Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, November 16, 2007)

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


(…)

JOINT COMMUNIQUE FROM FOREIGN AND EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER BERNARD KOUCHNER AND DEFENSE MINISTER HERVE MORIN

As President Sarkozy had announced to the Security Council on September 25, France has set up an operation to secure the delivery of food aid to Somalia. The operation, which starts today, is being carried out by the Navy aviso Commandant Ducuing which sails early this afternoon from Mombassa to protect two ships chartered by the World Food Program taking humanitarian aid to Somalia.

We welcome the launch of this operation in response to the joint appeal issued by the WFP and International Maritime Organization on July 10 this year.

The humanitarian situation in Somalia is extremely serious and has been constantly deteriorating since the beginning of 2007. Over 1.5 million Somalis today depend on humanitarian aid, 80% of which is delivered by sea from Kenya. Conscious of the dangers for ships delivering humanitarian aid resulting from the upsurge of piracy in Somalia, France wanted to give practical aid to the Somali people.

For a period of two months our naval vessel will protect the WFP ships delivering the aid as they sail between Mombassa and Somalia, in both directions. A detachment of naval commandos will provide additional support for this military protection operation to ensure the security of the deliveries.

In an uncertain and troubled Somali political context, France hopes that this initiative will be continued by other States and draw the international community's attention to the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Somalia. To facilitate the future participation of other states, we are ready to share the experience gained in planning and conducting this operation.

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE FOREIGN MINISTER AND THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

France welcomes the adoption in the UN General Assembly Third Committee of a resolution asking all states to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its abolition.

The resolution marks a turning point on the road to the universal abolition of capital punishment. It is the first time that such a clear signal has been given to this end.

The resolution shows the path to take. We earnestly hope that the General Assembly confirms it in plenary session in December.

MINISTER’S VISIT TO ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will go to Israel and the Palestinian Territories on Saturday and Sunday, November 17 and 18. This will be his second trip since being appointed to the cabinet.

Two upcoming events will dominate all his meetings during the visit: the meeting in Annapolis at the end of November and the donors’ conference in Paris in December.

The purpose of the visit is to encourage the parties to move forward so that substantive progress can be achieved in Annapolis towards reviving final-status talks. The minister will reaffirm to everyone France’s total commitment in this matter.

In Israel Bernard Kouchner will have meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with his counterpart, Tzipi Livni, and the principal Israeli leaders: Vice Premier Haim Ramon, and Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

In the Palestinian Territories he will be received by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and by members of the government. There will be a meeting with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and with Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair.

GENERAL AFFAIRS/EXTERNAL RELATIONS COUNCIL

The general affairs/external relations council will meet in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, November 19 and 20. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Hervé Morin, Minister of Defense, will represent France.

Foreign ministers will have their first discussions on preparation for the European council on December 13 and 14. The commission will present its report on maritime pollution and then its 2008 work program which there’ll be a public debate on.

In international affairs, the council will be preparing three important events: the EU-China summit on November 28, the EU-India summit on November 30 and the EU-Africa summit on December 8 and 9. Ministers will also discuss several matters closely linked to current events: the situation in the Middle East just days before the Annapolis conference and the international donors’ conference for the Palestinian Territories in Paris in December; Lebanon in the run-up to the presidential election; Iran; Iraq, when the Iraqi foreign minister will be present; Pakistan and Burma; and lastly the western Balkans, in particular, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Foreign and defense ministers will have a joint debate on progress in European security and defense policy (ESDP) and the finalization of preparations for Operation EUFOR in Chad/CAR. Defense ministers will then examine the activities of the European Defense Agency and discuss the situation in Bosnia Herzegovina, military capabilities and EU-NATO relations.

Development ministers will also discuss the economic partnership agreements and the situation in fragile states.

On the sidelines of the council, there will be an EU-OSCE meeting and EU-Tunisia association council.

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IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

France has taken note of the IAEA director-general’s report. We thank him and his teams for the efforts they are making to clarify the gray areas of Iran’s nuclear program. We encourage the Agency to continue them in order to shed full light on Iran’s past and present nuclear activities.

The report shows that Iran, under the pressure of the international community, has provided new elements in response to IAEA questions (for example on the so-called P-1 and P-2 programs) but these are only partial responses. Considerable uncertainty persists and even increases with respect to the existence of a new generation of hitherto unknown centrifuges to which the IAEA did not have access.

As the six ministers of the E3+3 recalled on September 28 in New York, it is essential for Iran to comply with the international community’s demands formulated by the IAEA board of governors and the United Nations Security Council. This requires Iran:

- to respond clearly, fully and precisely to questions regarding its past and present activities and, as Mr. ElBaradei notes, for its cooperation to be pro-active rather than re-active;

- to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities which, as the IAEA director-general notes, are continuing in violation of Security Council decisions. This would at last reassure the international community and create a positive context that would allow a start to the negotiations that we seek;

- to implement the additional protocol and the other transparency measures demanded by the IAEA without which the Agency cannot confirm the absence of undeclared nuclear material and facilities in Iran. The director-general reiterated this with insistence in his report. He also emphasized that the Agency’s knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program was diminishing as Iran had ceased to convey certain types of information since the start of 2006.

Our preference, as we keep on repeating, is for dialogue and negotiation to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. That is why the Six had encouraged Javier Solana, at their meeting on September 28, to pursue his dialogue with the Iranian leaders in order to encourage Iran to meet the Security Council’s demands and resume negotiations. We are waiting for the report that Mr. Solana is to hand over to us soon on the results of his talks.

We recall that the E3+3 foreign ministers decided when they met in New York that a third sanctions resolution would be put to the vote in the UN Security Council if the two reports, M ElBaradei’s and Mr. Solana’s, did not note positive results from their efforts. May I remind you finally that on October 15 the Council of the European Union launched a study of additional measures that could be adopted in the European framework.

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10TH INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY WEEK

International Solidarity Week will take place in France from November 17 to 25. Its purpose is to increase public awareness of the issues in international solidarity: promotion of human rights, migrants’ rights, international volunteering, sustainable development, tourism and financial solidarity, fair trade. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has supported the initiative since 1999 and is contributing 280,000 euros to this 10th edition.

Associations, NGOs, local authorities and schools will be mobilized, and some 500 organizers will share their experiences and propose initiatives for citizens’ actions.

Nearly 6,000 events are scheduled this year: “solidarity villages,” fair trade markets, exhibitions, intercultural events, concerts of music from around the world, movie projections, documentaries and debates which are expected to drawn some 500,000 people.

For complete information on these events, go to: www.lasemaine.org.

Embassy of France, November 16, 2007