Daily Press Briefing
Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(Paris, July 17, 2007)
[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]
President Idriss Deby Into of the Republic of Chad will make a working visit to France from July 18-22, 2007. He will be received by President Nicolas Sarkozy and will have talks with Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner, Minister of the Interior, Overseas France and Local Authorities Michèle Alliot-Marie and Defense Minister Hervé Morin.
Q - Do you have any more information about Mr. Solana’s proposal to send European forces to the Chad border?
It’s being discussed at this time among Europeans, and the question will be raised at the General Affairs Council on July 23. In light of the general security and humanitarian situation, the modalities for an international presence in eastern Chad and the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be studied.
Q - Is France considering sending forces?
We’re discussing matters among Europeans. Once there are decisions, we’ll see how to apply them.
Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will receive Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, on July 18. At this first meeting between the two ministers, they’ll talk about the main international questions: Darfur, Kosovo, the Middle East, and non-proliferation. Mr. Kouchner will also discuss the results of the inter-Lebanese meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud.
The ministers will discuss action to combat climate change and the current European issues, in particular treaty reform as they’re meeting just a few days before the start of the intergovernmental conference.
The two ministers will hold a press briefing after their meeting at 2:30 p.m.
Q - Among the current events, does the minister intend to raise with Mr. Milliband the problems with Russia? Do you know that London has expelled four Russian diplomats? London is seeking the support of its European partners in this business with Moscow.
The question will certainly be discussed. The murder of a British national on his national territory, with the endangering of thousands of others because of the substance used, is a particularly grave matter. Given its gravity, we stand foursquare with the United Kingdom in its desire to see justice done.
We call on Moscow to respond constructively to the requests of the British courts so that the circumstances are elucidated and the perpetrators of this crime tried and punished.
Q - Are you worried that the chill in relations between London and Moscow will have an effect on other questions, for example the Iranian nuclear program in which the British are closely involved?
We hope it will be possible to resolve this crisis thanks to an agreement in the framework of judicial cooperation with the Russian party. We will be talking about this to our European partners at the forthcoming General Affairs Council on July 23.
Yesterday the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1765 renewing for six months the mandate of UNOCI and the French forces supporting it.
In accordance with the recommendations of the UN secretary-general, the mandate of the impartial forces is amended to provide full support to the new political framework of the Ivorian peace process.
An interim report will be presented by the secretary-general October 15, 2007 to evaluate the mandate of the impartial forces in light of progress made in the implementation of the peace process.
France and the Council have thereby shown their resolute support for the Ivorian peace process which is to lead the country to free and transparent elections, and reiterated their support for the facilitator of the Ouagadougou Accords, President Blaise Compaoré .
Q - According to the Lebanese press, Mr. Cousseran’s visit to Damascus was announced today. Can you confirm this?
Q - Mr. Kouchner had planned for Mr. Cousseran to leave France for Beirut Wednesday. According to diplomatic sources, his departure for Lebanese has been postponed. Can you confirm this?
As the minister announced, Mr. Cousseran will go to Beirut very soon, probably before the end of the week and in any case before the minister’s trip.
I cannot confirm the date is Wednesday. Mr. Cousseran is continuing to travel to the region, after the meeting at Le Celle Saint –Cloud, to prepare for the minister’s arrival on July 28 in Beirut.
Q - France has said several times that before sending an envoy to Damascus, Damascus would have to send positive signals with respect to Lebanese’s stability and independence. Is that still France’s position?
It is our position. We said that these conditions, which you recalled, were necessary for a resumption of high-level contact.
Q - Is Mr. Cousseran considered a high-level official?
In your opinion?
Q - Do you have any more details about the Israeli soldiers? Apparently there is some doubt about the details that Hezbollah reportedly gave on the fact that the soldiers are alive?
I’ve nothing to add to what the minister said. He said that in light of the exchanges he’d had, it was his understanding that the soldiers were still alive. There is nothing further to add.
Q - At his press conference, the minister didn’t want to call the conference a French initiative. How do you call it?
He said it was a French “invitation.” He said something very apt in English, calling it a
We wanted these informal discussions. We have quite a special relationship with Lebanon, as you know, for historical and political reasons. Mr. Kouchner invited the participants to La Celle Saint-Cloud for informal discussions. They went off well. The minister has announced that he would be going to Beirut on July 28. It’s an exercise taking place between Lebanese with very active French participation.
What is important is that the meeting was held, that the discussions took place and that all the parties wish to continue them.
Q - Can you give us details about the minister’s visit to Beirut?
Mr. Cousseran, who is the minister’s envoy, is flying to the region. He will be pursuing contacts in Lebanon in liaison with the ambassador, Bernard Emié, to see how the minister’s trip can be organized on July 28.
The minister said he’d be going to Beirut on July 28. There was also a wish among the participants, during the talks, to meet again—I think the minister also told you this.
I can’t give you more details about what will happen on July 28. You’ll have noted, as we did, just how useful Mr. Cousseran’s efforts were in preparing for the meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud.
He will be continuing his contacts in the coming days in liaison with our embassy. We will give you details as we get closer to July 28.
Q - The July 28 meeting may be held on July 28 and 29. Will the negotiations be concluded?
I must correct your choice of word: let’s not talk about “negotiations.” It is not a matter of negotiations but discussions. What Mr. Kouchner said, and you’re right to recall, is that he was ready to stay two days if necessary.
