Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, June 14, 2007)

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


LEBANON

I will read the statement made by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday:

‘I am deeply shocked to learn that there has just been a new bombing in Beirut killing several people, including the Member of Parliament Walid Eido, his son, and two people close to him.

‘I utterly condemn this heinous, cowardly crime. The perpetrators must be found and punished.

‘France, with the international community, is at Lebanon's side in the face of these repeated destabilization attempts. Those behind them must know that they will not achieve their goal.

‘It is now more than ever time for the Lebanese, of every faith, to come together, and for the resumption of a political dialogue, the only solution to end the crisis.

‘France will pursue its efforts to this end and firmly maintain its policy of promoting Lebanon's unity, stability and independence.’

Q - After yesterday’s terrorist attack, is France sticking to its initiative to have Lebanon’s various political forces meet in Paris?

We are continuing to work on the preparation for the meeting. We remain very attentive to the reactions and suggestions of our Lebanese interlocutors and the international community.

Q - Now that Mr Cousseran is back from his visit to Lebanon, can you give us the list of parties, political forces and people from civil society who’ve received invitations?

The list isn’t final yet. As we said yesterday, the meeting will be attended by representatives appointed by the 14 leaders of the parliamentary groups that have taken part in the Lebanese national dialogue and a few prominent individuals from civil society.

Q - What are the criteria for choosing them?

As we said yesterday, in order for the exercise to be useful, it is preferable to keep the number of participants small. We have also taken into account comments made by people we’ve consulted.

Q - Mr. Cousseran has just met with the Saudi foreign minister in Morocco. Can you brief us on the results of the meeting?

I don’t have a detailed report on the meeting.

The purpose was to present the minister’s initiative to his Saudi counterpart. As you know, France and Saudi Arabia are conferring closely on the question of Lebanon.

We recently supported the Saudi diplomatic efforts to promote the resolution of Lebanon’s political crisis and a return to stability.

Q - Will Mr Cousseran go to Damascus as increasingly persistent reports suggest?

There is no plan for Mr Cousseran to go to Damascus.

Q - After yesterday’s bombing in Beirut which killed ten people, including legislator Walid Eido and his son, do you think it’s the right time to send an envoy to Syria?

I refer you to my previous response.

Q - During the talks this week with Nicholas Burns did you discuss the informal meeting on Lebanon and potential contact with Damascus or even Tehran on the matter? Are France and the US on the same wavelength about the meeting and what contacts should be had beforehand?

During the conversations with his counterpart, the French political director, Mr Burns did meet with Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner. At that meeting they discussed all the current issues. The minister presented his plan for an informal meeting on Lebanon, explaining our aims and intentions.

Q - Do you now have an actual date for the meeting on Lebanon? Was Mr. Eido one of the people who was supposed to come to the meeting?

Consultations are continuing on the date for the meeting. It is premature to speak of the date. The list of participants hasn’t been decided.

Q - You’ve explained to us that establishing the tribunal for Lebanon would, in addition to trying the perpetrators, be a factor for stopping political assassinations and fighting impunity. In your view, how do you stop this wave of attacks when no one wants to reveal the mastermind?

We are convinced that establishing the tribunal and the fight against impunity represent stabilizing elements for Lebanon.

In the face of the attempts to destabilize the country, the only response is the determination of the Lebanese people and the international community, which stands by their side.

(…)

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

France will take part in the Second European Forum on Sustainable Rural Development organized in the framework of the German presidency in Berlin from June 18-21. The first forum was held in Montpellier in 2003. For this second edition, Germany wanted priority to be given to Africa and the implementation of the Paris declaration on the effectiveness of aid in the rural development sector. This forum is being held at a time when the World Bank is preparing an annual report, for the fall, on agricultural development.

Four hundred experts from Europe and developing countries will examine the place of agriculture in the development processes in terms of food security, growth, jobs and the fight against poverty.

At the center of these debates will be the support that needs to be mobilized for the development of family farms in the South which still account for over 40% of jobs. These holdings are undergoing rapid changes from the effect of the opening of markets and climate change.

The forum is also an occasion to share analyses and good practices between the various actors in cooperation from European states, which provide important expertise on the ground. At the end, the main messages of the forum will be presented to a delegation of legislators from Europe and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

France will be represented by officials from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries, the French Development Agency, the agronomy center in Montpellier and non-governmental organizations.

COMOROS

We are paying close attention to the development of the situation in the Comoros after the first round in the elections for presidents of the autonomous islands on June 10. The final results of the first round have still not been announced by the Constitutional Court. The second round will be held in principle on the three islands on June 24.

