Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, October 23, 2007)

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


INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

France welcomes the decision of the Congolese authorities to transfer Germain Katanga, a former militia chief in Ituri, to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In the wake of Thomas Lubanga’s arrest and transfer, this decision marks a new, decisive step in the fight against impunity and reflects the commitment of the Congolese authorities to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court.

France reiterates its support for the International Criminal Court’s action and calls on all states to cooperate with it as the minister had occasion to tell Philippe Kirsch, president of the ICC. It reaffirms its support for the Congolese authorities in order to strengthen peace and justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Q - Do you think the transfer is likely to discourage other rebel chiefs? I’m thinking in particular of Laurent Kunda?

The transfer comes in the context of an international judicial proceeding. Let’s not confuse the situations. When the ICC is involved, we hope states will cooperate fully. If there is a violation of international law, in whatever part of the world, if there are actions that are actionable in the ICC, we ask all countries to cooperate.

DEATH PENALTY

For over 25 years France has been very committed in the fight for the universal abolition of the death penalty. The Third World Congress against the Death Penalty was held in Paris in February. The ban on capital punishment was written into our constitution at the beginning of this year, and France has ratified the second optional protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on this question.

We fully support the UN General Assembly resolution inviting all states to establish a moratorium on capital punishment pending its universal abolition. The General Assembly needs to take a strong position on this question in order to show the way.

The trend towards fewer executions and the abolition of the death penalty, which we’re seeing, must be encouraged. Abolition goes in the direction of the times. It is up to us, through resolve and persuasion, to speed up this trend.

The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the improvement of human dignity and the human rights situation. Capital punishment has no deterrent value, and any miscarriage of justice is irreversible.

Q - Did you make your position on the death penalty known to Mr. Talabani when he was visiting, particularly in the case of Ali Majid who’s facing death?

Everyone knows our position on the death penalty, but so far as I know the point wasn’t mentioned during the minister’s meeting with Mr. Talabani.

Q - What’s your position in his case?

We are absolutely, universally and in general opposed to the death penalty.

(…)

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - Can you confirm that Mr. Kouchner received a letter from his Iranian counterpart yesterday and what is your answer to this letter?

The letter was made public by its author. It exists. For the rest, you know our positions on the Iranian nuclear issue: Iran has international obligations. We consider that it is not fulfilling them at this time. Iran must suspend all its sensitive nuclear activities linked to uranium-enrichment. The E3 + 3 took a position in New York as you know, on September 28. We’ve discussed matters with our European partners. Our aim is to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment activities, and we are giving preference to diplomacy to achieve this. The second part of our position, alongside negotiation, is to consider new sanctions while the existing sanctions are applied so as to allow the negotiation process to succeed. So this aims to make the negotiation process credible.

This is our position and the sole comment the letter calls for. I can add that we are waiting for the reports of Mr. Solana and Mr. El Baradei to decide, within the UN, if we will adopt new sanctions or not.

Q - Will you reply to the letter through diplomatic channels?

The letter reached the minister at the end of last week. We will be considering how to answer it; but we will do nothing without conferring with our European partners.

Q - Mr. El Baradei feels there’s no immediate threat from Iran. Would you care to comment?

I read what you’re saying in an interview Mr. El Baradei gave to Le Monde, but I’ve no other information.

We are waiting before we react for Mr. El Baradei’s report which we should have in a few weeks. In spite of all the respect I have for the press, we are not expecting him to talk through the press. Once we have the report and have read it, we will react together, with our partners.

Q - Do you have any reaction to Mr. Jalil’s appointment? Does the minister plan on having the same contacts, telephone or other, with Mr. Jalil and Mr. Larijani?

The appointment you mention is very recent. What is important, as we said yesterday, is that the negotiation process succeed in resolving the problem. That’s the main thing. It is very important from this point of view to wait for the results of the meetings Mr. Solana will be having with the Iranian side. Mr. Solana’s involvement shows the extent to which not only the entire international community but also the European Union are engaged in this negotiating process with Iran.

Q - At present a series of sanctions is being applied and another is under preparation. Could you tell us if the sanctions which are already in place or are being prepared are linked to non-compliance with obligations or the continuation of enrichment?

It’s the same thing. Non-compliance is the enrichment-related activities and continuation of these activities. So long as the enrichment-related activities continue, there is non-compliance with international obligations.

Q - Am I to understand that if the enrichment stops, the sanctions will be suspended or else will be continued because there’s been a violation?

It’s not France alone that decides. The path we’re favoring is negotiation. If new elements come into the picture like those you just mentioned--and we’re waiting for the reports of Mr. Solana and Mr. El Baradei on them--it goes without saying that the international community will act accordingly. We will then have to talk about it again together. This is part of the current process.

I also want to remind you that we made an offer of very extensive cooperation with the Iranians, including in the civil nuclear domain. The Iranians rejected that offer. For now Iran is continuing its enrichment activities.

Let’s wait for the two reports to come out, and then we’ll see what can be decided together.

Q - You’ve already mentioned here the fact that you wouldn’t wait for Mr. El Baradei’s report and that Mr. Kouchner had requested unilateral sanctions.

No, I didn’t say that. What I’ve said all along is that we were waiting for the reports of Mr. Solana and Mr. El Baradei and during this time we would continue working. Just because we’re waiting for these reports doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about matters together. Once the reports are in, we’ll decide whether, at the UN--and this is in the E3 + 3 statement--we choose to go for new sanctions. And it’s exactly the same thing at EU level. Just because we’re waiting for reports doesn’t prevent us from working and considering together the form that new sanctions might take. I don’t think there’s a contradiction between the two. A distinction has to be made between thinking about matters and preparation.

(…)

COTE D’IVOIRE

Q - France is a major actor in the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire. The UN and the Ivorian opposition are concerned about the delay in implementing this process. What’s your reading of the situation?

I refer you to the statements made by Mr. Bockel in New York yesterday. He was speaking on this question at the UN Security Council meeting on Côte d’Ivoire. France will continue to give its full support to the peace process and the action of the facilitator, the president of Burkina Faso.

We hope that everything goes according to the Ouagadougou agreements and that the commitments made by the parties are implemented with a view to the legislative and presidential elections taking place quickly.

MEDITERRANEAN UNION

Q - President Nicolas Sarkozy is going to make a statement about the proposed Mediterranean Union in Morocco this afternoon. Does France plan to hold a summit for heads of state in 2008?

I refer you to what the president will be saying shortly. We have in fact thought about having a summit, maybe at the end of the Slovenian presidency but again I refer you to what the president says this afternoon.

Q - Has the proposed Mediterranean Union made good progress?

Ambassador Alain Le Roy has been tasked with coordinating the discussions on this project. President Sarkozy and the foreign and European affairs minister are listening to our European and Mediterranean partners and talking about it with them. The president has explained that the Mediterranean Union should be based on concrete projects. I propose to talk about it again after the president’s speech this afternoon.

Q - Does Mr. Le Roy already have a small team?

Mr. Le Roy obviously calls on the services of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. The Quai d’Orsay and our embassies are fully mobilized on this project./.

Embassy of France, October 24, 2007