Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, July 20, 2007)

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


MIDDLE EAST

I’m going to read you the statement made by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner.

“I welcome the Israeli authorities’ release this morning of 256 Palestinian prisoners. It is a positive first step. I hope other gestures will follow swiftly and that the 550 or so other prisoners Israel pledged to release in December 2006 will regain their freedom.

“France calls on Israel to rapidly implement the measures that will assist the president of the Palestinian Authority and Salam Fayyad's government: the immediate full restitution of the customs taxes, opening of the crossing points into Gaza, and lifting of the restrictions on the movement of people in the West Bank.

“Concurrently, France calls on the Palestinians to refrain from resorting to violence and condemns the firing of rockets that are hitting Israeli territory.”

Q - Last Wednesday, at the meeting between Bernard Kouchner and his British counterpart, a question was asked about Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d’Alema’s position regarding relations between Hamas and al Qaeda. The Western powers’ responsibility for closer ties between the two organizations was raised. The minister said he distanced himself from Mr. d’Alema’s remarks. Do you have any comment?

The minister spoke with his Italian counterpart on the phone. They confirmed that they shared the same approach. I would also remind you that Mr. d’Alema is one of the 10 signatories of the open letter to Tony Blair. The two ministers share the same approach, as they have written.

GENERAL AFFAIRS/EXTERNAL RELATIONS COUNCIL

The General Affairs/External Relations Council will meet in Brussels on Monday, July 23. Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner and European Affairs Secretary Jean-Pierre Jouyet will represent France.

The Doha round trade talks will be discussed by trade ministers at a dinner on Sunday, July 22, which will be attended by Business and Foreign Trade Secretary Hervé Novelli. The question will be addressed at the Council’s formal session on Monday, July 23.

The European Commission will present its report on EU economic and social coherence.

The ministers will then take up several international issues. The Darfur crisis, in particular the preparatory work for mounting a mission in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic in the context of the common European foreign and security policy (CFSP), and the situation in Kosovo will constitute the two main topics at this session. The Council will also consider the situation in the Middle East and the matter of the Bulgarian nurses and doctor held in Libya.

On the sidelines of the session there will be the formal opening of the intergovernmental conference tasked with redrafting an amended treaty in the context of the mandate defined at the European Council on June 21, 22 and 23.

There will also be meetings of the association councils (EU-Morocco, July 23 at 6 p.m.; EU-Chile, July 24 at 10:15 a.m.; and EU-FYROM, July 24 at 11:30 a.m.).

AFGHANISTAN

France condemns in the strongest possible terms the abduction in Afghanistan yesterday of German and South Korean nationals. It assures our German and South Korean partners of its complete solidarity.

France offers its full support for the efforts being made by the Afghan authorities and people and the international community to stabilize and rebuild an Afghanistan ravaged by 23 years of war. It denounces the methods and objectives of fanatic elements that are seeking to oppose this process.

LEBANON

Q - I see you’ve set a date for the minister’s visit to Lebanon.

It follows on what the minister had announced. He said he would go there on July 28. It was on his schedule.

Q - That means Mr. Cousseran’s trip was successful?

Mr. Cousseran’s tour isn’t over. He will be in Lebanon at the beginning of next week to prepare for the July 28 meeting.

Q - Do you have any guarantee that the trip will allow Mr. Kouchner to take part in a meeting with the same format as La Celle Saint-Cloud?

I’ll be able to give you a precise answer only after Mr. Cousseran’s trip.

Q - If there’s no meeting along the same lines at La Celle Saint-Cloud will the minister still go?

The minister will go to Lebanon so long as it is useful, as was the case for the meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud. He wants to be pragmatic, useful, and to listen. Depending on what Mr. Cousseran hears, we’ll see how things can be organized.

As you know Mr. Cousseran was in Damascus a few days ago. Contrary to what you may have read in various quarters, there is no change in French policy.

