Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, February 16, 2007)

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


NAMIBIA/FRANCE

President Hifikepunye Pohamba of the Republic of Namibia will make an official visit to France on February 19 and 20, 2007.

This is the first official visit to France by President Pohamba who has just taken part in the Africa-France summit in Cannes (February 15-16) at the invitation of President Chirac with whom he had talks. During their meeting on the sidelines of the summit, the president and Mr. Pohamba identified the many sectors of cooperation between France and Namibia, and welcomed the new impetus to our relations in the political sphere and in cooperation.

President Chirac thanked Namibia for joining UNITAID.

President Pohamba will go to Toulouse on February 19 to tour the Airbus assembly lines and meet with Airbus executives.

He will have a meeting on February 19 with Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophony Brigitte Girardin, who will host a dinner in his honor.

On February 20 President Pohamba will have talks with Edouard Balladur, chairman of the National Assembly foreign affairs committee. He will be guest of honor at a luncheon given by Jacques Pelletier, chairman of the France-southern Africa caucus in the Senate.

Namibia is in the priority solidarity area. The visit reflects our wish to strengthen ties. It will afford an opportunity to discuss French-Namibian cooperation with President Pohamba and to present the draft framework partnership document endorsed by France. Economic and commercial relations will also be on the agenda in discussions, in the context of a working session with MEDEF.

MONGOLIA/FRANCE

President Chirac will receive Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar for a working luncheon at the Elysée Palace on Thursday, February 22 during his official visit to France from Wednesday to Sunday, February 21 to 25, 2007.

President Enkhbayar will be welcomed on his arrival February 21 by Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Dominique Bussereau. Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade Christine Lagarde will host a dinner in his honor on February 22 .

He will also meet with Senate Speaker Christian Poncelet on February 21 and with National Assembly Speaker Jean-Louis Debré on February 22.

The president of Mongolia will give a lecture at the Sorbonne on the topic, “Mongolia in the conditions for globalization—constraints and opportunities” on February 22 at 10 a.m. He will also meet with French business leaders in the context of the day-long “Mongolia France Day” organized by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIP) on February 23 at 12:30 p.m.

The visit will afford an opportunity to confirm the quality of relations and cooperation between our two countries and to discuss the main international and regional Asian issues, particularly the North Korean question. Several agreements will be signed.

ALGERIA/FRANCE

Amar Saadani, speaker of the Algerian National People’s Assembly, will visit France at the head of a delegation of ten Algerian legislators from February 18 to 23 at the invitation of his counterpart, Jean-Louis Debré.

Mr. Saadani will meet with Jean-Louis Debré and Senate Speaker Christian Poncelet. He will be received by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Thursday, February 21. He will have a meeting with Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on February 20 and with Minister Delegate for Relations with Parliament Henri Cuq on February 21.

As you may remember, National Assembly Speaker Jean-Louis Debré was in Algeria from January 19 to 22. During the visit the two speakers signed a parliamentary cooperation framework protocol.

Q - What’s happening with the Franco-Algerian friendship treaty? Is that the purpose of the visit?

The visit comes in the context of the excellent relations we have with Algeria.

As I said, Mr. Debré himself has just been to Algeria. The minister went not so very long ago. And you know that President Bouteflika is currently in France for the Africa/France summit.

French-Algerian relations are therefore excellent, with frequent visits and also very close relations in cooperation and in the economic field.

Concerning the friendship treaty, our objective is still to conclude this treaty. But I’ve no further details about the timetable.

UNITAID

In Cannes today 18 African countries officially joined the international drug purchase facility UNITAID which was launched in New York in September 2006 by five founding countries (Brazil, Chile, France, Norway, the UK) by signing a political declaration and legal document. These states pledge to implement innovative financing for development, primarily in the form of solidarity contributions on airlines tickets, of which all or part of the proceeds is allocated to UNITAID.

The African countries joining UNITAID are thereby continuing their involvement in the fight against the three deadliest pandemics—AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria—which ravage the continent. In taking this decision, they not only become beneficiaries of lower drug prices and receive supplies of quality treatments, UNITAID’s mission, but also donors and full players reflecting the partnership aspect of the initiative.

LEBANON

Q - The daily Maariv has announced that, according to a high-ranking Israeli air force officer, the French drones are going to be active on the southern Lebanon front. Do you have details?

