Daily Press Briefing
Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(Paris, July 10, 2007)
[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]
VISIT TO BELGRADE AND KOSOVO
Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will go to Belgrade and Kosovo on July 12 and 13, 2007. This is the minister’s first trip, since his appointment, to the region where he was the UN secretary-general’s special representative from 1999 to 2001.
In Belgrade the minister will have talks with Serb President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic. He will also meet with young Serbs and with individuals from civil society.
In Pristina the minister will meet with the UN secretary-general’s special representative, Joachim Rucker, KFOR Commander General Roland Kather, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu, Prime Minister Agir Ceku and members of the Kosovar negotiation team on final status. He is also to meet with representatives of Kosovo’s Serb community.
The question of the future of Kosovo will be at the center of the talks as the process for resolving the future status nears the final stage. The minister intends to invite both parties to be actively involved in the final discussions proposed by President Sarkozy at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm. These discussions should take place over the next few months if a resolution to this end is to be adopted by the Security Council as we would like.
Also to be discussed are bilateral relations between France and Serbia, and the prospects of Serbia having closer ties with the EU which the new government has made a priority.
Q - The American ambassador to the UN wanted the Security Council to meet in about ten days on a resolution concerning Kosovo. He said that Washington was working with the other Western capitals, specifically London and Paris, on a new draft resolution to be presented this week. Can you confirm this timeframe?
I can’t confirm the dates with any precision because the talks are continuing.
Q - Would you go along with that very tight timeframe?
The faster we move in adopting a resolution corresponding to what we wish, what the president proposed at Heiligendamm, the better it is.
Q - Can you really hope to get a new resolution in the Security Council?
We’re hoping for it anyway.
Q - But on the one hand there are the Americans saying they’d be ready to reach an understanding with the Russians. But then the Russians say it’s out of the question for the Security Council to impose these things on Serbia. So in your view what solution remains possible?
That is precisely the whole purpose of the discussions. We’re working on a solution. You remember President Nicolas Sarkozy’s initiative at the last G8 summit. That initiative was accepted by the European partners and by the United States. It’s the basis on which we’re working to reach a resolution.
The talks are continuing.
Secretary for Cooperation and Francophony Jean-Marie Bockel will be visiting Mali on July 10 and 11.
He will be received by President Amadou Toumani Toure and Malian Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Moctar Ouane.
Mr. Bockel will sign two financing conventions with the Malians for two projects to be funded by the Priority Solidarity Fund (FSP), one dealing with the promotion of cultural diversity and the other in support of strengthening the French language.
Mr. Bockel will also visit a school in Timbuktu where he will meet with actors in decentralized cooperation and NGOs.
OPERATION PROFS IN FRANCE
OPERATION PROFS IN FRANCE
As part of the three-year plan to train 10,000 French teachers of French, which was started in March 2007 and has a budget of 2.7 million euros, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is inviting 100 teachers of French for a 15-day pedagogical program and a discovery trip, as part of Operation “Profs en France.”
The participants were selected in cooperation with the International Federation of Teachers of French (FIPF) in three emerging countries—Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. The program will be repeated in 2008 with teachers from China, India and Indonesia.
Q - I would like to go back to the letter ten foreign ministers sent to Tony Blair at Mr. Kouchner’s initiative. Among the recommendations to Mr. Blair there is one about forming an international NATO and UN force under chapter 7. Can you tell us more about these proposals?
In principle we are in favor of an international force that would have complete legitimacy to ensure order in the territories and impose compliance with the cease-fire. This idea for an international force has been mentioned moreover by both the Palestinians and Israelis. It will be up to all the parties concerned to agree beforehand and clarify their expectations with regard to the objectives of the mission which will have to accompany a peace plan, not be a substitute for it. It’s a proposal whose realization depends on the parties’ agreement.
Q - Is there a proposal, an idea on the way the Palestinians and the Israelis can settle the problem between themselves?
