Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, March 13, 2007)

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


IRAN

I will read the statement released by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy yesterday:

“I have just this minute learned that Donald Klein, who was arrested at the same time as our compatriot Stephane Lherbier, has been released by the Iranian authorities. I welcome this happy news. I offer Mr. Klein’s family, whose relief I can measure today, all my sympathy, and the German authorities my satisfaction at knowing that Mr. Klein is at last free to return to his country.”

(…)

ASSEMBLEE DES FRANCAIS DE L’ETRANGER

The Assembly representing French citizens living abroad, including the 155 members representing some two million French expatriates, holds its sixth plenary session in Paris, at the International Conference Center and Quai d’Orsay, from March 12-17, 2007.

The delegates will address a whole range of economic and social questions of interest to the French expatriate community, and in particular issues concerning their security and protection. An ad hoc commission devoted to this has been set up in the Assembly.

Journalists are invited to attend the plenary sessions at the Quai d’Orsay on Thursday and Friday, the whole day, and Saturday morning.

ZIMBABWE

Q - Do you have any comment on what’s happening in Zimbabwe where the main opposition leader appeared in court this morning with his face all swolen?

We’ve read about the events that have taken place in the country, especially the opposition-led demonstration on March 11. We regret that a demonstrator met his death and several opposition leaders were arrested.

We observe that there has been no improvement in the political and economic situation of Zimbabwe since the legislative elections in 2005. As you know, the EU renewed the restrictive measures and sanctions on Zimbabwe on February 20.

The European Parliament also adopted a resolution on Zimbabwe on September 6, 2006 during the debates on cases of human rights violations, democracy and the rule of law in that country.

So we are expressing our concern about the recent events and we regret the arrest of leaders of the opposition.

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - Do you share the optimism of the British representative to the UN who reported significant progress in drafting the second resolution on Iran at the UN? When will the resolution be finalized?

As our ambassador to the United Nations said, our representatives in New York had a very productive meeting yesterday which produced substantial progress towards a text agreed on by the Six. We feel we are now close to presenting a draft resolution in the Security Council.

Let me remind you where we are in the process. At this point there’s a discussion going on among the Six and now we also have to start discussions with the other Security Council members--it’s perfectly normal.

Q - Can you tell us what more France wants in addition to what’s already in place against Iran and what you think would be helpful in persuading the Iranian to return to the negotiations?

I’m not going to go into details about the measures being considered since the draft is supposed to be confidential even though I admit there’s a lot about it in the press.

What’s important, aside from the measures themselves, is the approach we’re taking, which is one of progressive sanctions as we’ve said several times, which were designed to increase the pressure on Iran and persuade it to choose cooperation with the international community.

From our point of view, the new resolution has to include measures which deepen those in resolution 1737 plus complementary or additional measures, i.e. measures which were not necessarily covered by resolution 1737. We’re continuing that approach.

Q - Aside from what’s in place regarding the scientists and the companies cited, do you want to see other entities targeted and other measures different to those already in place?

As I said just now, it’s a matter of deepening certain measures in 1737, and that may mean adding entities to the lists which were in the annex to 1737 and considering additional measures, i.e. measures not necessarily covered by 1737. We’re currently having discussions on both.

Q - Does that mean diplomatic sanctions, measures against Iranian leaders for example?

There was already something about that in resolution 1737. It’s not something completely new. It may also affect other areas.

Q - Do you have anything to say about the delay in completing the Bushehr power plant?

There were contacts recently between the Russians and the Iranians about it. It’s a matter that concerns the Russians and the Iranians first of all even though we are very interested in the developments in this area.

I confess I’ve not seen the absolute latest results of the Russian-Iranian contacts on this matter. It’s a question that concerns the Russians first. It’s Russia which is helping to build the power plant and which is to provide the fuel. It’s Russia which must take decisions in this regard.

But as a member of the international community we are following this with interest.

DARFUR

Q - Do you have anything to add on the report from the Human Rights mission that went to Sudan?

We are pleased that the high-level mission of experts, composed of individuals with indisputable credentials, was able to carry out its task and evaluate very precisely and fully the human rights situation in Darfur. We regret, however, that the absence of cooperation from the Sudanese government prevented the mission from going to Darfur, and we recall the necessity for member states to cooperate with the United Nations in the context of the procedures provided.

We noted with concern the conclusions of the report which pointedly emphasize the seriousness of the situation there both on the humanitarian level and in human rights, and also emphasize the responsibilities of the Sudanese government to protect civilians and put and end to impunity.