I’ve seen a number of articles in the press reporting this information. I would like to make the point and be very clear in saying that there is no change in our position. The French drones are not deployed, and no decision has been taken in this matter. If there were changes, you would have been informed.

Q - The paper says that UNIFIL has begun counter-terrorism actions. What’s up?

UNIFIL discharges its mandate as entailed in resolution 1701. It remains within the framework of its mandate, with all the aspects that you know very well which appear in resolution 1701. UNIFIL is not exceeding its mandate in any way.

(…)

RUSSIA

(…)

Q - What’s your reaction to the Russian threats to pull out of the treaty eliminating intermediate- range missiles?

We note that in the speech which he gave a few days ago at the conference on security in Munich, President Putin emphasized the need to conserve the existing international legal framework for arms control. France shares that objective entirely. You know that France is not, as such, a party to the INF Treaty. But it is committed to maintaining the existing treaties on non-proliferation and arms control, one of them being the INF which is an element for predictability and stability.

Q - Will this be discussed at the meeting [of the France-Russia advisory committee on security issues]?

It may be. The committee allows for the whole range of security issues to be discussed. The INF Treaty is not of course a treaty that involves us directly since it’s a bilateral treaty concluded between the US and Russia on the elimination of intermediate-range missiles, i.e. missiles with a range of between 1,000 and 5,500 kilometers. But as I said, it’s still an element for stability, an element in the existing architecture of arms control.

As such, it is obviously an issue that may be discussed. Also, the Russians have expressed a number of concerns about the missile shield. We are not party to the American missile shield project, but this may also be an element to take into consideration in the European security architecture.

Q - What is France’s position on the missile shield in general?

First, we have to know exactly what we’re talking about. There are several sort of missile defense. One is a pinpoint defense system aimed at defending forces deployed in a theater of operation. France is developing projects in this area because it is useful to have this type of instrument for protecting forces deployed in a theater of operation.

Then there is the more ambitious project, of American origin, aimed at protecting whole territories by means of the missile shield. As you know, the Americans have been pursuing this project for several years and as part of it they need to install radars and interceptors. It’s this type of project they’re having contacts on, specifically with the Poles and Czechs. As I said, we’re not directly involved in this project. But we think it’s useful for there to be a dialogue on this matter, to take questions into account, especially Russia’s. It’s the kind of issue that is discussed fairly regularly, especially in the NATO-Russia Council.

Q - Isn’t it troubling for France that EU member states are cooperating today with the US on this missile defense system? Mightn’t it cause reactions from Russia?

Poland and the Czech Republic are sovereign countries; they take their own decisions just as we have our doctrine on nuclear deterrence.

For us, in all these nuclear arms issues, the key element is still deterrence. That is the basis of our doctrine. So while missile defense may be an interesting element for the protection of our forces, the backbone of our doctrine naturally remains deterrence.

It is something we have defined in a national capacity, in complete sovereignty.

If the Poles or Czechs decide to engage in cooperation with the Americans, it’s not for us to raise objections, of course. But what is important is for there to be dialogue, especially with the countries that have questions about the missile defense project, and Russia is one of them.

Q - Do you have questions yourself?

There have been debates about this matter among allies. The Americans have presented the project to the allies bilaterally. There have also been debates at NATO. What we said at the time is that this missile defense project should not weaken the basic principle which, in our eyes, remains deterrence, which is in itself the guarantee of a balance that has prevented nuclear conflict for several decades already. This remains for us the basic principle.

Then, the Americans have their own doctrine and there too we cannot object to the implementation of one or another project. It’s just that it serves a purpose to talk about it.

(…)

IRAN

Q - The wire services have reported a statement by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy that France has firm, definite assurances that the US isn’t going to mount a military attack on Iran. As I didn’t find the statement on your site, what is France’s official position?

I don’t have the minister’s exact quote before me. But I believe the minister said we didn’t have any reason to doubt the assurances that have been given us by the Americans that they are searching for a political solution on the Iranian question.

Q - But does France have an assurance that there’ll be no attack on Iraq by the US?

I repeat what the minister said. In our conversations with the Americans, they tell us that they remain committed to a peaceful settlement to this question. The minister said he had no reason to doubt what the Americans tell us.

(..)

Embassy of France, February 16, 2007