Daily Press Briefing
Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(Paris, July 13, 2007)
[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]
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Q - How is Mr. Kouchner going to manage to be both in Toulouse and La Celle Saint-Cloud [on Monday]?
The meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud will end on Sunday.
Q - Do you have information about the meeting with Aboul Gheit?
The meeting will take place on Tuesday at 12.30 p.m. We will give you the details of these talks on Monday. We have regular contacts at French and Egyptian foreign ministers’ level to discuss not only our bilateral relations but also the regional situation.
Q - Will the question of Corporal Shalit be discussed? Mr. Suleiman, the intelligence chief, says that Israel is responsible for the delay in the agreement brokered by the Egyptian mediators?
As I said, all the regional questions will be discussed, including that one. (…)
Q - What is the program for the meeting with Mr. Milliband apart from the initial contact, given that he’s just been appointed?
That is already important. As you know, a new British foreign secretary has just been appointed. The ministers will take the opportunity to discuss bilateral relations, European questions and after that, the international agenda.
The “International Cooperation and Development Days” will be held this year at the Palais des Congres in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 17 and 18, on the topic, “Culture, Knowledge and Development.”
The event will be opened by Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophony Jean-Marie Bockel and closed by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner.
As every year, it will be attended by some 2,000 participants: people working abroad (cooperation and cultural action section, Alliances Françaises, research institutes, audiovisual attachés, technical assistants), personnel working at the Ministry, representatives of other ministries and outside partners. At the same time as the meetings, there is a professional salon on the same theme with some 60 exhibitors.
About 30 workshops are planned, covering all the areas where the international cooperation and development section intervenes, reflecting three main priorities: 1 – increasing French development aid; 2 – enhancing the attractiveness of France for foreign students and research scholars; 3 – promoting cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue.
Speaking to participants at these events will be Brice Hortefeux, Minister for Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development; Xavier Darcos, Minister for National Education; Valerie Pécresse, Minister for Higher Education and Research; and Christine Albanel, Minister for Culture and Communication.
The two ministerial opening and closing sessions will be open to the press.
The Agence France-Museums held its constituent general assembly and first board meeting on July 11, 2007.
The agency’s mission is to implement the cooperation agreement signed on March 6, 2007 between France and the United Arab Emirates on the establishment of a world museum in Abu Dhabi.
It is made up of a dozen major public institutions who are partnering in the plan, foremost of them being the Louvre Museum.
The agency will also help in increasing awareness and knowledge of France’s museum heritage.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, which has been involved in setting up the agency, has a representative on the board as does the Ministry for Culture and Communication.
A joint mission from the Culture and Communication Ministry and Foreign and European Affairs Ministry is in Abu Dhabi today with the new director of the agency to meet with the Emirate partners in the project and have their first working meeting with them.
Q - Why is the meeting so short?
The meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud is being held on Saturday and Sunday. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and end Sunday late afternoon, and keep in mind that all the intervening time will be used, including the lunches, dinners, breakfasts. It’s a session which is substantial in terms of duration.
The press conference will be held at 6 p.m. on Sunday. We will let you know the exact place for the conference during the day.
Q - Why so short?
It isn’t. As it happens, the foreign and European affairs minister is leaving fairly early on Monday. The meeting was to end no later than Monday morning. The agenda remains the same. The meeting will end Sunday evening instead of Monday morning.
Q - Are you still definite that no information will be given out to the press by the Ministry between the photo op at the beginning of the meeting and the press conference?
As we’ve said repeatedly, we want this to be a meeting which takes place without any outside interference. Consequently the minister will remind participants that it would be best not to have any contacts with anyone during the meeting. But there will be a press conference at the end given by the minister.
Q - Will he give a report?
The final press conference will be to inform you of what happened and what was agreed by the participants.
Q - About cutting the length of the meeting because Mr. Kouchner has to leave. Are we to conclude that the conference can’t be held in France in the minister’s absence?
I’d like to correct your impression. No decision has been taken to shorten the conference. We had said that the conference might go on till Monday morning. It will end Sunday evening. There’s no substantial difference.
With regard to your second question, it’s a meeting that is being held at the minister’s invitation, and the minister said at the beginning that he would be a facilitator at the meeting. Consequently he intends to be there from the beginning to the end.
Q - Who else will be there on the French side apart from the minister?
Q - The minister and a few of his aides.
Q - Will Mr. Cousseran be there?
Q - When do you expect the participants to arrive?
Some of the participants will be arriving today, and most of them tomorrow morning. We’ve arranged for certain facilities to be available to them to welcome them and see that they get to La Celle Saint-Cloud.
Q - Can you give us the exact list of participants?
We’ve not given out the list as you know. We’ve said which groups were invited. We’ve said there would be five representatives from civil society. What I can tell you is that they are high-level people who are representative and have a mandate through their group. There are several ministers and about 20 lawmakers. We have high-level delegations taking part in this exercise. That shows the importance which all the participants are giving to this meeting.
