Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, October 16, 2007)

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


GENERAL AFFAIRS/EXTERNAL RELATIONS COUNCIL

The general affairs/external relations council decided to increase pressure on the Myanmar government, in particular by reinforcing existing sanctions and applying additional sanctions to include exports, imports and investments in wood, minerals, metals and gems. The list will be adjusted depending on the results of the new mission by the UN special envoy to Myanmar.

The council adopted the common action for launching the EUFOR operation in Chad and the CAR. This operation will contribute to improving security in eastern Chad and the northern part of the Central African Republic so as to protect refugees and displaced populations. It will also facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and create favorable conditions for the return of displaced persons to their places of origin.

The talks on Iran underscored the unanimous wish of the Europeans to work for tougher sanctions, as a priority in the UN Security Council. The groups of experts are continuing their deliberations to this end. The council recalled its political offer of June 2006 and the crucial importance of dialogue so as to reach a negotiated solution in accordance with the statement of the 3 + 3 in New York on September 28.

With regard to Lebanon the Council recalled its commitment to dialogue among all Lebanese, just a few days before the opening of the session of parliament which will hold the first round in the presidential election.

Concerning the peace process, the council reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian Authority and expressed the EU’s expectations with regard to the conference which will be held in November.

With regard to the Balkans, Ms Carla del Ponte briefed the council on cooperation with the ICTY, and the council reaffirmed its support for the EU’s special envoy in Bosnia Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajcak.

On the sidelines of the council, a stabilization and association agreement was signed with Montenegro. This is an important step towards the European Union for the country.

(…)

IRAQ/FRANCE

The minister for foreign and European affairs will receive President Jalal Talabani of the Republic of Iraq for a working luncheon on Wednesday, October 17 at 12:30 p.m.

The luncheon, coming after Bernard Kouchner’s visit to Baghdad on August 19-21 at President Talabani’s invitation and just a few weeks before the enlarged ministerial conference of Iraq’s neighbors in Istanbul on November 2-3, will be an opportunity to discuss the situation in Iraq and the regional and international initiatives to assist the country.

(…)

Q - What do you think of Turkey’s decision to authorize its army to make incursions into Iraqi territory?

We are very worried about what we’re hearing. We are paying close attention to the development of the situation which is disturbing and dangerous. We recall our commitment to Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we await with interest the results of the enlarged meeting of Iraq’s neighbors in Istanbul on November 2-3, for which three working groups have been formed; on resources, on refugees, and the third on security and borders.

(…)

KOSOVO

Q - Isn’t it regrettable that Kosovo wasn’t one of the questions addressed by the general affairs council?

But ministers did address it, of course. They reaffirmed their support for the troika’s efforts, in particular for Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger. The day before there was a meeting with the Serbs and Kosovars which didn’t produce very positive results aside from the decision to meet again on October 22. We hope that the talks will lead to a solution acceptable to all by December 10.

Q - In the wake of the visit by the deputy speaker of the Serb Parliament, are you working on a compromise solution…?

We are waiting for the results of the negotiations being brokered by the troika.

Q - Can you comment on Ms Del Ponte’s report published yesterday? Can we hope that France will give its political support to Serbia with regard to its bid to join the EU (…)?

Regarding your first question, Ms Del Ponte thought that Serbia still had to make an effort for its cooperation with the ICTY to be satisfactory.

For the rest, we certainly have close relations with Serbia but we’re not talking about EU membership today. It’s premature.

(…)

Q - Is it correct to say there’s a link between Kosovo and the process of Serbia’s candidacy for the EU?

I will repeat what Mr. Kouchner said when he went to Pristina and Belgrade. The minister said that before talking about possibilities between Serbia and the European Union, the Kosovo question had to be resolved. This doesn’t prevent us from supporting closer ties between Serbia and the European Union provided there is full cooperation with the ICTY. But at this point, our objective is to reach a solution between now and December 10 that will have the agreement of the Serbs and the Kosovars.

IRAN

Q - Iran is very much in the news… Where does France stand with regard to the options that are on the table? Against violence as recommended by the Americans or with all options open?

I will repeat. France hopes that negotiations and dialogue will lead to a solution to this crisis born of the Iranian nuclear question, I would remind you.

We are working with the entire international community and our European partners to reinforce sanctions precisely so as to enable the negotiations to succeed.

France remains committed to these two aspects: negotiation and sanctions. Our position hasn’t varied and it was restated by the minister in Luxembourg yesterday. This isn’t just France’s position, it’s also the EU’s.

Q - In the statement you speak of sanctions as a priority in the UN context. Last week Mr. Kouchner’s letter to his European counterparts asked for sanctions in the European framework. Has there been a shift?

No. Mr. Kouchner’s letter referred to the statement of the 3 + 3 (France, Germany, U.K., U.S., China and Russia) which was adopted in New York on September 28. It recalled the priority of the UN framework and said that we had to think about sanctions at the European level in parallel. These are two complementary approaches. Our position hasn’t changed; the priority is to reach sanctions at the UN, but we’re also thinking with our European partners about sanctions at the European level. The two approaches are complementary.

Q - You’re talking of dialogue with Iran today but on what bases?

We’ve advocated dialogue and negotiation all along. As I’ve said, we made the Iranians an offer of cooperation in all areas and especially in civilian nuclear energy. That’s what we’re talking about. But when we made this offer, they rejected it. Let me say it again: there is no change, our position is clear. We have to think about stiffer sanctions so long as Iran fails to comply with its international obligations.

Q - France wanted Iran to be considered in the European context. Was this proposal discussed yesterday?

Yes, it was discussed at length. It was an important item on the council agenda as France had proposed. The Europeans are united and stand shoulder to shoulder on this matter. Also reaffirmed is the priority of the UN and the reference to the E3 + 3 statement of September 28 stating that we are waiting for the reports from Mr. ElBaradei and Mr. Solana before deciding whether or not sanctions should be adopted at the UN.

Q - And what are the reactions of the other partners?

The conclusions I’ve just referred to were adopted by all the council members, therefore by all the member states.

Q - In the conclusions published in Brussels yesterday, it seems the EU is now putting far more emphasis on the application of the agreement between the IAEA and Iran. (…)

Yesterday’s conclusions confirm our position with its two aspects: on one hand, dialogue and negotiation; and on the other, the threat of sanctions which remains so long as Iran isn’t fulfilling its international obligations.

Read the conclusions. We all hope that Iran will comply with its international obligations and that Mr. ElBaradei, in his November report, will be able to show that Iran is indeed on the path the international community is hoping for. This is absolutely not new. The threat of sanctions exists so as to ensure that the negotiation succeeds.

Q - When is Mr. Solana’s report due out and what will it contain?

It is expected for November like Mr. ElBaradei’s. In the E3 + 3 statement, we ask the IAEA director and Mr. Solana to prepare a report on the situation. The general affairs council refers to it in the fourth paragraph of the conclusion it adopted on Iran yesterday.

LEBANON

Q - Do you have details about Mr. Kouchner’s visit to Lebanon with his Italian and Spanish counterparts?

I confirm that the three ministers will be in Lebanon October 19 and 20. The purpose of this joint visit is to meet with the Lebanese authorities and pay a visit to UNIFIL to which these three countries are the main contributors. I’m saying this subject to confirmation, and we’ll let you know the exact arrangements for the trip as soon as possible.

(…)

Embassy of France, October 17, 2007