Daily Press Briefing
Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(Paris, January 19, 2007)
[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]
Q - About Iran. Is there any possibility of the European Union going beyond the sanctions already proposed by the UN?
Ministers [at the EU general affairs/external relations council on January 22] will be discussing the transposition of resolution 1737 by the EU so it can be implemented in Europe. As you know, a number of decisions at the European level are needed to implement SCR 1737. The French position is that we must implement all of SCR 1737, nothing but 1737.
Q - Is there a question of interpretation in understanding exactly what the resolution means, is it that?
There may in fact be some slight problems on the sidelines, specifically in knowing exactly which entities are targeted. It’s more technical problems and on the sidelines, but our position on the political level is that we should implement this resolution which was unanimously adopted by the Security Council. That’s the priority. We’re not considering going beyond 1737 among Europeans.
Q - The resolution was adopted on December 23. When does it have to be applied?
I don’t know if the resolution itself stipulates a date. (…) When you’re freezing the financial holdings of certain entities and preparing lists of goods for a ban on exports or transit, it inevitably takes time. We’re in this process and moreover I’m not sure that we’ll be completely in position on Monday, as far as the EU is concerned, to actually decide on the transposition measures. I believe it’s planned for February, but it is all well under way.
Q - I don’t understand. The decision gives Iran 60 days to comply, and you’ve not even begun to implement it
We’re giving Iran 60 days to return to the negotiating table and suspend enrichment activities and at that point, in effect, the countries in the international community could go back to the sanctions they’ve agreed on.
What’s important is that we’ve begun the transposition. Iran could, depending on the report the IAEA director-general submits, send us a positive signal and see to it that we’re not obliged to go forward in implementing these measures.
Q - And after 60 days, what’s going to happen?
After 60 days, what’s planned is a report from Mr. ElBaradei. When he met the minister yesterday, he confirmed that he would be presenting the report. After that, the Security Council will have to take a decision in one direction or the other.
Q - By deciding to prolong the measures?
No, there’ll be no extension of the measures. The measures have been taken and there’s no going back on them unless Iran changes its attitude.
Q - When you say that in 60 days, you will go in one direction or the other, does that mean the sanctions will not be prolonged or that you will go further?
Either Iran sends positive signals, agrees to suspend its enrichment activities, and at that moment we’ll suspend the application of the sanctions. Or Iran doesn’t send positive signals, and in fact it is conceivable we’ll consider new measures, but there’s nothing automatic about it. Of course there will have to be discussions among the Security Council members to decide on new measures.
Q - Apparently, Société Générale has canceled a billion-dollar contract with Iran. Was that under 1737?
I’m not aware of it. These are decisions taken by commercial banks and they’re made on the basis of their own considerations. In any case, it’s not a response to some instruction from the French authorities.
Q - So it’s independent?
Yes, these are decisions taken by banks depending on their own assessment of things.
Q - It involved an oilfield.
It doesn’t matter. There’s no general instruction from the French authorities about it.
Q - Iran has said it’s open to meeting with a French envoy, without defining his identity. I’d like to know first whether you’ve any comment on the Iranian attitude? And is there anything new in regard to sending an envoy?
I’ll begin with your second point. No, there’s no new information I can give you today about possibly sending an envoy, nor about the decision in principle nor the identity of the envoy nor the date of an eventual visit to Tehran. In addition, with regard to the Iranian statements, we’ve noted them and as sending the envoy would be consistent with a wish to engage in dialogue with the Iranians, we’ve noted the Iranian willingness to meet with an envoy.
Q - Why is it taking so long to reach a decision about sending an envoy to Tehran….?
First of all, discussions like this take place confidentially and discreetly as you’ve seen over the past few days. We’re taking into account various elements, and based on these the political authorities will consider if the principle of a visit is confirmed and when it might take place.
I understand all the questions that this raises, but don’t forget that we’ve already had a dialogue with Iran. We have an ambassador in Iran, may I remind you. The minister met Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki in Beirut last August. He saw him again in New York in September. As Mr. Douste-Blazy said yesterday morning on the radio, I believe, a visit by him is not imminent. What we’re talking about is sending an envoy other than the minister, clearly, but this is in the context of a dialogue which is not something exceptional vis-à-vis Iran.