Q - It’s contradictory to talk of an informal meeting and use the word “mandate.” What does it mean?
Having a mandate means that they can speak for the group they represent. We’ve not asked that they should have a written, signed mandate. They can speak for their group. That’s important. You may remember that some of you had expressed a few doubts, remarking that it was not the leaders themselves or the top people who would be coming. In this case it is not the leaders, but they are people who are sufficiently highly placed and representative to speak for their political group. That is important. I believe that everyone agrees in recognizing that the participants come from the right level.
Q - What prevented you from inviting the top people so as to avoid the loss of time in getting back to Beirut to confirm the decisions taken by these people with mandates?
I think that what was discussed, since we prepared for the meeting with various Lebanese parties, as you know, what was agreed with them was that the level should be sufficiently representative. But this didn’t necessarily mean that it had to be heads-of-party level.
Q - What do you expect from this meeting aside from the fact that the Lebanese parties are talking among themselves again?
That’s already a lot. We will be able to present a report of the meeting on Sunday.
Q - Can you tell us again what France is expecting from the meeting?
We’ve said that we were ready to be at the service of the various Lebanese parties in order to organize an informal meeting at which they might meet, discuss things and break the ice. We don’t have to have special expectations. We want people to be able to meet, and it’s up to them to say during the meeting what they see happening next, what they expect of this initial contact and how they see the future. Once again we’ve proposed our good offices as facilitator, we think we can do this. Now we’ll have to see how the working sessions go.
Q - Do you have any comment on Judge Brammertz’s report? He’s concluded that he now has enough information to present the work to a court.
We have read with great interest the eighth interim report of the Investigation Commission.
We note that the Commission has done an enormous job over the past four months compiling all the findings and all the information that has been assembled since it was first set up. The objective is to convey, when the time comes, all these elements to the future prosecutor of the Special Tribunal established under resolution 1757. We welcome the rigorous work that has been done by the Commission.
With regard to the investigation, we note the progress that has been made, in particular in the context of the analysis of the crime scene and of the motives, essentially political, for the attack on Rafik Hariri. We also note that the Commission has identified several persons liable to have been involved in the preparation and execution of the attack. We also note that the existence of links between the attack on February 14 and some of the 17 other attacks in which the commission is providing technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities is being confirmed .
As you know, its mandate was renewed until June 2008 so the Commission can continue its work with some continuity and stability. We reaffirm that our support to the commission.
Q - Is the minister meeting with the Palestinian justice minister today?
The minister is in Kosovo today. He will return later this evening but the Palestinian justice minister will be received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this afternoon.
Q - To go back to the letter because it signals a break with the existing policy of the Quartet, which admittedly has been stagnating for a number of years. Does France now want to see this policy, via the letter, adopted by the 27 so that it becomes the EU’s new policy? Will France stick with this position if there’s no agreement?
I don’t think we can speak of a “break.” The letter sets out a number of approaches for the Quartet’s new representative. It is, as its name indicates, an open letter, which means that it is a position, the suggestion of a number of ideas by the signatories.
It is certainly not a mandate nor is it in any way a position taken by the 27 since, as you know, it was signed by 10 ministers out of the 27. So the letter has to be taken as it is, that is, it represents a summary of the re-thinking, given the existing situation in the Palestinian Territories and the region, given a number of commentaries that have been made.
You certainly remember the report by Mr. de Soto which was issued at the same time. We have this situation, there’s a certain context and the Foreign and European Affairs Minister, Bernard Kouchner, thought it was his duty to set out a number of ideas and approaches for his friend, Tony Blair. But they are ideas for exploring -- it’s an open letter.
Q - But it goes beyond that. It repudiates the roadmap.
No, I don’t think one can judge the facts that way.
Q - In spite of everything, it’s clear the roadmap isn’t working.
That’s an observation that has been made by many observers. At this point, the roadmap hasn’t been implemented, and that’s a fact that I believe you yourselves recognize every day. All the observers, everyone working on this question, make this same observation. That doesn’t mean the roadmap is being abandoned. It doesn’t mean that the principles that were set are wrong, simply that at this point it hasn’t been implemented—an observation everyone makes. So it’s not a break. It’s a reconciliation of the situation and consequently it sets out lines of approach which could be acted on, given, as I said, recent events. The minister had already discussed these lines with his interlocutors, both Israelis and Palestinians. He told you about them at the press conferences he held with Abou Mazen and Tzipi Livni.
He had the occasion to detail his thinking in addressing this letter to Tony Blair directly. It’s an open letter, as its name indicates, a letter which offers suggestions and proposals. Now it is obviously up to Tony Blair to implement some of the things, with the Quartet’s support obviously. Tony Blair will not be acting alone. The Quartet includes the European Union and Mr. Solana is a prominent member in it.
Q - Has Mr. Blair already replied?
