Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, May 21, 2007)

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


SUDAN/DARFUR

I will read the communiqué that was issued on Saturday, May 19, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

‘Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner and Secretary of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet, held a working meeting today on the situation in Darfur with Ministry departments and representatives of NGOs.

‘The minister recalled that he intended to give priority to this question so as to improve the humanitarian situation and move towards the deployment of a hybrid UN/AU force and a political solution. He also emphasized our concern for regional security, in particular on the borders of Chad and Sudan, and the role of the European Union in support of the international community’s efforts.’

LEBANON

I will read a communiqué issued by the Foreign Ministry this morning:

‘Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner telephoned Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Sunday, May 20, to reaffirm the absolute importance we accord to the independence, sovereignty and stability of Lebanon, and to inquire about the situation, especially in Tripoli.

‘He expressed France’s solidarity and confidence in the Lebanese authorities to re-establish calm and restore order in that part of Lebanon.

‘They discussed the possibility of a meeting soon.

‘The minister reaffirmed France’s commitment to the establishment of an international tribunal to try the assassins of Rafik Hariri and his companions.

‘Bernard Kouchner also condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack this night in the district of Ashrafieh, in Beirut, which caused several victims, and offers his condolences to the victims’ families and to the Lebanese people.’

Q - What’s your reaction to the events that have rocked Lebanon?

I refer you to the communiqué we issued this morning.

It will be up to Lebanese judicial officials to determine the circumstances of the attack on the district of Ashrafieh yesterday.

Q - Bernard Emié has been appointed to Turkey. Who will replace him in Lebanon?

It’s a decision that depends on the president.

MINISTER’S TALKS

Since he took office, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner has had telephone conversations with several of his counterparts, including Condoleezza Rice and Margaret Beckett, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Miguel Angel Moratinos and Massimo D’Alema. He has also had talks with Javier Solana.

In addition, British Minister for Europe Geoffrey Hoon is in Paris and will have a meeting with Bernard Kouchner this afternoon at 3 o’clock to discuss the main European issues.

Q - Where is the new minister’s first trip abroad likely to be? And when?

We will let you know as soon as possible.

Q - About the minister’s meetings. What did Mr. Kouchner and Ms Rice discuss, and also the minister and Ms Beckett? Did they talk about Iran?

These were telephone calls to make contact and quickly review the main international issues. I don’t wish to go into details at this stage.

(…)

MIDDLE EAST

France strongly condemns the continuing rocket fire from Gaza and calls on the various Palestinian groups to respect the cease-fire concluded on November 26 with the Israeli authorities.

Given that the situation is very volatile in the Palestinian Territories and that there’s a disturbing rise in the number of civilian victims, we call on the Israeli authorities to exercise the utmost restraint so as not to enter again into a futile cycle of violence. We encourage them to resume dialogue.

Q - What is France’s reaction to the threats of an Israeli minister to ‘liquidate at the first opportunity’ Khaled Meshalm, one of the signatories of the Mecca agreement which led to the establishment of the national unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

We’ve taken note of these statements.

I’d like to recall that France constantly condemns the practice of extra-judicial killings, which are a violation of international law. This type of practice can only strengthen the most radical elements at a time when it is essential, on the contrary, to strengthen supporters of a negotiated solution.

Q - Mr. Kouchner spoke yesterday about the events in Tripoli in which 40 people died. Does he also plan to speak out about the situation in Palestine where several people die every day? And what policy does he intend to pursue to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people who are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe according to humanitarian leaders?

I refer you to the statement I’ve just made about the situation in the Middle East. You are well aware of France’s commitment to the search for a just and lasting solution for founding a Palestinian state.

Mr. Kouchner discussed the question with Mr. Solana this morning before the visit he’s making to the region.

Q - According to the UN, nine out of ten Palestinian are living below the poverty line, and the UNRWA director, Mr. Ging, has called for emergency aid for the Palestinians. What can France do to convince its European partners to resume direct aid? (…)

We continue to advocate a resumption of direct aid and we shall do so at the upcoming general affairs/external relations council which will be held on June 18. The elements you mention go in this direction.

Q - What was Mr. Kouchner’s message to Mr. Solana who is about to go to the Middle East?