The African Union strongly condemned the election which was held on the island of Anjouan in spite of the decision postponing it to June 17 issued by the president of the Union of the Comoros. Colonel Mohamed Bacar proclaimed his reelection on the first ballot. We consider this election to be invalid. We fully support the efforts of the African Union which is trying to negotiate an outcome to this crisis situation with Colonel Bacar. This outcome should be the organization of the first round of the election on Anjouan next Sunday, in the presence of security forces from the AU and international observers.

France reiterates its support for the integrity of the Union of the Comoros. It is providing support to the electoral process in close consultation with the African Union, the OIF and South Africa. In particular it has contributed 450,000 euros for the organization of the election and for security, and provided logistic support by undertaking the transport of troops with the African Union force from the Indian Ocean Commission countries.

CAMBODIA

As President Sarkozy and the prime minister recalled in their meetings with King Sihamoni during his visit to France last November, the fight against impunity is a priority for the entire international community. The perpetrators of the crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime must be tried at last. This is an essential element in the process of national reconstruction. This process must permit Cambodia to reach final closure on this tragic period.

We welcome the fact that an internal ruling has finally been adopted on the special chambers tasked with trying the leaders of Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge tribunal). This is an important stage which at last makes the tribunal operational and allows the first trials to start in coming months.

France will continue to provide political and financial support to this tribunal. This support is offered in the more general context of our commitment to the consolidation of the rule of law in Cambodia.

(…)

SUDAN

Q - The US is planning a new resolution in the Security Council to impose sanctions on Sudan. What does France think of this idea after the Addis Ababa agreements and would you support sanctions in the present conditions? Have you already seen the draft text?

Khartoum’s agreement for the joint AU /UN report on a hybrid operation is an important step towards strengthening the international presence in Darfur. I refer you to the French statement of June 12 which welcomes this decision. There is a positive momentum which the international community must take into consideration and encourage.

The priority is to implement the provisions which were agreed between the United Nations, African Union and the Sudanese government (the UN enhanced support package to AMIS, phase 2, and the hybrid operation, phase 3) and re-start the political negotiations in the framework of the roadmap of the UN and AU co-mediators. It is also important now to outline the prospects for the development of Darfur and the regions affected by the crisis in Chad and the Central African Republic.

That, moreover, is the whole purpose of the ministerial meeting of the enlarged contact group in Paris on June 25 which will allow us to expand the international mobilization around the efforts of the UN and AU.

IRAQ

Q - What is your reaction to the attacks against the three Sunni mosques in Iraq and the rise in violence after the attack Wednesday against the Shiite shrines at Samarra?

We condemn these attacks as we condemned yesterday the attacks on the minarets of the mosque in Samarra. We reiterate our call to all the communities not to engage in a cycle of vengeance.

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Q - In France’s view, can or should President Mahamoud Abbas legally suspend the Palestinian government? What is your reaction to his new instructions to retaliate against Hamas militants in Gaza and in the occupied territories? Does France think the situation is one of civil war in Palestinine? What is the international community doing to stop the fighting?

We called yesterday on all the Palestinian movements to stop the current fighting immediately and restore calm, as did the UN secretary-general and all our partners in the international community.

Our priority is to support the Palestinian Authority, in particular by restoring direct budget aid.

Q - Israeli President Shimon Peres wrote in Le Figaro, ‘We cannot accept the right of return for the Palestinians. If such a right were recognized, there would be a Palestinian majority in Israel instead of a Jewish majority, which would mean the end of the Jewish State.’ Does France think the right of return of the Palestinians must be respected under resolution 194?

As far as we are concerned, we are in favor of an equitable solution to this question based on the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and on international law.

In any case, the question of refugees must be addressed in the context of final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

KOSOVO

Q - What were the conclusions with regard to Kosovo after yesterday’s meeting in Paris between Bernard Kouchner and Nicholas Burns?

The meeting was an opportunity to reaffirm our support for Martti Ahtisaari’s proposals for the future status of Kosovo.

We shall be continuing without delay the negotiations in the Security Council so as to obtain a resolution leading to the implementation of Mr. Ahtisaari’s proposals.

Q - Did Mr. Kouchner telephone Agim Ceku when he came back from Africa on Tuesday? If so, what was the purpose?

The minister had a telephone conversation with Kosovar Prime Minister Agim Ceku on June 12. The purpose of the conversation was to assess the current negotiations on the status issue after the G8 summit in Heiligendamm. The minister stressed again the importance we attach to an early and orderly resolution of this question. We will make every effort to this end.

Q - Can you confirm that Mr. Ahtissari is coming to Paris on Monday? If so, which political officials will he be seeing?

Mr. Athisaari may be coming to Paris. We will tell you about the visit at a later date./.

Embassy of France, June 14, 2007