The report of the special mission emphasizes the urgency of deploying a robust international force in Darfur with a mandate directed to the protection of civilians and providing security for humanitarian aid. We call on the Sudanese authorities to remove the obstacles to the implementation of the UN-AU hybrid force. All the parties must also guarantee the free access of humanitarian aid. The humanitarian situation indeed requires urgent initiatives.

The conclusions of the report also underscore the necessity of addressing the impunity for crimes committed in Darfur. In this perspective, cooperation by all the parties to the conflict in Darfur with the International Criminal Court will be decisive.

Q - Are we at the point where the Sudanese government is not respecting what it signed in Cannes? Is the spirit of the Cannes declaration being violated?

The Cannes declaration dealt more with relations between Sudan and the neighboring countries, Chad and the Central African Republic. We’re speaking of a matter which is obviously linked to that but it’s a bit different, the situation in Darfur per se, and the consequences it has for human rights.

The UN mission submitted a report which is very worrying. All this is made worse by the fact that Sudan didn’t cooperate with the mission since the mission wasn’t able to go to Darfur. That explains our concern about both the lack of cooperation by the Sudanese authorities and the actual situation on the ground.

Q - Speaking from memory I seem to remember that there was a point in the Cannes declaration about Sudan committing to facilitate the work of the UN?

Everything is linked in this matter. Our concerns about human rights come from the lack of cooperation by the Sudanese authorities and the report prepared by the mission, which is alarming.

Another element of concern on top of that is the answer that President Bashir has just given to Ban Ki-moon since Ban Ki-moon had written to the president to present the UN proposals on the three-stage plan for the deployment of a hybrid force in Darfur. President Bashir has just answered. Certain elements in the letter are more positive, but reservations are expressed by the Sudanese authorities on the military component of the second stage, what’s called the “heavy support” package.

These reservations would prevent the deployment of new military assets and would deprive AMIS, the African force, of the capacities which it currently lacks, that is, capacities for projection.

In our view, the Sudanese authorities’ position, if confirmed, would greatly weaken the capacity of the force to protect civilians. We welcome the determination of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to move forward by submitting to the Sudanese authorities the modalities for the third and final stage of the deployment of the force, i.e. the hybrid force proper.

Let me remind you about the three stages. There was an initial phase, a “light support” package for the African force. The second stage is a heavier support package, with more important military assets at the disposal of the African force. Stage three is the hybrid force, i.e. the force involving the UN and the African Union.

Q - The French ambassador to the Security Council said that if the Sudanese government failed to respond positively there would be measures in the Security Council. Are we moving in that direction, especially after the report from the Human Rights mission?

At this point, we’re not at there yet. It is one of the possibilities. It was also discussed at the general affairs/external relations council in Brussels. The possibility exists, and certain countries have mentioned it.

So far as I know we’re not at that stage yet. But you’re right. If the Sudanese government persists in its attitude it may expose itself to that kind of measure.

Q - In that case, is France is favor of a new resolution in the context of Chapter 7 with more substantial means of intervention to protect the civilian population in Darfur?

We’re continuing the approach of the existing resolution. We already have a framework. Proposals have been made by the UN, by the UN secretary-general, for a three-stage plan. We hope that the Sudanese authorities revisit their position and that we can work on implementing these three stages in liaison with the Sudanese authorities.

As you’ll remember, the minister went out there, met with the Sudanese authorities and went to Darfur precisely to this end, to convince theme to participate in implementing this resolution.

SAUDI ARABIA/FRANCE

Q - Can you tell us about the foreign minister’s meeting tomorrow with the Saudi employers’ association?

The meeting will take place in the afternoon. It’s a visit that comes in the context of what we call the French-Saudi business council. This is a structure which involves MEDEF International and the council of chambers of commerce and industry of Saudi Arabia. It’s a structure that meets twice a year. There are regular contacts in this framework.

In this capacity there’s a delegation of Saudi businessmen in France now, mainly for contacts with MEDEF. They are to be received by the minister. There are business executives, including from small and medium-size companies. You have a whole raft of prominent individuals from the Saudi business sector here in this capacity.

Q - Is there a list?

It’s a semi-private visit organized by MEDEF.

LEBANON

Q - The press and the US are talking about arms infiltrating across the border between Syria and Lebanon. There are rumors that an international force might be deployed along the Syrian –Lebanese border. At the UN there’s to be a report. What’s France’s position in this?

There is to be a report in a few days on the implementation of resolution 1701 which will be presented to the Security Council and discussed.

This is this context in which we’re waiting for the UN assessment on the matter you just raised. I’ve seen a number of articles in the press about it, but we’ve nothing on the French side to corroborate what’s being said in the press. You’ll have to wait for the secretary-general’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701. The matter you raised will probably be one of the aspects addressed in the report.

As far as measures suggested by the secretary-general, we’ll have to see.

