Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

(Paris, March 19, 2007)

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


France is to organize a European cultural ‘season’ in 2008; the announcement will be made by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna at the Quai d’Orsay on March 20.

France, which takes over the presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2008, will showcase European cultures throughout France.

The ‘season’ will include 26 co-productions involving artists and institutions of France and every country in Europe, a series of events highlighting Europe’s cultural heritage, debates on ideas and big popular events.

The European cultural season in France will be jointly organized with the Ministry for Culture and Communication. Partnerships will also be established with the Ministry for National Education, local authorities and audiovisual media so as to reach the broadest possible public.

The two ministers will also present the collection entitled ‘Penser l’Europe,’ which is an initiative of CulturesFrance.


Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will meet on Wednesday, March 21, with the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank (micro-credit) and leader of the party Nagorik Shakti (Citizens’ Power).

The meeting will focus on the fight against poverty, specifically through innovative sources for development financing and their use through such initiatives as UNITAID.


Q - The newspaper Maariv wrote in its Sunday edition that President Chirac had had secret contacts with the Israeli authorities during last summer’s last war between Israel and Lebanon about engaging the army in a battle against Syria to destabilize the regime in Damascus. What is France’s position concerning these allegations?

We categorically deny the information which is devoid of all foundation.


Q - The US and Israel refuse to establish contact with the Palestinian government. Are you urging both countries to revisit their positions?

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy for his part has written to his new Palestinian counterpart. I’ve nothing to add to what we’ve told you over the last few days.

Let me remind you that the German presidency has also issued a statement, and the European Council. The discussions are to continue among the Europeans, especially at the next Gymnich.

Q - When does Mr. Douste-Blazy intend to meet his Palestinian counterpart or travel there for talks? Do you have a Palestinian answer to the minister’s proposal?

I’ve no particular information at this point about an eventual meeting between the French foreign minister and his new Palestinian counterpart. We’ll keep you informed obviously.

Q - Does the minister’s invitation still stand after the statements by Ismail Haniyeh about a ‘legitimate right’ of the Palestinian people to ‘resistance in all its forms’?

The formation of the national unity government marked an initial step and has opened a process which we hope will succeed.

It is up to each of the parties to contribute to this success.


Q - The opposition spokesman in Zimbabwe was seriously injured in the head Sunday by security agents at Harare airport. Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai was himself hurt in a crackdown. Does France favor new sanctions? Are you concerned now for the lives of the opposition figures?

We remain very troubled by these new acts of violence against opposition leaders.

It is up to the Zimbabwean authorities to facilitate democratic expression among the opposition parties and the free movement of their leaders.

We are following the situation on the ground very closely. Together with his German and Italian colleagues, our ambassador was able to visit the bedside of Morgan Tsvangirai and several of his companions last week.


Q - Is France going to ask Brazil for the extradition of the former Italian left-wining activist Cesare Battisti? Or does it think that he should be extradited directly to Italy?

Originally there was an extradition request for Mr. Battisti by Italy. I gather that Italy has already asked the Brazilian authorities to extradite him. So it’s a matter of judicial assistance in a criminal matter between Italy and Brazil./.

Embassy of France, March 19, 2007