Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, January 12, 2007)

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


IRAN

Q - What is the French government’s view of the tougher language in American statements about Iran, and about the American action at the Iranian consulate in Arbil?

We have no details on either the status of this building or the people apprehended. So it is very difficult for us to make a judgment about what happened, especially about the situation from the standpoint of the Vienna Conventions because we don’t know if the building and those people had consular status or not.

I saw in a wire service report that the Iraqi foreign minister said the building was a liaison office and did not have consular status. I also saw that the Americans had given some clarifications on their side.

We’re not in a position that allows us to make a judgment and we are waiting to see what clarifications are going to be given, by both the Americans and the Iraqi authorities who are directly concerned.

More generally, with regard to Iran and the American stance, I’ve taken note of a number of Ms Rice’s statements. What we’ve always said and wished is that all the countries that have influence in Iraq play a positive role and help stabilize this country and see to it that Iraq can start again on sound bases.

Q - I was referring more specifically to the scarcely veiled threats of the US administration against Iran on several dossiers—both the nuclear issue and the alleged support to terrorism by the Iraqi regime.

We need to be clear what we’re taking about. With regard to the nuclear issue, we’re favoring a diplomatic solution. We have this UN resolution. We’ve told the Iranians clearly the door isn’t closed but remains open. We earnestly hope that the Iranian nuclear question continues to be managed in this framework and we hope that the Iranians will seize the possibility given them to return to the negotiating table.

IRAQ

Q - We’re talking about this event in Arbil but there are attacks every day across the whole of Iraq. In France’s view, does the Kurdish territory have a different status to other parts of Iraq?

We’re talking about it because this matter involves the Iranians—that was the reason for the question if I understood correctly.

Our position is that we are very attached to Iraq’s territorial integrity. We’ve said so repeatedly. Next, the question is how things are going to be organized from a constitutional point of view, what degree of federalism will be adopted on the Iraqi side—this is a matter that concerns the Iraqis themselves.

But we maintain that Iraq is a country which must recover its sovereignty and must, of course, keep its territorial integrity. That’s quite clear.

Q - Before the American decision to reinforce its military in Iraq, France was talking about a prospect for the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country. But in the minister’s statements after the American decision to increase the force, you’re no longer talking about this prospect for withdrawal but about a political solution with a global approach… How do you explain this reversal or rather the difference in these two positions?

There’s no reversal. The minister repeated yesterday that on the French side we consider that the problems in Iraq at this time can only be resolved through a global approach and a political solution. In other words, as we see it, there is no military solution in Iraq and there has to be a political approach, a global solution with the implementation of an inclusive political process as we’ve said many times, i.e. not leaving out any of the communities, any of the components of Iraqi society.

With regard to the prospect or the outlook for withdrawal of foreign troops, the minister referred to it two days earlier, I believe. Our position obviously hasn’t changed. It has been restated many times, including by President Chirac. We would like to see a prospect for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

From this perspective, there is an interesting element in what President Bush said, the fact that in November the Iraqi forces could take over responsibility in all of Iraq’s province. That’s an element we noted which seems to go in the right direction.

For the rest, we are of course still very committed to this prospect for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

Q - Is France still planning to beef up its training programs for security personnel from Iraq in view of this prospect? Is there a request for France to participate more actively in training Iraqi security personnel?

We made an offer at one point. As you know, it was not followed by concrete actions at the time because in the end there was no request from the Iraqi authorities. We need to take stock of the situation again, and I can’t say exactly where we are at this point. But we had said at the time that we were prepared to train members of the Iraqi security forces, not in Iraq but in France. This offer was made some time ago and at the time it wasn’t acted on.

Q - Mr. Bush said that an American failure in Iraq would be a failure for the West and a victory for terrorism. Does France share this view?

I don’t know if one should reason in those terms. Certainly no one has an interest in a US failure, which would also be very largely a failure of Iraq. That’s clearly not the perspective in which we’re looking at things. We’re just saying that the solution in Iraq will be political and that the political conditions for resolving the Iraqi crisis have to be put in place.

Q - So in the short term France doesn’t want to see the coalition forces withdrawn from Iraq?

We’ve already stated our view on this question. The minister has said many times over that we aren’t seeking an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

When you speak of an outlook or prospect, that doesn’t mean it’s something which in our view must necessarily be immediate.

Q - Don’t you think that an international force, not necessarily a UN one, could calm the situation a bit more than a predominantly American force?

We’re not at that stage. I’ve not seen any proposal of that kind by the Americans or by the Iraqis themselves. If the question comes up one day, then it would have to be examined but that’s not the case at this time.

Q - But do you have an opinion?

I’ve no opinion because it is far too soon to give an opinion on a proposal that hasn’t yet been made.

(…)

MIDDLE EAST

Q - There seems to be some slight confusion over whether a Quartet meeting on the Middle East is being held in Paris or not. Yesterday, speaking in the Senate, the minister for relations with Parliament said that there would be a meeting in Paris, probably on the sidelines of the meeting on Lebanon. In the evening, Mr. Ban Ki-moon said it would be postponed to a later date and another place. Can you tell us what’s happening?

France is not the organizer and does not take part in the Quartet as such. It is the European Union which is taking part in it; France is not directly represented in the Quartet.

It is difficult for me to tell you when the meeting will take place. I understood in fact that it probably would take place a bit later on and so would not be held on the sidelines of the conference on Lebanon as originally planned. But I don’t have confirmation of the date or place of a future meeting. We’d like to see the Quartet meet because it seems to us it can play an important role at this point in time and help in reviving the peace process.

LEBANON

Q - One of the Lebanese daily papers has cited France as being one of the ten countries that are not cooperating with the Brammertz Commission. How do you answer that?

I’ve no comment. We have cooperated fully with the Commission. I don’t see where this information can come from.

Q - Can you give us details about the Paris III preparatory meeting that’s just been held?

We feel that the meeting went well. First of all it allowed the Lebanese ministers who were there and the governor of the Central Bank to present the program of reforms that has been adopted by the Lebanese Cabinet. The program was very well received by the participants who judged it to be ambitious, solid and high quality. Based on this program, all the participants, i.e. states, the international financial institutions and international organizations, are going to consider the support they can offer Lebanon and work out the modalities. We also feel that the level of participation for this key meeting was excellent and so we are confident about the level of participation in the conference itself.

We also felt that the international community seems mobilized by this conference and seems disposed to provide real support to Lebanon. So we are going to continue working in the few days between now and the conference to make it a real success.

Q - With respect to the participants, how many ministers will be attending? Will the finance ministers be there?

If the heads of state and government wish to come, they will be welcome. But generally it’s the foreign affairs and finance ministers who attend. The first responses we have confirm that. We are confident.

Q - There was talk of conditional support for aid to Lebanon. Can you tell us what the conditions are?

That’s not necessarily the term I would use. There’s support which takes account of the program of reforms that has been presented by the Lebanese authorities. That’s more the way we’re presenting things.

Q - We brought up the problem here a few months ago since there had been problems with other conferences concerning the use of funds or the establishment of programs, and at the time France wanted greater transparency in the use of funding provided by the international community. Is that still the case?

Yes, the important thing, as I said before, is the program of reforms. Then there’ll be all the issues connected with the pledges themselves and their implementation. Of course the international community will be very vigilant as to how these commitments are translated and the conditions in which the funds will be used.

(…)

Embassy of France, January 12, 2007