Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, June 20, 2007)

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


WORLD REFUGEE DAY

I want to read the statement made by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner:

“On the occasion of World Refugee Day, instituted by the UN in 2001, I want to reaffirm France’s deep attachment and respect that it has always given to the status of refugee as guaranteed by the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees.

“We follow closely the situation of refugees around the world. We are particularly sensitive to the situation of refugee populations who in the past few years have had to flee, particularly in Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan, and who are currently living in very precarious conditions.

“France salutes the action of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which has done a remarkable job for over 60 years in representing and assisting refugee populations and displaced persons throughout the world. In cconnection with this, France joined the group of “top donors” to UNHCR (donors of $20 million and more) in 2007. In this way it shows its support for UNHCR’s mandate and action in the field, in France, in particular, in the context of the Refugee Appeal Commission.”

Q - UNHCR said that the number of refugees around the world had climbed for the first time since 2002, largely due to the war in Iraq, passing the bar of 10 million people. Your comment?

As High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said yesterday at the celebration of World Refugee Day, the general trend in the number of refugees around the world has been downward for 20 years. However, the UNHCR report does indicate that the number of refugees increased for the first time since 2002 because of the conflict you referred to in particular.

We are disturbed by the humanitarian situation of Iraqi refugees who are currently dispersed in the neighboring countries. This country is the scene of the largest population movement since 1948. We welcome the efforts by the neighboring countries to take in a considerable number of Iraqi refugees.

In connection with this, France has contributed a million euros for UNHCR’s reception of refugees in Syria and Jordan. France’s contribution to UNHCR stands at a total of $20 million in 2007.

(…)

IRAQ

France condemns in the strongest terms the latest deadly attack which killed over 80 people and injured hundreds in Baghdad yesterday.

France offers its sincerest condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones, and to the Iraqi authorities and people.

After the deadly attack on the minarets of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, last week, and the various reprisals that followed, France again urges all Iraqis to reject the cycle of violence and rally together.

FRENCH INSTITUTE IN TEL AVIV

On June 27, 2007, on the occasion of the second edition in Tel Aviv of the Fete de la Musique, the new Institut Français de Tel Aviv will be inaugurated by the secretary-general of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, Philippe Faure, who is ambassador for the international aspect of the Shoah, spoliations and the duty of remembrance, France-Israel Foundation president Jacques Huntzinger, CRIF president Richard Prasquier, along with Dalia Itzik, speaker of the Knesset, and Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv.

To house the institute and offices of the cooperation and cultural action department, France purchased a Bauhaus building on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It was the 9th house built in Tel Aviv in 1909 when the city was developing. The 1700 square meter space located in the heart of Tel Aviv features a media and resource center equipped with multimedia and audiovisual areas, a 100-seat auditorium and a café.

The new institute is destined to become the center of French cultural activities and the privileged space for dialogue between French and Israelis.

NGOS AT SALON

The first “Salon des Solidarités” (formerly the “Salon de l’Humanitaire”) will be held from June 22 – 24, 2007 at the Parc Floral in Paris. The event, co-financed by the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, is being held at the initiative of two NGOs, the humanitarian network Humanis, organizer of the Humani-terre forums, and the Association au service de l’action humanitaire, ASAH.

The Salon has two objectives: one, to inform the general public about international solidarity and the various forms of commitment, and raise public awareness about development issues through conferences, roundtables and presentations; and two, give people the opportunity to meet with all the actors in international solidarity (NGOs, public authorities, foundations, businesses, etc.) so as to promote partnerships and projects. A special place will be given to structures for social integration through economic activity. One of the high points of these meetings will be a special program for children to teach them about international solidarity.

The Salon will feature 250 exhibitors and is expected to attract 20,000 visitors. This year, in the context of a renewed partnership, the weekly La Vie will also organize a series of presentations and roundtables, “Les VIemes rencontres de l’humanitaire.”

WESTERN SAHARA

(…)

France welcomes the first round of negotiations between the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front under UN auspices this week. After years of the status quo, new momentum was given after the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1754, which calls for these negotiations.

France hopes that the process, which has just started, will lead to a political solution endorsed by all the parties in the framework of the United Nations.

I have no details about Mr. Fassi-Fihri’s visit to Paris. May I remind you that he recently met the minister, with Mr. Benaissa.

(…)

SALMAN RUSHDIE

Q - London on Tuesday expressed “deep concern” after a Pakistani minister said that giving a knighthood to Salman Rushdie could justify suicide attacks. The British ambassadors were summoned to Islamabad and Teheran where Ayatollah Khomeiny had sentenced Rushdie to death for his “Satanic Verses.” Is France in solidarity with the writer and the United Kingdom?

France reaffirms its commitment to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. It condemns all threats against the person of a writer because of what he or she writes.

(…)./.

Embassy of France, June 20, 2007