The deployment of a force along the border or international assistance at the border is one possibility, as we’ve already said, under resolution 1701. But there has to be a request from the Lebanese authorities. I’ve not been informed that at this point the Lebanese authorities have made such a request.

As to whether there are movements of arms and to what extent, I’m not in a position to confirm them. It is really an assessment that has to be made by the UN.

Q - But has France proceeded to check on the infiltration of arms in order to make the assertion that it has no element to corroborate the reports in the press?

France, as such, is not intervening directly in this matter. You have UNIFIL, which has a French component and which is now headed by an Italian general. You have the United Nations, which is responsible for following the question.

I imagine that UNIFIL is taking an interest and observing the situation, but its observations are intended for the secretary-general’s report. So we’ll see what the report says.

Also, it’s obvious that there is not just the southern zone at issue here. There are also other zones, other regions.

Q - If a truck loaded with munitions is crossing an area where the French UNIFIL contingent is, then you’re going to intercept it even so?

I believe that UNIFIL has had to intervene in a few cases in this capacity but to conclude from that, as you read in the press, that there are massive infiltrations of arms is a step I cannot take.

Q - Mr. Solana said yesterday that arms were being smuggled. So it is a European position.

As I said, we’ll know fairly soon. There’s this report and based on it we’ll see what measures can be envisioned.

Q - In the philosophy of resolution 1701, at the beginning the idea was to stop the hostilities. It wasn’t a question of a cease-fire. Are we moving today towards a permanent cease-fire and what will the implications be on the ground?

We see there is a cessation of hostilities, which is holding rather well in the field because since the resolution was passed, since it was implemented, there’s not been any major incident. There have been a few incidents, but no major engagement.

Next, 1701 opened up a prospect, it envisioned passing on to a new stage, namely consolidating the cease-fire by taking into account a number of political parameters which we know well and on which it is up to the UN secretary-general there too to submit proposals to us. So we’ll see what’s in the report.

Q - It’s the Israelis who refused at the beginning to talk about a cease-fire. They were content to talk about a cessation to hostilities. Is the Israeli demand still there?

It’s the whole genesis of resolution 1701 and what happened during the summer. We’re not going to go back to the point of ascertaining who’s responsible for what in the resolution.

I refer you to paragraph 8 of 1701 which calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements: full respect for the Blue Line; adoption of security arrangements; full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif accords and of resolutions 1559 and 1680, especially the disarmament of armed groups; no foreign forces in Lebanon; no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon.

The work has to be continued on these parameters. We cannot say we’ve fully implemented what is in paragraph 8 of resolution 1701.

Q - Is Mr. Solana charged with discussing solely the Lebanese question with the Syrians or other matters such as the association agreement with Europe or the peace process?

He’s leaving with the mandate which was given him by the European council, that is to say, a mandate to discuss the Lebanese question and to recall all the pertinent resolutions and the attachment of the European Union to the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanese. That is his principal mandate in going to Damascus.

Q - Is he going to discuss the implementation of resolutions 242 and 338?

What is said by the European council deals more specifically with Lebanon. With that said, if there are contacts with the Syrian authorities, he may also discuss other issues.

But once again as Mr. Solana said himself he’s going there with the main objective of talking about Lebanon.

(…)

MIDEAST

Q - What’s France’s reaction to Tzipi Livni’s comments in Washington yesterday proposing negotiations on the basis of the Beirut initiative?

We note there are a certain number of signs. We see there was the Olmert-Mahmoud Abbas summit which didn’t produce any very concrete results but nevertheless proves that high-level dialogue is continuing.

We see the preparations for the Riyadh summit on March 28 and 29, with all the diplomatic activity on the part of the Arab countries.

And then we noted in the Israeli statements made over the past few days references to the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which we call the Beirut initiative.

We consider the March 2002 Beirut peace initiative the most appropriate framework for arriving at a just, lasting and comprehensive solution in the region, as the Francophonie heads of state affirmed moreover.

We support this initiative and consider that in this general context the question of refugees, which is obviously very sensitive, and the final borders between the two states, will have to be the subject of a negotiated agreement between the parties at an international conference which, without dictating the terms of a settlement, could provide the Israelis and Palestinians with the guarantees they aspire to.

We certainly listen to what is being said, and this reference coming from a number of Israeli leaders is something of interest. Then we’ll have to see what it leads to. We’ll also have to see what comes out of the Riyadh summit on this point.

Q - Do you have any particular expectations regarding the summit?

Like everyone does. Everyone considers the Riyadh summit can make a useful contribution on a number of questions the Middle East, Lebanon and possibly Iraq,.

Embassy of France, March 13, 2007