Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, December 11, 2007)

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


SUMMARY OF THE GENERAL AFFAIRS/EXTERNAL RELATIONS COUNCIL (BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 10)

Foreign and European affairs ministers worked on the conclusions of the European Council to be held on December 14. The principle of the study group has been endorsed. In the wake of the EU/Africa summit and just weeks before the expiration date of the Cotonou agreement, progress was reviewed in the negotiations on the economic partnership agreements. Ministers reached political agreement on an arrangement to implement trade provisions as of January 1 with countries that have initialed an interim deal. The list of countries benefiting from this settlement remains open pending completion of the current negotiations.

With regard to common foreign and security policy, several questions were addressed: Burma, for which an EU special envoy was appointed on November 6, and the western Balkans, especially Kosovo. With regard to Kosovo, the European Council will consider the situation arising from the failure recognized by the troika.

The minister recalled the importance of the EUFOR operation in Chad and the Central African Republic, and hoped that subsequent contributions would allow it to deploy quickly.

Lastly, with the Palestinian prime minister present, ministers discussed the situation in the Middle East a few days before the international donors’ conference for the Palestinian state, which will be held in Paris on December 17.

KOSOVO

The Contact Group has presented its report to the UN secretary-general on the work by the troika with Serb and Kosovar leaders since the beginning of August.

We regret that Belgrade and Pristina did not succeed in reaching an agreement on the future status of Kosovo. The troika explored all the possibilities leading to a negotiated solution without being able to bring the positions closer. We share the opinion of European negotiator Wolfgang Ischinger that further negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina would have no chance of succeeding.

The status quo has gone on far too long. It is time to implement a status for Kosovo which will respond to the aspirations of its people and which will offer the Serb community of Kosovo every guarantee. We hope that the international community and European Union commit themselves through their presence in Kosovo to seeing that such a status is implemented. The European Union must in particular prepare to launch the European security, defense, police and justice mission recommended by the UN special envoy.

We’re going to confer now with all the parties concerned about the timetable for the next steps.

Q - You say in your statement that it is time to implement a status for Kosovo. What status are you referring to since the talks didn’t produce agreement on a status?

It is precisely for that reason that an agreement has to be reached. We’re continuing, on the basis of the UN special envoy’s report, to work towards a solution which, we hope, will lead to a status that will have the agreement of all the parties. But what the statement says, and as we’ve noted, is that this can’t be done by pursuing negotiations among the parties. We had allowed a few additional months and now we’re preparing the discussions that will take place in the Security Council on December 19; our objective is still to arrive at a status for Kosovo that will end the status quo. And I repeat, the basis on which we’ll be continuing to work is the UN special envoy’s report.

Q - If I’ve understood correctly, you’re looking for a solution that will be acceptable for all the parties. When you say “the parties,” whom do you mean?

We hope that this will all be resolved calmly, with the agreement of all. You’re familiar with the conditions in which we’ve tried to negotiate by bringing the parties closer. The troika had to accept the fact that these negotiations hadn’t succeeded. We noted and regretted the failure of the negotiations. Now we’re going to see--this is the next step--in the UN Security Council what conclusions we can draw but we all realize quite clearly that Kosovo has to have a status that allows all the communities to live together in peace. That is what we mean when we say it is important to reach a status which, we hope, will have broad agreement.

Q - The British foreign secretary has already announced his position if the Kosovo Albanians unilaterally proclaim independence. What will France’s position be?

We are continuing to confer with our European partners. Let the talks continue until the meetings I’ve just mentioned.

Q - Is there unanimity in the EU on this question?

If we’re continuing to confer, it means there is no unanimity at this time.

ATTACKS IN ALGERIA

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

“I condemn in the strongest terms the deadly attacks in Algiers this morning. The Algerian people, who aspire to civil peace and security, are once again the victims of indiscriminate violence.

“France offers its condolences to the victims’ families and friends and to the Algerian authorities.

“It assures Algeria of its solidarity at this painful time.”

(…)

UNITAID

The sixth board meeting of the International Drug Purchase Facility, UNITAID, was held in Geneva on December 6 and 7. It was attended by all the members, and chaired by the French representative, Philippe Douste-Blazy.

The meeting took note of progress in the actions begun by UNITAID in the past year.

It was decided to extend the HIV/AIDS programs carried out in partnership with the Clinton Foundation aimed at:

- treating an additional 100,000 children next year, with the prospect of a further 300,000 children in 2010;

- and providing an additional 60,000 AIDS-sufferers who have developed resistance to basic drugs with second-line anti-retroviral treatment.

The meeting opened up new prospects for UNITAID’s development in terms of financing, visibility and cooperation with actors in the field.

(…)

MIDDLE EAST

Q - I’ve noticed a change in vocabulary and words when you talk about the donors’ conference for the “Palestinian state.” Before it used to be the “Palestinian Authority.” Is there a change?

No. It merely repeats our objective, which is to say, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. That hasn’t changed.

Q - There’s a young Frenchman who has been detained in Israel since March 13, 2005. The French authorities haven’t intervened according to statements by Norbert Wurtz. His mother is French, and he’s a student in Jerusalem.

I can tell you that his situation, like many others, is regularly brought up by France in its contacts with the Israeli authorities.

(..)

LEBANON

Q - Can you explain why France has requested a presidential statement on Lebanon in the Security Council in New York?

The purpose is to underline the fact that the entire international community wants the Lebanese to be able to elect a president with broad support. It is important to show that the international community is united behind this objective and behind all the Lebanese.

Q - There’s a specific point in the statement about support for Prime Minister Siniora. Well, everyone knows that in the context of resolving the deadlock, Mr. Siniora is going to step down. Is it to support Mr. Siniora during a period that seems long to you before the elections?

So far as I know, the talks aren’t over. They’re still going on in New York.

Also, with regard to your specific question about Mr. Siniora, I would remind you that we’re not taking a position on decisions that depend solely on the Lebanese. But once again, the talks are continuing. The statement isn’t finalized. We’ll have to see what the outcome of these discussions is.

(…)

IRAN

Q - We know a new draft resolution is going to be considered at the UN this week. We understand it’s been written by France and was changed last week.

Discussions are continuing as agreed on a draft resolution. There will still be contacts in the coming hours and days. I can’t give you more details about a text that is still under discussion.

Q - Has France’s position changed since last week?

France’s position hasn’t changed.

Q - Has there been a report from Mr. Solana or not yet?

A written report? No. There was a progress report which we’ve seen. It’s the report that Mr. Solana made orally based on his discussions with the Iranian negotiator./.

Embassy of France, December 11, 2007