The meeting was an opportunity to review the situation before Mr. Solana’s trip, particularly the situation in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

AFGHANISTAN

France condemns the attacks on Kandahar, Kunduz and Gardez since Thursday. It offers its condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones, and its solidarity with the Afghan government and with our German partners, three of whose soldiers were killed. France calls for the immediate cessation of violence and terrorism.

The risk of a terrorist attack or abduction remains high, especially in the south and eastern region, and in Kabul. So we’re again inviting our compatriots not to undertake any non-essential trips to Afghanistan regardless of the region, and those of our citizens who are in the country to exercise the utmost care.

Q - Has Mr. Kouchner inquired into the matter of the three Afghans working for Terre d’Enfance who are still in Taliban hands?

The release of the three Afghan hostages, members of the NGO Terre d’Enfance who were accompanying the two French nationals who were recently released, remains of course one of the priorities for the minister of foreign and European affairs.

We renew our appeal for the immediate release of these three hostages.

There is no break in continuity is dealing with this question.

LATVIA/RUSSIA BORDER TREATY

France welcomes the Latvian Parliament’s ratification on May 17 of the border treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Latvia, signed in Moscow on March 27.

The treaty, which will give a firm legal basis to the delineation of the border between Latvia and Russia, reflects the wish to establish a forward-looking relationship and the development of productive relations between the Russian and Latvian peoples. It’s an important stage for the whole European Union.

France hopes that the process is seen through to the end with Russia’s ratification of the treaty.

AFRICA PARTNERSHIP FORUM

The Africa Partnership Forum (APF) will meet in Berlin on May 22 and 23 and will be chaired by Angela Merkel. Also present will be the president of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, the president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of the Kingdom of Denmark and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Since the G8 meeting in Evian in 2003, the G8 summits have been preceded, with respect to development issues in Africa, by an APF bringing together the personal representatives of heads of state of G8 members alongside representatives of African states and their development institutions. The personal representative of the French head of state will be Bruno Joubert who succeeds Michel Camdessus.

The meeting in Berlin will be devoted to four main subjects: peace and security, investments, climate change and gender. Strengthening regional processes of integration and cooperation in Africa will also be addressed during the debates.

Participants will review the increase in official development aid since the G8 meeting in Gleneagles in 2005. The G8 countries committed to increase these resources to US$ 50 billion in relation to the 2005 level, starting in 2010. Half of this increase is to be directed to Africa. This last point is particularly important for France whose assistance to Africa represents 64% of its global development assistance (2005 figures).

At a time when the rate of growth of official development assistance is showing signs of slowing on a world scale, France will play its role in the forum, promoting greater international commitment on the part of donors and private investors for African development.

MULTILINGUALISM

France welcomes the adoption by the UN General Assembly on May 18, 2007 of the resolution on multilingualism. The text was adopted by consensus.

France traditionally accords particular importance to the promotion and protection of multilingualism, the implementation of which strengthens multilateralism. At France’s initiative the question of multilingualism has been on the General Assembly agenda regularly since 1995. The successive resolutions have recalled the universal principles pertaining to linguistic diversity and the general principles guiding the United Nations on equal treatment between the two working languages, French and English, and also the six official languages in all UN activities, specifically interpretation, translation, recruitment of personnel and UN websites.

The resolution was negotiated this year by France and sponsored by an unprecedented number of states (113 out of 192), with the support and assistance of member countries of the International Francophonie Organization. For the first time it referred to the importance of providing technical assistance tools in the language of recipient countries and in formats used by handicapped persons. The resolution also authorizes the establishment of a network of focal points and refers to the UNESECO convention on cultural diversity which went into force on March 18. The General Assembly also welcomed in this resolution the proclamation of 2008 as ‘International Year of Languages’ at UNESCO.

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

Q - What is your assessment of the World Economic Forum which was being held in Aqaba, Jordan, until yesterday. What results does France expect from the Forum?

The Forum is a vital platform for dialogue between the major political, economic and social decision-makers. It presents an opportunity to discuss ways and means of promoting stability and economic and political development in the region.

The Forum is an appropriate framework for discussing and defining together--that is, the countries concerned in the region and the international community--the challenges that have to be met and the best ways of responding. Participants’ contributions provide valuable elements for ideas and action by the international community./,

Embassy of France, May 21, 2007