As you know, the minister recently met Mahmoud Abbas. He’s also seen Tzipi Livni. The idea is to assist everything that facilitates dialogue between the legitimate authorities of the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis.
Q - The letter which was sent to Mr. Blair was signed by ten foreign ministers. Did the other foreign ministers agree? There are 17 missing. Did Mr. Kouchner discuss this with the European partners? Why didn’t they sign?
You remember the background to the idea, to the letter. At the meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia, on July 5 for foreign ministers of the EU Mediterranean countries, Mr. Kouchner explained his idea of sending a letter to Mr. Blair. He received the support of all those ministers who decided to sign the letter with him.
Of course, the question will certainly be discussed among the 27 at the upcoming General Affairs Council in Brussels on July 23.
Q - (...) He’s had the idea for some time?
Mr. Kouchner had the idea for the letter. It was his initiative. At the meeting with his counterparts from the Mediterranean EU countries, they agreed to sign together to give it more weight.
Q - Was the idea discussed with the other partners? Put yourselves in Javier Solana’s place, reading about it in the press.
I don’t think that Mr. Solana learned about it in the press. But it is not an EU initiative. It was apparent to all those ministers who met that evening that it was important to make a gesture as a group. The overriding concern was to be quick and to be pragmatic. They were gathered, they were talking about the Middle East. Tony Blair had been appointed by the Quartet, of which the EU is a member, and they decided to sign the letter.
European foreign policy will advance in particular thanks to initiatives from a few to which others will decide to be associated.
Q - Is this initiative one of those that Mr. Sarkozy referred to on the telephone with Ehud Olmert?
I don’t have any information about it, but Mr. Kouchner’s initiative fully reflects the president’s wish to take initiatives in this region.
Q - Was the idea of the letter discussed with Ms Rice?
Tony Blair’s mission was discussed with Ms Rice.
Q - Did you inform the Americans of the initiative?.
They are informed. Ms Rice and Mr. Kouchner decided to phone each other frequently. I don’t have full reports of all their conversations unfortunately.
Q - About the Palestinian border and the presence of European monitors. Apparently they’re not there any more. There is terrible suffering—ten thousand Palestinians find themselves in the desert. Can’t France make things move? Isn’t there a European initiative to unblock the situation?
You rightly condemn this tragic situation. The minister will take every opportunity, every meeting, to try to improve the situation as was the case at the latest meetings with the Palestinian Authority president and Ms Livni.
Q - About the European monitors who supervise the checkpoint between Palestine and Egypt. They’re the only ones who can open the border but they’re not there.
The question will be discussed at the upcoming General Affairs Council on July 23. Be in no doubt as to our determination, the determination of the minister and of France, to do everything possible to improve the situation.
Q - Do you have a report of yesterday’s meeting with the three families of the Israeli soldiers?
The minister listened to the families of the three soldiers. He assured them that he was completely determined and would continue to be fully mobilized to secure their release.
Q - How did the Israeli foreign minister assess the initiative, sending the letter to Mr. Blair?
Ms Livni’s meeting took place before the meeting of ministers of EU Mediterranean states and before the letter was sent.
Q - Mr. Kouchner didn’t send such a letter without sounding out the Israelis, I imagine?
As I told you, the idea received the support of all the parties. There is a sense in the region today, among all the parties concerned, a realization of the need to act quickly. That is why moreover it was decided to act without waiting for the General Affairs Council with the 27. The letter was made public yesterday.
Q - To go back to yesterday’s meeting with the Israeli soldiers’ families. According to the families, they asked Bernard Kouchner to make Hezbollah’s invitation to the Celle Saint-Cloud meeting at the end of the week conditional on producing proof the soldiers are alive. How did you receive this suggestion?
The meeting at Celle Saint-Cloud will not be subordinated to the fulfillment of this condition. On the other hand, the minister, who expressed his full support and deep solidarity with the families, pledged to take the opportunity of this meeting to discuss the matter.