He wants his role to be useful. We are there if we are useful because the parties think that we can be useful. But it is up to the Lebanese to decide on their expectations.
When the minister says he will stay one or two days, it’s because it will depend on what the Lebanese ask. It’s not a matter of occupying an hour of his schedule but of responding to the needs of the Lebanese, of being pragmatic and useful, and listening. That is what we can now call the “spirit of La Celle Saint-Cloud.”
Q - The Lebanese meeting was well addressed by the Arab League secretary-general. Is Mr. Cousseran going to meet the League members?
We were in contact with the Arab League. A representative of the Arab League was also associated with some of the parties at the meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud, and yesterday in the late afternoon Mr. Kouchner spoke by phone with Amr Moussa to brief him on what had been done and to tell him that he would be going to Beirut on July 28. So you see we’re in permanent contact. The exercise at La Celle Saint –Cloud complements what the Arab League is doing in complete transparency.
Q - Do you have any comment on the recent developments in the Middle East? About the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president, President Bush’s speech on the establishment of a Palestinian state and the future international conference on the Middle East in October?
Of course we have comments. As you can imagine, we take a very great interest in anything that might help ease the situation.
France is in favor of an international conference on the final status of the Palestinian territories. That’s our position, as you know, and you’ll have noted that the 10 Mediterranean ministers in the European Union called for such a conference. Even so, this conference will be productive only if between now and then confidence is fully restored between the parties.
From this point of view, as Mr. Kouchner told Ms Livni at their last meeting, Israel must make strong gestures to support the president of the Palestinian Authority and his government. The expected release Friday of 260 Palestinian prisoners, as the Israeli government announced at the beginning of the week, constitutes an important first step. But it is essential for Israel to make further gestures, to hand over all the tax revenue, open crossing points in Gaza and lift restrictions on the movement of people in West Bank. And at the same time all Palestinians must renounce violence.
In this context the Arab peace initiative, which was reiterated at the Arab League summit in Riyadh, is a sound basis for the resumption of substantive negotiations on the peace process. It rests on a simple principle--the exchange of land and the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders for a just and lasting peace with all the Arab countries.
Q - About the idea for an international conference. Does France have any particular initiative with respect to the framework or the various countries to be invited?
Let’s stop talking about an initiative. France’s position is in favor of such a conference so long as it addresses the final status of the Palestinian Territories. Also, in view of the efforts being made by the Arab countries, we think it should involve as a priority the parties directly concerned--the members of the Arab League follow-up committee and the Quartet in which the EU and UN are members, may I remind you.
Q - Is the conference going to focus on the Palestinian question or the question of peace with Syria and Lebanon?
I said that we support the idea of a conference on the final status of the Palestinian Territories.
Q - Have the Americans been in touch with you about this? Have you had any exchanges with the Americans specifically about this conference?
Not to my knowledge, but there are contacts all the time between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the minister. I know they are due to speak again today or tomorrow. As to the specific point you raise, I’ve no information.
Q - Do you have details about who might eventually attend the conference? And what do you think about the timing Mr. Bush has chosen for the conference? Many people are saying that this isn’t really the right moment.
As regards who is invited, I just said that such a conference could bring together the parties, the members of the Arab League follow-up committee and the Quartet of which the European Union and United Nations are members, as I said.
I’ve no comment about the date. If I understood correctly, President Bush was speaking about the fall. We’ll see.
Q - With regard to the crossings between Gaza and the West Bank, and between Gaza and Egypt, is France in favor of re-opening the Rafah crossing?
In a general way, so long as the security conditions are met, we favor lifting controls and roadblocks.
Q - Is the minister still to meet with the Egyptian foreign minister?
The Egyptian minister has said he couldn’t be there because of the Quartet meeting. He spoke by phone yesterday with the minister who told him about the results of the meeting at La Celle Saint-cloud.
Q - Has the meeting been postponed to another date?
We don’t have another date at this time.
Q - Bearing in mind that the talks are continuing, what does France want to do now that the Russians have rejected the latest draft?
We’re continuing talks in New York. We continue to hope that we will reach a formulation that allows us to get the agreement of the Russians.
Q - Which point could there be a compromise on?
We’ve already made progress, as the minister said during his visit to Belgrade and Kosovo last week. We’ve moved closer to what the Serbs and Russians want by eliminating in the text any anything automatic in the transfer to Kosovo’s independence.
We’re continuing to talk with the Russians and our other partners to see if we can move even closer to Russian concerns.
Q - And on what point would you say it is time to vote for a text?
That depends on what happens in the talks. The Russians will not accept a text which in one way or another they think will lead automatically to Kosovo’s independence. That’s not our analysis of the text. We believe at this point, given the state of the draft, the result is open. We must therefore continue to have discussions. Once there is no further possibility of talking, we will act accordingly. But for now that time hasn’t come, and the talks are continuing.
Q - About the Bulgarian nurses. The families say they’re beginning to receive compensation. There’s talk of a contribution from the European countries. What’s happening? Is France contributing and if the EU is participating, will France decide to take part too? Can you tell us about the situation?
We’re waiting for the decision by the Supreme Judicial Council which is to be handed down today.
Let’s wait until it’s known. We hope that it will reach us quickly and that the Bulgarian nurses and the doctor will be released as soon as possible.
Q - But do you have any details?
I’ve nothing to add. We’re waiting for the Libyan court decision./.
Embassy of France, July 17, 2007