Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, October 10, 2007)

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


NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS

I will read a statement from Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner:

“I present my warmest congratulations to our compatriot, Albert Fert, who, together with his German colleague, Peter Grunberg, has won the Noble Prize for physics.

“Their pioneering work on giant magnetoresistance and concrete applications revolutionized in particular the technology for reading data stored on a hard disk.

“In France this work is the product of a close collaboration between Albert Fert and his team of researchers and industrialists at a shared laboratory at the University of Paris XI-Orsay, the CNRS and Thalès.

“Such collaboration between public and private research, from basic research to industrial application, will maintain the tradition of excellence in science and basic French and European research which will advance the global standing, influence and prestige of the European Union in science and economics.”

DEATH PENALTY

I will read a joint statement issued by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner and Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade on World, and European Day against the Death Penalty.

“On the occasion of World Day against the Death Penalty, we wish to reaffirm France’s categorical opposition to this practice whatever the circumstances. It constitutes an attack on human dignity.

“The struggle for the universal abolition of the death penalty is a priority for our country, the European Union and the Council of Europe which has just established October 10 as European Day against the Death Penalty. We welcome this initiative.

“Last February France enshrined the ban on the death penalty in its constitution. It has since ratified the second optional protocol to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The instrument of ratification was deposited in New York by Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade on October 2.

“France sponsored the third World Congress against the Death Penalty in Paris on February 1-3, 2007, at the initiative of the association, ‘Together Against the Death Penalty.’

“We are pleased to see that the death penalty is declining in the world. Nevertheless, the goal of universal abolition demands that everyone mobilize. We welcome the defenders of human rights who, with courage and determination, are waging the fight on the ground in conditions that are often extremely difficult and who are pooling initiatives to found a universal movement of conscience.

“A declaration against the death penalty was signed by 95 states in the past year at the UN General Assembly. A draft resolution for a universal moratorium and the abolition of the death penalty will be presented this year by countries on all continents.

On this October 10, France renews its appeal to all countries that continue to apply the death penalty to abolish it or pending abolition to institute a moratorium on executions and sentences.

DINNER TO BREAK THE FAST

The minister will host the ambassadors of member countries of the Organization of the Islamic conference at a dinner this evening to break the fast. The principal representatives of the Moslem faith in France have also been invited. This is the third year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has organized this reception which underlines the interest the minister takes in the dialogue between religions and cultures.

(…)

DRC

Q - What’s your position on the current troubles in the North Kivu region in the DRC? Do you have knowledge of interference from neighboring countries or collusion between the Congolese forces and extremist Hutus who are refugees in the DRC?

We greatly deplore the break of the truce between armed Congolese forces and Laurent Nkunda’s rebel troops. We urge all the parities concerned to stop the fighting and to find a peaceful solution to this crisis which is having tragic humanitarian consequences.

With regard to a possible interference in eastern DRC by countries in the region, we would like to see a solution found in the context of close dialogue between the DRC and its neighbors, with due respect for the DRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Lastly, France reiterates its support for the action carried out by MONUC on the ground.

(…)

FRANCE/LIBYA

Q - Today’s Journal Officiel has published the military cooperation agreement between France and Libya co-signed by Mr. Kouchner. Why was it published when just a few weeks the Ministry said it wasn’t customary to publish defense agreements of this type?

The custom is that such agreements are not published without both parties’ consent. As the Libyans agreed to its publication, the Franco-Libyan military cooperation agreement was published today in the Journal Officiel as the minister wished during his parliamentary hearings.

IMMIGRATION

Q - Western diplomatic sources have noted that the embassies of European states in Damascus plan to implement new measures for issuing visas to Syrian nationals. According to this information, posted on the internet, embassies could ask each applicant for a DNA test, except for the president. Can you confirm this information?

I don’t see quite what you’re referring to other than the fact that in some countries we are introducing biometric visas, but these are issued without DNA tests.

IRAQ

Q - Do you have any comment on the increasingly tragic situation of Iraqi refugees, both inside and outside Iraq?

As the minister said during his visit to Iraq on August 19 to 21, the situation of Iraqi refugees has taken on the dimensions of a humanitarian crisis owing to its extent.

This is the most serious crisis in the world in terms of displacement of population, and the largest in the region since 1948.

We support the UNHCR program to assist refugees in the neighboring countries (mainly Syria and Jordan) and gave it a supplementary contribution in 2007 of one million euros for refugees and displaced persons.

We further hope that the working group on refugees, founded at the initiative of Iraq’s neighbors, will lead to concrete solutions at the ministerial conference of countries neighboring Iraq which will be held in Istanbul on November 2 - 3. France will be participating in it as an observer.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - What’s your reaction to Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land near Jerusalem which was announced yesterday?

France expresses its deep concern at the decision to expropriate about a hundred hectares in four Palestinian villages between East Jerusalem and the Maale Adumin settlement.

The decision, if confirmed, would be a serious blow to the viability of the future Palestinian state and the current diplomatic process.

We condemn the continuation of settlements and reiterate our demand, incorporated in the roadmap, for a complete freeze on settlement activities, including those linked to “natural growth.”

France invites the Israeli authorities to refrain from any unilateral action which could prejudge the final status of the Palestinian Territories./.

Embassy of France, October 10, 2007