Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, March 12, 2007)

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


IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to attend the next meeting of the UN Security Council which is to consider the nuclear issue with Teheran. Do you think this might be useful? Are you encouraging this initiative?

Under current procedures at the UN, it is possible for a state that is not a member of the Security Council to take part in the discussions when they concern it. It is up to that state to decide on the composition of its delegation.

KOSOVO

Q - The talks between Serbia and Kosovo on the draft status for Kosovo ended in failure in Vienna on Saturday. What’s your reaction?

The talks in Vienna on Saturday, March 10, between the presidents, prime ministers and negotiating teams from Belgrade and Pristina, which were chaired by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari in the presence of the Contact Group, unfortunately confirmed that the positions of the two parties remain far apart. We regret that the negotiations conducted by the special envoy did not lead to an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the future status of Kosovo.

In the absence of such an agreement, the draft status prepared by Martti Ahtisaari seems to us to constitute a balanced solution. It reconciles the aspirations of the vast majority of the population of Kosovo with serious guarantees for minorities, especially the Serb community, to live there in peace and security thanks in particular to a significant international civil and military presence.

The special envoy has announced his intention to brief the UN secretary-general and Security Council before the end of March. We approve of his decision and reaffirm our full support for his action and his proposals.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - Mr. Solana is going to the Middle East and will visit Syria on Wednesday after President Chirac gave France’s consent at the European summit. Is it correct to say there’s been a change in the Syrian or French attitude which has led to the visit?

As you know, President Chirac commented on this point on Friday morning in the European Council in Brussels. The visit to the Middle East by the European Union’s High Representative for the CFSP and the trip to Damascus were decided jointly by all the member states.

With regard to Syria, the visit will be an opportunity for Mr. Solana to reaffirm the determination of the Europeans to strengthen Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. He will also emphasize the necessity to respect all the pertinent UN Security Council resolutions, including those providing for the establishment of an international-style tribunal.

Q - But France said at the beginning of August that a trip to Damascus wasn’t opportune or desirable, forcing Mr. Solana to cancel it. Can you explain why if it wasn’t desirable in August it now merits France’s unreserved support?

As the president said in his press conference after the March 9 European council, the reservations we had were due to the fact that certain ministers of EU member states were going to Damascus, in random fashion, to engage in discussions on a matter that would have required a coherent response from the European Union.

Following the discussions at the general affairs/external relations council and the European council, Mr. Solana is going to Damascus as part of a regional tour and with a roadmap, defined collectively ahead of time.

Q - What’s your reaction to the disappointing results of the Abbas-Olmert talks this weekend? Do you think the two sides kept their commitments in light of previous meetings?

Without judging the results of the talks held on Sunday, March 11, in Jerusalem between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli prime minister, I’d like to note that maintaining a high-level dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis reflects the necessity for the two parties to rebuild confidence step by step and to restart the peace process. It is absolutely essential to give a political horizon to the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

We hope that these meetings lead to concrete signs of progress towards peace.

In order for this to happen, confidence-building measures have to be taken on both sides. The immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit and halting rocket-fire should contribute to this along with the implementation of the measures which the Israeli prime minister previously told Mahmoud Abbas he would take. I recall that these are the release of prisoners, lifting certain impediments to movement in the Territories and the release of additional taxes due the Palestinian Authority.

As it said in the declaration of heads of state and government at the 9th Francophonie summit in Beirut in October 2002, we consider the Arab peace initiative, unanimously adopted at the Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002, “as the most appropriate framework for reaching a just, lasting and comprehensive solution in the region.” In this general framework the question of Palestinian refugees and that of the final borders of the two states will have to be negotiated and agreement reached between the parties at an international conference which, without claiming to dictate the terms of a settlement, will provide the Israelis and Palestinians with the guarantees to which they aspire.

(…)

DARFUR

Q - A mission from the UN Human Rights Council has accused the Sudanese government of orchestrating and participating in crimes under international law in the province of Darfur. What’s your reaction?

We took careful note of the presentation this morning of the report by the mission of high-level experts on Darfur. France expressed support for sending this mission at the 4th special session of the Human Rights Council on Darfur on December 12 and 13, 2006, and provided concrete support for it in the field.

We are naturally going to study the report with all the requisite attention and draw the necessary conclusions.

(…)

Embassy of France, March 12, 2007