Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, February 15, 2007)

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


ARMENIA/FRANCE

President Robert Kotcharian of the Republic of Armenia will make an official visit to France from February 17 to 20, 2007 in the context of the “Year of Armenia in France.” He will be received by President Jacques Chirac for a working luncheon on Monday, February 19. I recall that President Chirac went to Yerevan on September 30 for the official opening of the Year of Armenia.

The two presidents will inaugurate the “Armenia Sacra” exhibition at the Musée du Louvre on February 19.

Robert Kotcharian will also meet with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on February 20 and the speakers of the Senate and National Assembly, Christian Poncelet and Jean-Louis Debré.

The Armenian president will attend a concert by Charles Aznavour at the Opéra Garnier on February 17 and visit several of the exhibitions organized in Paris and Nice in the context of the Year of Armenia.

President Kotcharian has visited France several times in the course of the past few years. In particular, he made a state visit in February 2001. France and Armenia have substantive relations; these are driven in particular by the vigor of decentralized cooperation between some 20 local authorities of the two countries.

France is one of the leading foreign investors in Armenia. French companies are strongly represented in the agrofood and water sectors. Cooperation projects in the energy field are being studied. Trade has really grown over the past few years.

The ties between our two countries go back a long way since the last king of Armenia is buried in the basilica of Saint-Denis in the Paris region. France was also the land of asylum chosen by many Armenians.

The Year of Armenia in France opened September 21, Armenia’s national holiday, and will close on July 14, 2007. It will include nearly 600 cultural events throughout France.

Lastly France is mediating, along with the US and Russia, in the Upper Karabakh conflict in the context of the OSCE Minsk group.

FRANCE/ALGERIA

Azouz Begag, Minister Delegate for the Promotion of Equal Opportunity, will visit Algeria from February 18 to 20. He will have talks with Minister of Employment and National Solidarity Djamal Ould Abbas and Culture Minister Khalida Toumi.

During his visit Mr. Begag will meet with young people and individuals from civil society with whom he will discuss the integration of young people into the work force. He will also visit the Ecole supérieure algérienne des Affaires, a French-Algerian establishment of higher education launched by the two presidents in March 2003 which trains both business students and corporate executives in order to enhance the country’s executive-level human resources.

There will be a meeting with the press at the ambassador’s residence on Sunday, February 18, at 6 p.m.

RUSSIA/FRANCE

The first meetings on the development of decentralized cooperation between Russian and French local authorities will be held in Paris today in the Senate.

The meetings, organized by the Foreign Ministry, the Senate and the Dialogue franco-russe, and under the high patronage of Senate Speaker Christian Poncelet, will allow us to review the current state of decentralized cooperation between Russia and France, and propose new links for cooperation between local authorities and also with the business world.

Many prominent Russian and French figures are expected, including Sergey Naryshkin, minister, head of the Russian Federation government staff, Dmitri Mezentsev, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, Alexandre Avdeev, Russian Federation ambassador to France, and on the French side, Christian Poncelet, speaker of the Senate, Brice Hortefeux, minister delegate for local government, Senator Charles Josselin who is president of Cités Unies France, Senator Patrice Gelard of Seine-Maritime, Louis Schweitzer, co-chair of the Dialogue franco-russe, Antoine Joly, Ministry of Foreign Affairs delegate for local government external action.

The meetings will focus primarily on the two following topics:

- economic reforms in Russia and the development of inter-regional links between Russian and French local authorities;

- the engagement of local authorities in decentralized cooperation.

MOZAMBIQUE

Heavy rains have been falling on Mozambique since the beginning of February and have caused the destruction of 4,000 homes and a hundred or so schools and health centers in the Zambezi valley, necessitating the evacuation of over 70,000 persons. The Mozambican authorities quickly organized help. France has decided, in coordination with the French Red Cross, to provide the Mozambican Red Cross with aid consisting of tents, shelters and blankets which will be delivered by air from Reunion. The aid provided by the Foreign Ministry humanitarian action delegation amounts to over 150,000 euros.

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - The Russian foreign minister is calling on the Security Council to find an “unusual solution” so that negotiations with Iran can begin. He invites the United States to be as “flexible” with Iran as with North Korea. Your comment?

I don’t see what “unusual solution” is referred to.

The international community’s position is clear and results from Security Council resolutions 1696 and 1737. In order for negotiations to begin, we expect the Iranians to suspend their uranium enrichment-related activities. The sanctions could then be suspended.

The firmness of the international community does not preclude contacts. I would remind you that Mr. Solana met Mr. Larijani in Munich recently. So the door to dialogue remains open.

(…)

Embassy of France, February 15, 2007