Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, March 22, 2007)

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


ROME TREATY

European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna will be in Rome on Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, for the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaty.

On Friday, March 24, Ms Colonna will visit the exhibition on European works of art at the Quirinale Palace.

On Friday and Saturday she takes part in the events organized by the European Lawyers’ Union (UAE), to be attended by Maurice Faure, former minister and a signer of the Rome Treaty.

CONGO BASIN FORESTS

The ambassador delegate for the environment, Laurent Stefanini, ‘facilitator’ for the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, will chair the regional advisory committee of this body in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on March 27.

The regional advisory committee is a forum for consultations between the public and private partners, chief among being the Congo Basin countries and their intergovernmental organization, the Central Africa Forests Commission. Participants in the meeting in Kinshasa will exchange views on the current actions and those being considered in order to improve coordination and the effectiveness of the assets employed.

French cooperation policy in this sector is directed to conserving forest ecosystems and their sustainable management. It aims to encourage the effective managements of protected areas and the sustainable exploitation of these forests for the benefit of local populations and states.

In addition to its facilitation, France supports the Central Africa Forests Commission and has already implemented in this context 41 million euros since 2004. An additional 38 million are being planned.

May I remind you that President Chirac went to Brazzaville on February 5, 2005 for the second summit of heads of central African states on the conservation and sustainable management of forest ecosystems.

COLOMBIA

In statements to the press on March 21, 2007 about the initiative of members of the US Congress, Colombian High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo paid tribute to the involvement of France, Switzerland and Spain in the effort to reach a humanitarian agreement.

He expressed in positive terms his recognition for the action of the three countries which, in his own words, are ‘an appropriate channel for facilitation’ for the Colombian government and the FARC.

We note with interest these encouraging words by the high commissioner. We are continuing our efforts for a humanitarian agreement which will allow the hostages to regain their freedom.

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - Has France taken note of a recent shift in the Russian position in the Security Council on the Iranian nuclear question? What’s your reaction to the fact that Russia has stopped work at Bushehr?

As you know, the draft resolution prepared by the E3+ 3, which includes Russia, was distributed to the other Security Council members, and consultations have begun. The Russian authorities have shared our objectives on the Iranian nuclear issue from the beginning. They are very attached to seeing that the Iranian nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful uses, including enrichment and reprocessing activities. They have publicly underlined their wish many times that Iran should not acquire nuclear militarily nuclear capabilities.

With regard to the power plant at Bushehr, I refer you to my previous statements on this point: It is a matter that concerns the Russians and the Iranians. It’s not my place to comment on the reasons that may have led the Russians to delay the delivery of fuel.

Q - Has the foreign minister been in contact with his South African counterpart about the amendments Pretoria wants? Have there also been contacts between Mr. Douste-Blazy and his counterparts from Qatar and Indonesia?

Exchanges are continuing among the Security Council members about the content of the draft resolution we’ve proposed. We wish to take the necessary time in these consultations to examine the suggestions that have been made. We wish to maintain international unity on this issue.

In the circumstances, as is usual in this type of discussion, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has spoken about the issue with some of his colleagues, specifically, South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor al-Thani of Qatar.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

Q - Is France disappointed by the Quartet’s decision to keep the embargo on the Palestinian government when France is recommending the resumption of direct financial aid?

The communiqué issued after the Quartet meeting welcomes the Mecca agreement which has led to the formation of a national unity government. It reaffirms its support to President Abbas in his efforts to reach a political settlement.

The Quartet has not decided to keep an ‘embargo’ but to prolong for three months the transitional arrangements for delivering aid to the Palestinians.

At the Gymnich meeting to be held in Bremen on March 30 and 31, European ministers are due to discuss the question, as you know. We will be advancing our arguments for the resumption of direct aid. The Quartet will have to re-examine this question at its future meetings, particularly in light of any change in the European position.

COTE D’IVOIRE

Q - The administrators of the Licorne operation are preparing to make an announcement. Is it the beginning of a pull-out from Cote d’Ivoire or simply an ‘adjustment’? Will France wait for a UN decision before starting to withdraw?

I invite you to address questions about any adjustment in the Licorne force to the Ministry of Defense.

Regarding the situation in Cote d’Ivoire more generally, you saw that the Ouagadougou agreement has just been endorsed by the African Union. The UN Security Council will probably be examining it in turn shortly. As Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin underlined during his trip to New York last week, we hope that the implementation of the agreement establishes the bases for a process for withdrawal of our troops in Cote d’Ivoire. But of course nothing will be done without the full agreement of the international community and the United Nations, which will have to decide on the actual application the Ouagadougou agreement.

Q - The departure of over 500 soldiers just been announced. Does this confirm the beginning of the French withdrawal that has been expected since the Ouagadougou agreement?

I refer you to my previous answer./.

Embassy of France, March 22, 2007