Q - Mr. Martinon said that President Sarkozy considered Hezbollah to be a terrorist party. How do you manage to receive terrorists and what is your opinion on this?
Our position is unchanged. Hezbollah is an important political group in Lebanese political life, and we’d like to see it fully integrated into the political scene. That is why they were invited. They accepted and we are counting keenly on their participation.
The objective of the meeting is to allow all the forces active in Lebanese political life--so that includes the 14 that took part in the national dialogue--to talk to and meet each other. It’s an informal meeting. We very much want to see Hezbollah send representatives so that the talks can be useful. The discussions will concern the functioning of institutions and strengthening the state.
It is important for all the representatives of political forces and people from civil society to be able to get together and talk to each other and listen. For now, all the political groups have said they wish to be represented.
Q - You’re inviting Hezbollah as a political party?
We’ve invited the 14 groups that took part in the national dialogue. Hezbollah, as you know, is a major political force in Lebanese political life.
Q - Which the president’s office considers a terrorist group.
Let me repeat our position: it is an important political group.
Q - You’re in favor of an exchange of prisoners between Palestinians and Israelis. Are you in favor of an exchange between Hezbollah and Israel as well?
We are in favor of everything that might help the release of the prisoners. We shall be taking the opportunity of the meeting at Celle Saint-Cloud to see how we can move forward on the question of prisoners.
Q - Does that mean it will be one of the topics at the meeting?
This kind of meeting, informal, will give rise to many exchanges. The subject will be discussed on the sidelines of the meeting.
Q - You’ve just said how important the meeting at Celle Saint-Cloud is. (…) Do you think the arrangements for the press [waiting for the final press conference] are such that we can do our job? (…)
I understand that it may be frustrating for journalists but if the informal exchanges are to be useful, it is important the participants discuss things among themselves. It is not an international diplomatic conference, not a negotiation. Understand our concern. It is essential the talks are not held under any kind of pressure or statements. I also think the participants will be asked to respect these rules of confidentiality.
It’s not a typical meeting. Remember Dayton and Marcoussis. We’ve already had times in our past when it seemed important for talks not to be held under the gaze of the public. We thought that for these discussions to go well, for them to be useful, it really was important to let the participants talk things over among themselves.
Q - Will the minister still be going to Toulouse for the Blaesheim-format meeting between the president and Angela Merkel?
Of course, as I told you the last time. The time of the press conference may perhaps be adjusted as a consequence.
Q - IAEA Director-General El Baradei said yesterday that his agency had noted a slowing down in the expansion of enrichment activities. Your comment?
We are waiting for gestures from the Iranians and we think we should move fast, but we have to see where matters stand. As you know, discussions are continuing at this time. Let’s verify what has been said: the slower pace remains to be confirmed. Iran must suspend its uranium-enrichment related activities. This is what we’ve been discussing for too long.
Any gesture from Iran going in the direction we wish, i.e. towards suspension of enrichment related activities would be welcome.
Q - Since Mr. Kouchner took office, I’ve noticed that you rarely talk about Iraq, as if it didn’t exist, as if France no longer felt concerned about the misfortunes of all the Iraq people.
I cannot let you say that France doesn’t attach importance to the situation in Iraq. Only yesterday we condemned the attack in Ermeli.
Consult the minister’s various briefings. Iraq is mentioned every time. It was discussed with Condoleezza Rice. It was discussed with all the officials he met last week.
Don’t be in any doubt as to the minister’s mobilization.
Q - The FARC have apparently asked three countries, France Spain and Switzerland, to take part in transferring the bodies of the 11 lawmakers who were killed recently. As you prepared to be part of such an operation?
France, with the agreement of Spain and Switzerland, can only accept this strictly humanitarian mission, in coordination with and with the consent of the Colombian government.
Q - Do you expect this goodwill gesture to help the case of those who remain hostages, like Ingrid Betancourt?
We support any gesture that can help bring progress on the question of hostages, who include Ingrid Betancourt.
Embassy of France, July 11, 2007