As the minister has said repeatedly, and as Hervé Morin repeated during his visit to Beirut, we fully support Fouad Siniora’s government. This is the message that Ambassador Cousseran also conveyed to Saad Hariri during his visit to Jeddah.

Mr. Cousseran also told the Syrian foreign minister that we were counting on a constructive attitude from his country in the wake of this exercise to restore dialogue among all the Lebanese parties.

“YES, I SPEAK RUGBY”

On the occasion of the Rugby World Cup, the Foreign and European Affairs Minister and Francophonie officials are launching a campaign to promote the French language to foreign supporters.

For the first time in its history, the Rugby World Cup is being held in a French-speaking country. For this exceptional event, the Foreign and European Affairs minister, TV5 Monde, RFI and the Alliance Française are launching a campaign, with the assistance of the French Rugby Federation, to promote the French language to the 450,000 foreign visitors who will attend the matches, and to all rugby fans. This operation will also be aimed at showing the modernity of the French language and to attract new audiences to study it at the network of French cultural establishments abroad.

This operation, called “Yes, I Speak Rugby,” comprises three original tools:

-a “French survival kit,” to converse with the French during the World Cub (also available in electronic form from www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/rugby2007)

-a movie presenting 12 international players who talk about their relationship with the French language

-an offer for French classes tailored toward helping future foreign spectators prepare their trip to France, an original method entitled “French in the Scrimmage.”

Mr. Kouchner, Health, Youth and Sports minister Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, and the president of the French Rugby Federation and World Cup organizing committee Bernard Lapasset will present this campaign at a joint press conference on July 24 at 11 a.m. at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

UNIVERSITY

The association Young European Decision-Makers, supported by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and whose objective is to develop a network of young French speakers in Europe and throughout the world, is holding its second French-language Summer University at the campus of the Cité Internationale Universitaire in Paris from July 22 to 29. The event will bring together some 400 young people aged 18 to 30 from 59 countries and five continents around the campaign theme launched by the Council of Europe: “All different, all equal.” The first summer university was held last year in Brasov, Romania, on the sidelines of the Francophonie summit.

Next year’s edition will be held in Quebec, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary celebrations of the city’s founding and the next Francophonie summit.

UK/FRANCE

Q - Is today the first meeting between Mr. Kouchner and the British Prime Minister?

The British Prime Minister is meeting with the President today. I therefore refer you to the Elysée. As far as I know, Mr. Kouchner, who met with his British counterpart this week in Paris, is not seeing the British Prime Minister today.

LIBYA

Q - With regard to Libya, I’d like to know about the compensation payments to the 450 families. (...)

I said at the electronic briefing the day before yesterday that the European Commission had set up an anti-AIDS action plan in 2004. Then in 2006, it set up a support fund under which France took in 150 Libyan children.

Q - Do you have the amount France has given to take care of these Libyan children? If I recall properly, Mr. Douste-Blazy had set up this program to take in the children, treat them, and provide medical follow-up. (...)

I don’t have the exact figures but what you say is quite correct: 150 children were treated in French hospitals.

Q - Do you consider that the reception of these children was part of the French contribution to the fund?

We took in these children in the context of the support fund set up by the Commission. It was financed in liaison with the European Commission.

It’s important to distinguish between the EU’s action and the special fund set up by the Gaddafi Foundation, which has paid compensation to the families.

As Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said, the European Commission has not contributed to the compensation of the families through the Gaddafi fund. They are two separate things.

Q - But what fund is France contributing to?

The European Union has set up two things: an anti-AIDS program in 2004, and two years later a fund destined more particularly for the hospital in Benghazi and the treatment of the contaminated children. The EU action is distinct from the Gaddafi funds set up to compensate the families.

Q - Funds to which the EU has contributed in spite of everything?

To my knowledge there has been no EU contribution to the fund.

Q - Has France contributed to the fund?

So far as I know, we have contributed only to the EU actions.

Q - If I understand correctly, you’re not contributing either directly or through the EU to any compensation fund for the families.

You understand correctly./.

Embassy of France, July 20, 2007