Q - There’s no possibility being considered for tougher economic sanctions, I gather?
What we’ve said all along is that we are in favor of progressive and reversible sanctions, as the Security Council said itself in its resolution. Initial measures have been taken, and this does not preclude other measures being taken if Iran does not comply with the demands of the international community.
I will read the communiqué we issued late yesterday:
“Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy met with Mohammed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on January 18.
“France attaches special importance to IAEA action and is one of the main contributors to the Agency’s technical cooperation. The meeting afforded an opportunity to address the main proliferation problems confronting us, particularly Iran and North Korea.
“With regard to Iran, Mr. Douste-Blazy recalled that our objective is for Iran to comply with its commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and with the decisions of the Security Council and IAEA. In other words, for it to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities which are a matter of concern to the international community and have no credible civilian application in Iran today.
“In adopting resolution 1737 in December establishing sanctions for the first time, the Security Council sent a clear and unanimous message to Iran. We intend to implement without delay all the measures stipulated in the Council’s resolution. We call on Iran to accept the offer of cooperation from the Six and the proposal for “dual suspension” referred to in 1737 which would allow negotiations to begin. Mr. ElBaradei will present his report to the Security Council in February, and the Council will review Iran’s application of the Security Council and IAEA decisions.
“With regard to the development of nuclear energy in the world, Mr. Douste-Blazy recalled that France is very attached to the right, recognized in Article 4 of the NPT, to develop the use of nuclear energy for peaceful ends with due respect for non-proliferation commitments. Because of proliferation risks, the dissemination of sensitive technologies, particularly enrichment and reprocessing has to be limited. But it is appropriate on the other hand to offer credible assurances of access to nuclear fuel. France presented a concrete proposal to the IAEA last June, with five other states providing enrichment services (United States, Russia, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands) to guarantee the supply of fuel. We hope to move forward quickly on this question.”
We welcome Israel’s transfer of $100 million in tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority. Since February the European Union and France have repeatedly asked Israel to release all customs and tax revenue due the Palestinians. We hope that this transfer is followed by others.
Firm measures, such as the effective implementation of the measures which the Israeli prime minister pledged to Mahmoud Abbas when they met on December 23, are needed to rebuild confidence between the parties and revive the peace process. The transfer is part of this.
In addition, the other commitments that were made between Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas have to be implemented. I’m thinking in particular, for example, of all the things connected with the crossings, which are very important in the Territories, and also the question of prisoners. All these commitments are important, and we hope the transfer of $100 million builds up momentum and makes it possible to go further.
Q - Why is Europe not giving what it was supposed to give the Palestinians?
We’ve said many times that Europe has paid and that the commitments for 2006 represented over 600 million euros.
Q - But where is this money in real terms?
The money has been disbursed. I don’t know exactly when the payments were made. What is important is disbursing these funds. I believe that the European Union has disbursed all the promised funds in the context of the mechanism that was set up. If anyone in this matter has been exemplary, it is certainly the European Union which, of all the major donors, is undoubtedly the one which has maintained its support the most to the Palestinians during this period.
With a general strike going on in Guinea since January 10, we continue to follow the situation with concern given the risks to the country in the event the violence widens.
France calls on all the political actors, labor unions and civil society to seek a solution through dialogue.
France is conferring closely with its European partners on the spot, specifically the German mission which currently holds the EU presidency.
The situation in Guinea is being closely watched by the international community. A destabilization of the country would have serious consequences for the subregion.
Foreign nationals have been urged to restrict their travel and to observe the advisories to be vigilant and exercise caution.
The international colloquium “Between tradition and modernity, which governance for Africa,” will be held in Bamako from January 23 to 25, 2007. It is co-organized by the Institute for a New Debate on Governance ((IRG, Paris) and the Alliance to Reshape Government in Africa (ARGA, Bamako). The colloquium will bring together ministers from Mali, African, Canadian and French universities, and representatives of all components of African society. It aims to identify ways and means of promoting governance suited to the challenges of the African continent.
