Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, May 23, 2007)

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


TURKEY

I want to read the message that Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner has sent to his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul:

“Mr. Minister,

“I want to express my profound indignation and intense emotion at the attack that took place in Ankara last night.

“Be assured that you have my entire sympathy in this trial and my solidarity, which naturally goes to the injured and to the victims’ families and loved ones.

“As you know, France condemns in the strongest possible terms all forms of terrorism and will stand by your side to fight violence and extremism.”

[Complimentary close]

CLUSTER BOMBS

An international conference on cluster bombs is to be held in Lima from May 23 - 25, 2007. It follows on the Oslo conference (February 22 - 23, 2007), which was attended by 49 states, including France, NGOs and international organizations, and on other work taking place on cluster-bombs (ICRC conference in Montreux, upcoming meeting of CCW experts).

A high-level French delegation will take part in the proceedings of the Lima conference. France shares with the other participants the common objective of drafting an instrument of international law to ban or limit cluster bombs which have unacceptable consequences for civilians. We would like the international community to define such an instrument as soon as possible.

At the Oslo conference France, along with 45 other states, undertook the political commitment to adopt by 2008 a legally binding international instrument outlawing cluster bombs, which entail unacceptable damage to civilians. France subscribed to the political declaration at the Oslo conference while recalling that the relevant negotiating forum remained the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the only global framework depending on the UN which brings together, in the interest of effectiveness from the humanitarian standpoint, all states that have and use cluster bombs.

At the CCW group of experts’ next meeting (in Geneva in June), France will present an ambitious negotiating mandate leading to an international instrument in the CCW before the end of 2008.

(…)

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - What will France do if Iran fails to respect the midnight deadline for stopping enrichment?

Iran was placed under an obligation to suspend its enrichment-related activities by the Security Council in resolution 1696. The 60-day delay you mention refers to the date of a report from the IAEA director-general so that the Security Council can take another decision on the situation.

Resolution 1747 is clear: if Iran does not comply with its obligations, the Security Council will work on the adoption of new measures under article 41 of Chapter 7.

Q - Mr. ElBaradei has said that the main goal should be to prevent Iran’s enrichment activity from reaching industrial scale rather than to expect Teheran to stop all enrichment activity. Do you plan, like the United States, to protest such statements?

As you can imagine, we are in regular contact with the IAEA secretariat and so have the opportunity to express our views on a regular basis. We were indeed surprised by several comments from Mr. ElBaradei over the weekend.

With regard to the strategy and suspension, France continues to support the process begun in the Security Council, including the demand for suspension and, in the absence of suspension, sanctions. We have said all along that the sanctions are not an end in themselves but are intended to confront Iran with a choice. The unanimity in the Security Council in the adoption of resolutions 1737 and 1747 clearly shows the entire international community’s concern in this regard.

In addition, the IAEA director-general referred, in one of his public statements, to analyses from French intelligence services about the time it would take Iran to gain access to nuclear weapons. We don’t make a habit of releasing national intelligence analyses publicly, much less through an international organization. These comments do not rest on any known basis. I will simply recall, as the State’s highest authorities have said repeatedly, that the prospect of Iran having a military nuclear capacity is unacceptable.

I can confirm that our permanent representative in Vienna will join in the American demarche. As I have just said, we share with several of our other partners, the gist of the concerns expressed by our American partners.

SYRIA

Q - Are minister-level contacts with Damascus still completely ruled out or is Paris thinking of possibly reviewing this position?

You know what the international community expects with regard to Syria. We wish to see it comply with the Security Council resolutions, particularly on Lebanon, and cooperate fully in their implementation.

Mr. Solana repeated this position to the Syrian authorities on behalf of the European Union. So channels do exist for dialogue with Damascus

With regard to minister-level contacts, this is a question that depends on the president and on the foreign and European affairs minister.

Q - With regard to Syria, since these contacts depend on the minister, does Mr. Kouchner plan to reexamine the position France has taken so far?

It will be up to the president and the foreign and European affairs minister to decide this question. I can’t anticipate their position.

LEBANON

Q - What’s your reaction to the US decision to provide emergency military aid to the Lebanese army? Is France planning a similar initiative?

I’ve no particular comment on the US decision.

As you know, we have significant military cooperation with Lebanon, which has gained new momentum over the last two years. It focuses on training for military personnel, mine clearance and bringing military capacities up to standard. The objective is specifically to help the Lebanese authorities exercise sovereignty over the entire country.

Given the present situation and in the framework of this cooperation, we will examine with the closest attention any new request from the Lebanese authorities./.

Embassy of France, May 23, 2007