Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, August 13, 2007)

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


SOMALIA

France condemns the assassination of two Somali journalists, Mahad Ahmed Elmi and Ali Iman Chamarke, on Saturday and Sunday in Mogadishu, and reiterates its attachment to freedom of expression throughout the world.

This fundamental right, as well as that of the protection of journalists—who must not be deliberately targeted—in the exercise of their profession, was strongly stated in SCR 1738.

These assassinations demonstrate the urgent need for a political solution to the crisis in Somalia and the importance of the negotiations launched on July 15 in Mogadishu as part of the National Reconciliation Conference.

LEBANON

Q - Is France seeking to organize an international and regional conference on Lebanon? Was that idea discussed with President Bush and if so, what was his reaction?

I told you last week that France intended to pursue its efforts following the Celle Saint-Cloud meeting and the foreign minister’s visit to Beirut. Our initiative is part of a continuous process aimed at promoting dialogue among the Lebanese and overcoming institutional blockages.

I am not aware of the proposal you mention or of a formalized proposal of this type. France supports on principle anything that can help mobilize the international community on behalf of an inter-Lebanese dialogue.

As for the content of the conversations between the two Presidents, I invite you to contact the Elysée.

Q - A Beirut daily reported that President Sarkozy could soon join President Bush in announcing sanctions against any person or entity that undermines Lebanese sovereignty. A joint list of these persons and entities could even be announced simultaneously by Paris and Washington. Do you confirm or deny that?

I have no knowledge of such a project. With respect to Saturday’s meeting, I invite you to ask the President’s office.

(…)

Q - There’s a lack of clarity about the foreign minister’s trip to Lebanon. Can you give us a few details on his itinerary and his agenda?

I don’t know what lack of clarity you’re referring to. We will comment on a trip by the foreign minister to Lebanon when the time comes. Otherwise, as I’ve indicated, we are continuing our efforts and our consultations, notably via the minister’s envoy, Ambassador Cousseran.

Q - The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moallem, stated Friday that Syria supported the French attempt to end the crisis that has paralyzed Lebanon for more than nine months, because France’s position is much more impartial than that of the U.S. Do you have any comment?

We took note of those statements.

CHAD/SUDAN/DARFUR

Q - Is France working for the deployment of European forces in Chad concurrently with the deployment of hybrid forces in Darfur? What’s the status of this issue?

You will recall the decision taken during the Council for General Affairs and External Relations on July 23 in Brussels and the launch, at our behest, of an ESDP initiative ahead of the subsequent deployment of a UN force in eastern Chad and in the northeastern Central African Republic. The aim of this operation will be to secure refugee camps and to allow the return of internal displaced persons as part of the regional settlement of the Darfur crisis. We are working closely with our partners on this.

We will see to the proper coordination of the European mission and the AU-UN hybrid operation just authorized by SCR 1769.

IRAQ

Q - Last week, France took part in a meeting on security in Iraq that was held in Damascus. What’s your assessment of that meeting?

I don’t yet have any specific details on the results and any recommendations of the Damascus meeting. I told you Friday about the context of that meeting and the reasons for our participation as an observer on behalf of the local EU president’s office and as a permanent member of the Security Council in the first meeting of the working group of Iraq’s neighboring countries established in Sharm el-Sheikh on May 4. That meeting was aimed at bolstering and supporting the process of national reconciliation and stabilization in Iraq, notably with respect to security and border control. I’ll return to this point later.

MIDEAST

Q - What’s your reaction to Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s statement that Hamas is a reality and that it has to be included in discussions in order for it to evolve? Do you agree with Italy?

I haven’t read these statements in detail, and it isn’t up to me to comment on the remarks of the Italian prime minister. Our position hasn’t changed. You know the conditions set forth by the Quartet, notably the renunciation of violence, the recognition of Israel and past agreements. We remain attached to these principles. You also recall the terms of the letter send by the 10 foreign ministers of the Mediterranean EU states to Mr. Blair in his peace mission between Israel and the Palestinians, notably the hope for a real political solution for the people of the region, the need for Israel’s security, concrete and immediate measures by Israel that help Mr. Abbas and don’t push Hamas to escalate the situation, and the need to encourage certain states such as Egypt that have proposed to revive the dialogue between Hamas and Fatah.

(…) ./.

Embassy of France, August 13, 2007