy, and it’s intended to help anything that might contribute to the dialogue and facilitate a satisfactory election process. The fact the president is involved in this way, the fact the minister is involved in this way, shows the extent to which France is attached to what happens in that part of the world, and the extent to which we are attached to seeing a president elected who has broad support who will permit democracy to prevail in Lebanon. The situation in Lebanon is critical to the stability of the entire region.

FRANCE/UNITED STATES

Q - Is it correct to say that the missile shield was discussed during President Sarkozy’s visit to Washington? And with regard to Iran, were there talks on just how far each might go in taking sanctions independently?

The whole range of issues was discussed at these meetings.

With regard to Iran you’ll have seen that both presidents underscored in their press conference just how close their positions are.

Q - According to Le Monde today, the American ambassador in Paris told Washington that he hopes that France will use its diplomatic skill in the Middle East. Can we deduce from that there’s a new sort of momentum in French-American diplomatic cooperation?

We cooperate a lot with the United States and with all our partners in the Middle East. I mentioned a moment ago the sequence of events which you all know now: the meeting at Annapolis then the donors’ conference to help the Palestinians. We’re working in close cooperation. Bernard Kouchner is in contact with Condoleezza Rice all the time, about that region and all the other regions in the world. But admittedly at this time, for that region, we particularly need to talk to the US, to the countries in the region and to our European partners.

Q - Implying that France is doing a bit of diplomacy for the US in the region?

The purpose of our diplomatic action is to act for the general interest and for the good of the international community.

(…)

GEORGIA

Q - What is France’s position concerning the events in Georgia?

We’ve taken note of the statement by Georgia’s president announcing that early presidential elections would be held. We think this is a positive gesture and we hope that the elections will take place transparently and democratically in accordance with Georgia’s commitments.

We are following the situation in that country very closely. We call on the parties to show restraint and to engage in dialogue, and we hope there is an early return to normal--this will require lifting the state of emergency. We’ve demanded, and we do so again, respect for basic freedoms, particularly the re-establishment of freedom of expression and press freedom.

I can add that Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner spoke yesterday with his Georgian counterpart in order to reiterate our position.

We remain extremely vigilant with regard to the development of the situation in Georgia. We call for dialogue and the continuation of the democratic process which should lead to these elections as the Georgian president announced yesterday.

(…)

PAKISTAN

Q - Do you have any statement to make about Pakistan?

I’m going to resume what we’ve said over the past few days, but you’re right to raise the question since the situation continues to develop in a very disturbing way.

I reiterate our concern in the wake of the arrests across Pakistan and the impediments to the exercise of public freedoms. We’ve demanded the re-establishment of public freedoms and respect for the rule of law. We’ve asked for the state of emergency to be lifted and for legislative elections to be held soon. From this standpoint we attach great importance to what President Musharraf announced so that these elections can be held in transparent and democratic conditions. I would also like to emphasize that we are following the development of the situation in conjunction with our EU partners. I refer you to what the EU said and I will repeat the six points on which the EU has insisted: re-instatement of the Constitution, establishment of the conditions necessary for holding free elections in January 2008, release of people being held for political reasons and of Asma Jahangir, former UN special rapporteur on religious freedoms, implementation of the Pakistani president’s pledge to step down as commander-in-chief, continuation of dialogue with the opposition, and the end of restrictions imposed on the Pakistani media. We are following the situation on these points, in close liaison with our European partners, and constantly reaffirming our demands.

Q - Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was surrounded in her house this morning. Was she prevented from leaving?

According to information from our embassy, the situation is very confused. But I refer you to what I’ve just said. There must be no impediment to the exercise of freedoms.

Q - Do you share the fears of President Sarkozy which he voiced in the United States about waking up one day and seeing Pakistan’s atomic bomb in the hands of Muslim extremists, given that the US hasn’t so far expressed such fears?

I’ve nothing to add to what the president said. By definition what the president says is what France says.

BULGARIAN NURSES

Q - The Bulgarian nurses appeared before a French parliamentary commission of inquiry yesterday. Could what they said about the torture they were subject to during their imprisonment have a diplomatic effect in France?

The lawmakers wanted to find out about everything that had happened. We leave it to Parliament, which is sovereign, to do its job, and to hear those whom it wishes to hear. I don’t believe one can immediately assume there’ll be an impact on France’s relations with one or another country. This is an initiative by representatives in parliament. We’ll see what its findings are.

Q - In absolute terms, is there any way you could be asked for explanations? Can Parliament ask the Ministry for explanations?

We’ll have to see what Parliament does. It regularly puts questions to the government at question time. There’s the possibility in our Constitution for ongoing relations between Parliament and the government. This is the normal rule in democracy, and Parliament will certainly demand an account of the government if it wishes to.

(…)./.

Embassy of France, November 9, 2007