The initiative is part of the French strategy for democratic governance, adopted at the joint meeting on December 5, 2006 of the interministerial committee on international cooperation and development, and the interministerial committee for immigration control. In this context a 1.9- million-euro project was adopted at the end of 2006 to support the preparation of strategies for governance on the African continent through supporting the African Union and African--especially Francophone--networks which are working on this issue.
Q - President Chirac has been personally involved with the various participants in the Paris III conference so that the level of participation at the conference is high. Do you have some idea of the level of each country’s participation in the conference? In the case of the United States, is Ms Rice’s presence confirmed?
Regarding the conference itself, the president has, as you say, been personally involved in organizing it and he will chair it right through on January 25.
So it’s the president, assisted by the foreign minister and the finance minister, who will chair the conference from start to finish.
He has written to his counterparts to ask them either to attend or to be represented by their foreign and/or finance ministers. And the indications we have, though I've not seen the final count, suggest that a good number of ministers will be at the conference.
As for the United States, it’s not for me to announce whether Ms Rice is attending, but it seems to me I saw American statements tending to indicate she would be at the conference on January 25.
But there’s not just the United States even though it is an important country. There are other countries which should also be represented at ministerial level. There’s also Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, who’s due to attend.
Q - And Lebanon’s participation?
There too, I believe we should leave it to the Lebanese themselves to announce the composition of their delegation. I believe Prime Minister Siniora plans to attend, together with a number of ministers.
Q - But the invitation, coming from a head of state, was sent to whom?
We have been working from the beginning on the conference with Mr. Siniora and with his government. I honestly don’t think it is useful to dwell on that kind of thing. What has to be done now is really work for the success of the conference without getting back into squabbles which have only a rather secondary interest.
Q - The press is talking about meetings or possible contacts ahead of the conference. Can we have some idea of these contacts?
I don’t know what the president’s program is. I refer you to the Elysée for that. But the president is preparing the conference and is probably having a number of telephone contacts in preparation. The minister too. The minister went to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and obviously, if necessary, he can also call any one of his counterparts. But I don’t have more details.
Q - And during the conference?
During the conference, as usual, there will probably be a lot of bilateral contacts, but I don’t have the list and I don’t know either if it will be given out because these things are often very informal and will take place in the corridors at the conference center.
Q - Can you give us the list of countries from the region that have been invited?
We’ll be handing out a press kit at the time of the conference itself. As far as the Middle East is concerned, there’s Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. I gather the Arab League has also been invited.
Q - These are the countries Condoleezza Rice just visited, it’s called the six-plus-two now isn’t it?
I don’t believe this was the criteria for choosing them.
Q - Was Iran invited?
Not to my knowledge.
Q - You mentioned a presentation for the press. Do you have the date?
The Elysée spokesperson intends to do it just a few days before the conference.
Q - Mr. Ban Ki-moon made an announcement yesterday about the international tribunal, saying he was disappointed that the proposal for the international tribunal had still not gone back to the United Nations. What’s your position?
Disappointed, I don’t know, but we would like to see it return to the United Nations and be definitively approved.
It is normal for the UN secretary-general to want to see this tribunal set up and the statute approved as quickly as possible.
Q - A few days ago the speaker of the Lebanese parliament criticized the action of the French ambassador to Lebanon, accusing him of interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs. Yet yesterday he received Mr. Emié and praised France’s action. What happened between the two statements for there to be this change of attitude?
The second statement is better than the first. This probably shows that there was a misunderstanding that has been dispelled.
Q - Might other Arab countries, such as the Maghreb countries for example, be invited?
At this time I don’t see them in the list. Once again, it’s a list which isn’t completely determined, which takes account of participation in the previous Paris I and Paris II conferences and has taken into account the wishes of the countries concerned.
After the conference, we will be briefing all our partners on the results.
Embassy of France, January 19, 2007