Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, April 19, 2007)

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


AFGHANISTAN

At the request of the French authorities, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Philippe Faure, is going to Afghanistan Thursday and Friday.

The purpose of the visit is to evaluate the security situation and the arrangements in place at our embassy. He will have contacts with the Afghan authorities in this regard and with the French community and NGOs present in the country.

The secretary-general will take stock of the situation of our two compatriots and the three Afghans accompanying them, who were kidnapped, and the efforts made to obtain their release. Our objective remains, more than ever, to bring home the members of the group safe and sound as quickly as possible.

Q - Which Afghan authorities will Mr. Faure be meeting in Kabul? What message is he taking to President Karzai if he meets him? Do you have details about his program? Will tighter security advisories be recommended?

Mr. Faure is planning to have contacts with the Afghan authorities. We will give you details of his visit as soon as possible.

The security advisories are already very strict. The visit by the secretary-general will be an opportunity to evaluate our arrangements including through meetings with the French community and NGOs.

IRAQ

France expresses its horror after the series of deadly attacks that have again struck the civilian population.

France condemns in the strongest possible terms these acts of violence which cause bloodshed in Iraq and exacerbate the divisions in Iraqi society.

It assures the victims’ families and loved ones of its deepest compassion and offers its condolences to the Iraqi authorities and people.

It calls on all Iraqis to mobilize in order to stem the spiral of violence and safeguard the unity of their country.

TURKEY

We strongly condemn the assassination in Turkey yesterday of three people, including a German national working, for a Protestant publishing firm. We offer our condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones. We have no doubt that the Turkish authorities will shed full light on this heinous crime as they have said via the prime minister and minister of the interior.

OSCE

In accordance with its international commitments, France has invited the OSCE, whose expertise in elections is recognized, and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to send a mission to assess the presidential elections as it did for the previous presidential election in 2002.

An election assessment mission must be distinguished from the election observer missions that the OSCE carries out in other countries. The purpose of the assessment mission is to study certain points in the election process and allow observers, especially from countries in transition, to become familiar with the election practices of countries that have an established democratic tradition.

Like the assessment mission carried out in 2002, the ODIHR mission consists of 11 persons. It is led by a Canadian, Loren Wells, director of an election observation institute in Ottawa, and includes nationals from Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Italy, Kazakhstan, Moldavia, Norway and Spain and the United States.

The mission is currently deploying in Paris, Lyons and Marseilles in preparation for the first round of the presidential elections. Some members of the mission will remain however until the second round. A final report will be issued by the ODIHR about six weeks after the end of the elections.

MEKONG COMMISSION

France will take part in the international conference on the Mekong Commission which will be held in Hanoi on April 23 and 24 at the invitation of the Vietnamese agriculture minister and the Danish development and cooperation minister. The purpose of the conference is to enhance coordination between the Mekong Commission and its partners (bilateral and development banks) for accelerated development of the Mekong river basin.

The Mekong Commission, established in 1995, groups Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. China and Myanmar are present as observers. The purpose is to develop the Mekong basin while preserving its ecological balances. The Mekong, which has considerable importance for the region in terms of energy, transport, irrigation and fishing, is a crucial issue in sub-regional cooperation.

France has given the Mekong priority in its support for the management of international rivers. It has supported the Mekong Commission since 2005 with four million euros over four years together with technical assistance to the secretariat and support for information systems on water.

GUINEA/FRANCE

Q - What’s the object of the meeting followed by a dinner between Ms Girardin and Guinean Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate? What will they talk about? Has France a particular message to deliver to the prime minister?

Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate of Guinea is currently on a working visit to France. That is the context in which Ms Girardin is seeing him for talks followed by a dinner. The issues they discuss will be linked to the situation in Guinea and the region.

We note that Mr. Kouyate’s accession to the office of prime minister, which was the result of a consensus between the office of the president and the labor unions, restored calm in Guinea after the crises in the country in January and February. We consider that his action must be encouraged. So Ms Girardin will be delivering a message of support from France to Guinea’s prime minister in his mission.

May I remind you that when Ms Girardin was in Conakry on March 1, the day of Mr. Kouyate’s investiture in the office of prime minister, she announced that France would grant exceptional budget aid of one million euros earmarked for the supply of drinking water in poor districts of Conakry, together with emergency humanitarian assistance of 100,000 euros.

(…)

SUDAN/DARFUR

Q - Does France favor a new resolution on Darfur, including sanctions against Khartoum, as the United States and Britain want?

The commitments recently made by the Sudanese authorities allow for progress towards the establishment of a UN/AU hybrid force. But Khartoum has to give its full and entire cooperation to the deployment.

At the same time the priority is to support the mediation efforts so as to reach a political agreement guaranteeing a lasting solution which alone will allow humanitarian aid to be delivered.

But time is running out. The international community must continue to show firmness: if the Sudanese authorities do not keep to their commitments, it will be up to the Security Council, as President Chirac has said, to take other measures. That is why we want to see a discussion on sanctions continue in the UN Security Council.

(…)

Embassy of France, April 20, 2007