I’ve not seen his reply at this stage.
Q - So the letter doesn’t represent a break but is a way of contributing to the debate?
Absolutely, these are idea for discussion, suggested to Mr. Blair as the Quartet’s representative.
Q - What’s your position with regard to Hamas because several times we’ve noted a certain reticence. Mr. Kouchner has always taken into account the positions of other countries with respect to Hamas. He’s always said that Hamas had come to power by democratic means and that this had to be taken into account… That’s not the position of other western countries, nor of the U.S., so isn’t that a point of difference?
No, our position with respect to Hamas is well known. It makes a number of essential demands from the movement, and we expect tangible signs on these elements.
Q - The German foreign minister said yesterday he didn’t agree with the position of the European foreign ministers and with the letter they sent to Tony Blair. So there is a difference between Germany and France with respect to foreign policy and the Palestinian question.
I don’t think that one can put things like that. The German spokesman did express a number of questions about the letter from the 10 Mediterranean foreign ministers. As I said, remember the context in which the letter was issued. It was an initiative by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and he discussed it with his colleagues at their meeting in Portoroz. They all thought the letter deserved to be co-signed because they supported that Mr. Kouchner was saying.
That’s how things happened, and as we said, there was no wish to exclude anyone in the demarche. It was rather a demarche to rally a number of the French minister’s colleagues to say that we supported this approach.
Then of course it raises a number of questions, and everyone can react as they please, keeping in mind that, as we said, this question will be on the agenda at the general affairs/external relations council on July 23. At that time all the member states will have the opportunity to state their position. I believe in spite of everything that a fair number of member states share the many approaches in the list, and that was really the objective of this demarche. I don’t believe that the German spokesman’s reaction was a rejection of the initiative but more about having a few questions on certain points: the roadmap, the international presence and so forth. Questions we ask ourselves and which also appear in the letter.
Q - But he wasn’t the only one to react because Mr. Solana was particularly irritated by the letter, especially since it came at a time when there’s an effort on to strengthen the position of the European foreign policy representative. I think he thought he should at least have been involved since he is a Quartet member. Did you explain matters with him?
We’ve taken note of Mr. Solana’s comments. He didn’t sign the letter since he wasn’t at the Portoroz meeting. The fact remains that there will be a discussion at the general affairs/external relations council at which obviously Mr. Solana takes a part.
Q - Does the letter express a French policy position or can the minister express ideas that may have nothing to do with French policy?
The minister is France’s minister for foreign and European affairs. So he speaks as such.
Q - About Madame Sarkozy’s surprise visit to Libya. (…) Are you working with her? Are there Ministry advisers working with her or is it totally a parallel event?
As you know, the head of state is in charge of French foreign policy, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs obviously works for the head of state and consequently people are assigned missions by the head of state.
Q - Is it usual for the Elysée secretary-general to accompany someone abroad at the level of the Ministry and French foreign policy?
To my knowledge, it has happened before on certain occasions.
Q - And about the nurses. Is there anything new?
Nothing more than what we told you day before yesterday.
Q - Do you have any comment concerning the agreement between the IAEA experts and the Iranian authorities?
We noted the reports citing positive developments during Mr. Heinonen’s visit.
We are however waiting for the IAEA to inform the board of governors on what was obtained on the visit. As you know, we are asking for the utmost transparency from Iran, which is an obligation under the board of governors’ and Security Council’s resolutions. We would like to see a real re-establishment of confidence since what we’ve noted is that a number of agreements in the past have not been kept. So once the IAEA members are briefed, we’ll be able to have a definitive position on what was achieved during the visit.
Q - Do you have any comment on the vote in the US House of Representatives about withdrawing troops from Iraq?
A report was presented by the US Congress. You know our position on the situation. We think that for the present crisis in Iraq to be resolved the solution, as we’ve said repeatedly, has to be political and not military.
Q - Some time ago France was talking about a prospect for the withdrawal of foreign troops. Is that still your language because apparently the House of Representatives is with you in a prospect for withdrawal, preferably soon, from Iraq?
We have certainly spoken of a prospect of withdrawal. When we say the solution has to be political and not military that is what we wish to say. We note this Congressional report and we see that there may be some common ground.
Q - In the wake of the minister’s visit, can we now expect a Security Council resolution, possibly following the Americans who say they’re ready to recognize independence without a resolution? It was done without a problem for Montenegro, and our minister said it was conceivable, while insinuating he wasn’t really in favor of it. (…)
The minister is in Kosovo himself today. He will be speaking at a press conference today. As you know, there is a resolution under discussion in New York which has been the subject of too-ing and fro-ing among various delegations.
We are trying to preserve the unity of the international community through the demarches we’ve made, through the president’s proposals at the G8 summit. This is the approach we are working on. We hope to reach an agreement on the draft resolution so as to prevent the international community from acting in a divided way./.
Embassy of France, July 13, 2007