Daily Press Briefing
Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(Paris, August 20, 2007)
[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]
I will read the communiqué the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs issued yesterday:
“At the invitation of Mr Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs has just begun an official visit to Baghdad. This is a project he had been thinking about since taking up office.
M. Bernard Kouchner is going to Iraq to convey a messsage of France's solidarity with the Iraqi people and to listen to the representatives of all the communities, without exception.
He arrives in Baghdad on 19 August 2007, the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack which cost the lives of Sergio Vieira de Mello, special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, and around 20 United Nations civil servants. Mr de Mello was a personal friend of M. Kouchner, as were Nadia Younès, Fiona Watson and Jean-Sélim Kanaan, members of his team in Kosovo.
On this occasion, he will also express France's gratitude to [French] embassy staff who are serving in Baghdad with courage and skill in the conditions you know about./.”
Q - Is France still in favor of a timetable for withdrawing foreign forces from Iraq sometime in 2006 as the previous government repeatedly stated?
The minister reaffirmed in Baghdad yesterday the need for Iraqis to recover their sovereignty and to maintain the territorial integrity of their country.
The foreign forces stationed in Iraq aren’t there to stay. The prospect of withdrawal will have to be defined by the Iraqis themselves.
As the minister said, it is for them to devise a solution to resolve the present situation.
He also said he wanted to see the United Nations take a bigger role in Iraq.
Q - Is a meeting scheduled between the minister when he comes back from Baghdad and Assistant Secretary of State David Welch in Paris?
Visits to France by high-ranking officials are not the subject of our briefings.
In view of the emergency situation caused by the flooding in Bangladesh and in response to requests for humanitarian aid from the local authorities, France is to make a 300,000-euro contribution to the NGO Friendship which is active in the area of health and humanitarian assistance and in development.
The money will help finance reconstruction operations among other things.
Q - On Sunday, the government of Niger accused “rich foreign powers” of paying money to army deserters to join Tuareg rebels in the north of the country. What’s your reaction to these accusations?
Since it obviously does not concern our country, it is not my place to respond to such a question.
France has regular and friendly dialogue with Niger.
The president has had the opportunity to talk with Niger’s President Tanja.
Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner met with Niger’s Foreign Affairs Minister Aichatou Mindaoudou on July 30, and State Secretary for Cooperation and Francophony Jean-Marie Bockel went to Niamey on August 4 where he reaffirmed the excellence of our bilateral relations.
Embassy of France, August 20, 2007