Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, March 15, 2007)

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


MAGHREB

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will give a presentation on Tuesday, at 11:30 a.m. at the Quai d’Orsay, of his vision of an enhanced partnership with the Maghreb to privileged actors in relations between France and the Maghreb (legislators, representatives of public and private agencies involved in cooperation, cultural figures, people in the art world), and the ambassadors of the five countries in the Arab Maghreb Union.

France maintains a close relationship with the Maghreb countries that is unequalled anywhere else. The movements of people from both sides of the Mediterranean, the common language dense cultural exchanges and the importance of economic relations attest to this. In addition France and the Maghreb have a common vision of the challenges that we have to meet together.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will discuss the main lines of our relations with the Maghreb and emphasize the economic, cultural and human issues, particularly from the standpoint of cooperation (audiovisual and linguistic, academic, and decentralized research involving civil society, etc.).

A press briefing will follow the meeting.

MAURITANIA

With the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, March 11, Mauritania is continuing the democratic transition process it began 18 months ago. The calm, which prevailed overall, allowed the people of Mauritania to carry out their civic duty in a peaceful political context.

France hails the respect shown by the Mauritanian authorities for their commitments and expresses its confidence in the completion of the democratic transition process in Mauritania, which France and the European Union support.

(…)

SUDAN/DARFOUR

Q - According to Washington, the United States and other countries are going to consider a series of punitive measures against Sudan for its refusal to permit an international force to deploy in Darfur. Does France support this option?

In the absence of progress towards the deployment of the hybrid force, given the reservations stated by President Bashir, it will certainly be necessary to consider other measures to help improve the humanitarian situation.

Also, with regard to the question of sanctions, an embargo on arms in Darfur and a regime of individual sanctions are already being applied by the United Nations (resolution 1591). So the Security Council has a framework for acting against those who violate the cease-fire and commit atrocities.

Discussions are going on in New York about possible measures that could be adopted in this framework. We will react, depending on the proposals that are made, with a view to punishing the perpetrators of serious human rights violations.

IRAQ

Q - The death sentence on Iraqi former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, handed down by the Iraqi High Tribunal, has been confirmed by the appeals court. What’s your reaction?

France is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.

The EU presidency reaffirmed the European position in January 2007.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - What’s your reaction to the formation of a Palestinian national unity government—the list has just been presented to President Abbas? Is the French government ready to work with this government? Under what conditions?

I will read you the message sent by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy to his Palestinian counterpart, Ziad Abu Amro:

“Dear Colleague,

“I want to extend to you my warm congratulations on your appointment to the post of the Palestinian Authority's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“As President Chirac pointed out to President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Paris on February 24, France supported and backed the Mecca agreement and the formation of a national unity government. By signaling the Palestinian government's full commitment to honor the PLO and Palestinian Authority's resolutions and international commitments, the Mecca agreement is indeed a first important step towards the full respect of the Quartet's three principles, which remains France and the whole international community's objective.

“Under these conditions, and in line with the last European Council's conclusions, France considers that the appointment of the new Palestinian government is conducive to opening a new page in relations between the international community and this government. But it will also naturally prompt the international community to be very exigent vis-à-vis the Palestinian authorities' efforts to fight the terrorist groups and end all forms of violence against Israel and its citizens. The immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit remains essential to confirm the Palestinian government's will and ability to enforce law and order in the Palestinian Territories. It will also contribute, I am sure, to creating more favorable conditions for re-establishing cooperative relations with the international community and reinvigorating a momentum for peace.

“I wish you every encouragement in the mission which has been entrusted to you and would be very happy to be able to welcome you soon to Paris or meet you in the Palestinian Territories, so that we can consider together the prospects for the period now beginning.”

EUROPEAN UNION/SYRIA

Q - Do you have any comment on the Syrian leg of Mr. Solana’s trip?

In accordance with the mandate he received from the March 8 - 9 European Council, Javier Solana went to Damascus as part of a regional tour which also took him to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. The visit was made in response to a concern among the Europeans, especially France, that the European Union should speak with a single voice.

According to our information, Mr. Solana’s meetings in Damascus allowed him to convey to the Syrian authorities a clear message on the European Union’s commitment to the integrity, sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and on the necessity for Syria to respect all the UN Security Council resolutions on this question and contribute to their implementation. We hope the message will be heeded./.

Embassy of France, March 15, 2007