Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, December 19, 2007)

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


JOINT DECLARATION BY FOREIGN AND EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER BERNARD KOUCHNER AND FOREIGN AND HUMAN RIGHTS SECRETARY RAMA YADE/DEATH PENALTY

“France welcomes the adoption by the UN General Assembly on December 18 of a resolution calling for all states to establish a moratorium on the death penalty. The text marks a turning point on the path to the universal abolition of capital punishment. For the first time the UN General Assembly is giving a clear signal to this end.

“The UN General Assembly encourages by this historic text the current trend towards a reduction in the number of executions and the abolition of the death penalty. The recent decision by the State of New Jersey in the United States to abolish capital punishment is the latest illustration. Over 130 states, i.e. over two-thirds of member states of the UN, have renounced the death penalty. We call on the others to join them.

“At the very time the General Assembly was addressing this question, executions have alas taken place in several countries such as Belarus, Japan and Iran, going counter to the movement towards abolition. We call on the Iranian authorities to suspend imminent executions, especially in the case of individuals who were minors at the time of the actions with which they are charged.

“France and its European partners will continue to work for the universal abolition of the death penalty as evidenced by the European Union decision of December 7 to make October 10 the European ‘Day against the death penalty.’

“Our mobilization against the death penalty is an act of faith in humanity. It is to proclaim with Victor Hugo that “the inviolability of human life is the first of rights. All principles derive from this right.” The abolition of capital punishment is a step whose time has come. It is up to us, by dint of will and persuasion, to speed up its course.”

Q - The UN approved a moratorium leading to the abolition of the death penalty in all countries that practice it. What’s your reaction? Are you coordinating your actions with Italy with a view to the universal abolition of the death penalty?

I refer you to the statement by the minister and secretary of state. We are acting in this area in close consultation with our European partners and particularly with Italy for the universal abolition of the death penalty.

COLOMBIA

I will read the statement the minister issued last night about the announcement of the release of Clara Rojas, her son Emmanuel and Consuelo de Perdomo.

“We are delighted at the announcement of the release of Clara Roja, Ingrid Betancourt’s campaign manager, her son Emmanuel and Madame Consuelo de Perdomo.

“Naturally we are waiting impatiently for confirmation of this report.

“This gesture would be a comfort for their families. The others are still in pain. All offers of help must concentrate on pursuing the efforts being made which are producing the first tangible results in several years.

“Following President Sarkozy’s appeal to Manuel Marulanda, we hope that this first step will be quickly followed by the release of Ingrid Betancourt and any other hostage whose health would warrant an immediate humanitarian gesture.

“Beyond that, France is determined to work tirelessly with its partners for the release of all the hostages.”

Q - The minister, Mr. Kouchner, recently mentioned the possibility of going to Colombia “soon.” What’s happening about that plan?

The minister actually said he was ready to go to Colombia shortly. No specific date however has been set for the trip.

FRANCE/ESTONIA

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner met on Tuesday, December 18, with his Estonian counterpart, Urmas Paet. The two ministers discussed strengthening the partnership between our two countries, focusing on its political, economic and cultural aspects. They also discussed the importance of European energy policy, the issues relating to the EU neighborhood policy with regard to countries of the south and east, EU relations with Russia and the perspectives with regard to European security and defense policy.

(…)

RUSSIAN FEDERATION/LATVIA

France welcomes the exchange of instruments of ratification of the border treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Latvia which took place in Riga on December 18 between the foreign ministers of the two countries, Sergey Lavrov and Maris Riekstins.

The treaty, which provides a legal basis for the demarcation of the border between Latvia and Russia, reflects the wish of both countries to develop their relations by turning to the future. This is an important step for the entire European Union.

KOSOVO

Q - What are you expecting from the discussions in the Security Council on the future status of Kosovo?

Let’s not second guess the results of today’s meeting on Kosovo in the Security Council.

May I also remind you that the European Council on December 14 noted the impasse in the negotiations being conducted under the auspices of the troika and said the European Union stands ready to play a leading role in Kosovo, including by launching an ESDP mission and contributing to an international civil office.

TURKEY/IRAQ

Q - Is there a French reaction to the Turkish army’s incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan?

The presidency of the Council of the European Union expressed its concern at the military reactions recently undertaken by Turkey on Iraqi territory and called on it to exercise restraint.

We understand the legitimate concern of the Turkish authorities to protect their citizens. We are also committed to Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We consider it paramount that the dialogue begun between the Turkish and Iraqi authorities should be continued.

Lastly, in general, France stands with Turkey in the fight against the PKK, an organization on the European list of terrorist groups and entities.

(…)

PACS

Q - What’s your reaction to the Council of State’s suspension of a Quai d’Orsay circular on PACS [civil solidarity pacts]?

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has taken note of the decision by the Council of State to order the suspension of certain provisions of the circular letter of September 28, 2007 regarding the civil solidarity pact (PACS).

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs sent a circular letter on September 28 to all embassies and consulates in order to clarify the conditions in which a civil solidarity pact could be registered at French diplomatic and consular posts. The circular was a response to situations where the effects of the PACS might conflict with local legislation in countries which punish free unions between partners of the same sex or different sex.

Under the 1963 Vienna Convention on consular relations, diplomatic and consular officials may not carry out functions that are prohibited by the laws and regulations of the state of residence. This core principle in consular relations is binding on all states.

The application of this principle means that the French diplomatic or consular authority may not register a PACS in countries whose criminal code punishes the free union between partners of the same sex or different sex. Knowledge of registration of such a pact would expose the parties to risks.

The restriction is aimed at all partnerships, heterosexual and homosexual. The letter of September 28, 2007 states that the refusal of an embassy or consulate is valid in cases where the provisions of the local criminal code clearly stipulate fines or penalties of imprisonment. The existence in the host country of social reprobation of a free union or homosexuality would not warrant refusal to register a PACS.

The eventual difference in treatment is explained by the differences in legislation between countries. It is also explained by the fact that only French nationals may, in case of difficulties, request consular protection; this explains the different treatment at this time reserved for PACS contracted between two French nationals and those contracted between a French national and a non-French citizen.

As the Council of State has requested, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs will take new steps within the month to clarify the conditions for obtaining a PACS in embassies and consular posts.

Our concern in this matter is above all to protect our nationals. There is no intention at all to restrict the access of French citizens abroad to a PACS.

We are in contact with the associations active on this question and we are at their disposal to pursue our dialogue with them./.

Embassy of France, December 19, 2007