Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, May 15, 2007)

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


MIDDLE EAST

Q - Do you have any comment on the situation in Gaza this morning?

I saw that the troubles were continuing in the Palestinian Territories and that unfortunately the truce that we’d hoped for has not gone into force.

We’ve already commented on the situation. I can only repeat what we said before. We are obviously very worried about the worsening tensions and clashes between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It is an ordeal, first for the Palestinian people themselves. We call on all Palestinians to respect the truce, to establish a truce so as to find a peaceful settlement to their differences.

We consider that the re-establishment of public order in the Palestinian Territories is a necessity and we hope that a successor can be quickly found for the interior minister who resigned.

Q - Apparently there are Al Qaeda members active in Gaza. Do you have any information about that?

No, I’ve not seen those reports and I’ve no particular comment.

WORLD BANK

Q - What approach will France take at the World Bank board of directors meeting?

As you know, the ad hoc committee set up to look into this matter handed its final report to the board of directors on May 14. The report has been made public so you can consult it on online, on the World Bank site. As you know, Mr. Wolfowitz has a hearing before the board at 5 p.m.. We will obviously be listening closely to what he has to say, and the same board will then meet for deliberations. So I don’t wish to comment on the substance of the matter at this point.

What’s important for us is that the consultations continue, especially among the European partners, so as to find the most appropriate solution to preserve the Bank’s mission and satisfactory operation in serving development and the fight against poverty.

Q - Does this solution require Mr. Wolfowitz’s resignation?

That will be for the board to decide. There are governing bodies within the framework of the Bank. They are the ones who will decide what the best solution will be so the Bank operates satisfactorily.

Q - So as not to be always going back to the old system of the more or less unwritten Bretton Woods agreements, certain Europeans have suggested that the Americans should not always choose the president of the World Bank. Could this rule be revisited? Is France advocating a more open system?

As you say, it’s not a written rule, it’s not in the Bank’s statutes. It’s simply a practice that has been around since 1946. So it should be taken as such. I don’t believe that that’s the question today. What is the issue is the fact that there have been a number of charges or allegations made. Then there was an inquiry to see what the basis was for these allegations. A report has been completed, and all this must be examined objectively, without necessarily introducing other elements into the discussion which could probably only complicate matters.

The board of directors has seen the report. It is going to listen to Mr. Wolfowitz, and then the members will confer. We’ll see then what type of decision this might lead to. But the question you mentioned is a separate issue and has nothing to do with the matter before us today.

Q - But it may be a way of putting on pressure.

I don’t think that it’s an idea that has been advanced, especially on the French or even the European side.

DIPLOMATIC ACTION

Q - How is French diplomacy working now? Who’s taking decisions? Are you consulting the new president on current matters? For example, there are important meetings coming up in the Security Council in a few days.

Things are going on quite normally. There’s no power vacuum. There’s no institutional vacuum. There’s no vacuum in French diplomacy. Things are proceeding quite normally.

With regard to the UN, the Quai d’Orsay is obviously continuing to send instructions to our ambassador at the UN, as is always done, in consultation with all the authorities concerned.

As for the transition between teams, this is being done I believe in an excellent spirit. Things are proceeding quite harmoniously. We discussed this last week in regard to the hostage issue but things are also proceeding very harmoniously on all the diplomatic issues.

LEBANON

Q - What effect will the transition have on the issue of the tribunal?

Since you’ve brought up the tribunal and Lebanon, things are moving, as you know. We’ve had a report from Nicolas Michel. We’ll be having a report from the UN secretary-general.

As you know, a letter was sent by Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora to the UN secretary-general. Depending on all these elements, we shall continue working, especially to ensure, as the Lebanese prime minister wishes, that the question is referred to the Security Council so as to help the Lebanese overcome their internal deadlock. The philosophy in this exercise is to help the Lebanese reach this stage and implement the provisions of the statute, which exists and which is known. So we’re not letting up our action in this matter, or in others.

Q - There’s no slight shift?

Not to my knowledge. There’s been no sign of a shift on this question.

Q - The Security Council is meeting tomorrow?

I believe that’s what was envisioned originally.

Q - Do you think that there may be a decision about the tribunal on Wednesday?

A final decision, I don’t know. Wednesday, we’re expecting a report from the secretary-general. Then discussions will begin on how to proceed, but I don’t think that a final decision will be reached on Wednesday.

Q - Do you think the letter from the Lebanese prime minister is going to simplify things, especially with regard to those who are undecided or reluctant to use chapter 7?

The letter is an important element. The Lebanese prime minister tells us things we knew already but he repeats them forcefully. He said specifically there’s a deadlock internally and he feels that given this deadlock it’s useful for the Security Council to intervene to help the Lebanese overcome the difficulty and implement the provisions of the statute. Obviously it’s always important to have this kind of correspondence, from the Lebanese prime minister especially.

Q - You said that the letter wasn’t necessary.

You’re thinking more in legal terms than political. Legally, the letter probably wasn’t necessary but politically it has importance, it carries weight.

Q - Are there still political objections from some Council members?

We’ll see when the discussions resume. So far, we’ve never had a formal discussion in the Security Council on this question. We’ll see how this next stage goes, how it starts and we’ll see at that point what the various positions are.

Q - But the draft prepared by France has been circulating for several days?

No official draft has been circulated at this point. There are, as always in such situations, exchanges of ideas, hypotheses going around, of course.

There’s no French draft?

As I said, I believe one shouldn’t dwell too much on this kind of thing. There are ideas. Ideas are exchanged. There are hypotheses going around, but there’s nothing official.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Q - Do you have a statement on the border incidents that occurred between Pakistan and Afghanistan?

There were incidents Sunday and Monday on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the circumstances of these incidents are unclear. Be that as it may, we invite the parties to be calm, and to settle their differences in a spirit of cooperation and good neighborliness. We hope in particular that in accordance with the Ankara declaration signed on April 30 by Presidents Karzai and Musharraf, confidence-building measures will be implemented soon between the two countries.

I also believe there’s a European declaration being prepared on this matter./.

Embassy of France, May 15, 2007