Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, April 24, 2007)

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


RUSSIA

At the request of President Chirac, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will represent France on April 25 at the funeral of Boris Yeltsin, former president of the Russian Federation.

FAIR TRADE

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting the third edition of the national fair trade forum which will be held in Paris, at the Cité des Sciences de La Villettee, on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27.

This event, organized by SOS, the Platform for Fair Trade and Max Havelaar France, plays an important role in awareness in France about fair trade. It presents an opportunity to discuss fair trade as a development tool and the issues it entails in developing rules of international trade.

In this capacity the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is financing studies to find out more about the economic flows of fair trade to France and to obtain a reliable measure of its impact in countries in the south. In 2004 fair trade was estimated to have generated 150 million euros.

For further information, you may consult the website: www.forumequitable.org

COLOMBIA

Q - France is asking Venezuela to take initiatives in regard to Ingrid Betancourt. What exactly? What can Venezuela do in the Betancourt affair to facilitate the approaches?

I’ve no details about this. I saw that the president had discussed the matter with Mr. Chavez in a telephone conversation. We are continuing our efforts to release Ingrid Betancourt, but I’ve no other details about the president’s conversation with Mr. Chavez.

(…)

SUDAN/DARFUR

Q - What is France’s position on the new resolution in the Security Council on Darfur?

The question was debated yesterday at the general affairs/external relations council in Luxembourg. There are two important aspects, I think, which should be underlined.

First, as we have already said, a number of commitments have been made by the Sudanese authorities, in particular for the implementation of what we call enhanced UN support for the African force.

We consider that the immediate priority is supporting mediation efforts and leaving room for a possible diplomatic negotiation. From this standpoint, we support in particular the efforts of Mr. Eliasson, who was in Luxembourg yesterday to speak about the situation with European foreign ministers.

Second, we consider that time is running out and that the international community must continue to be firm and put pressure on the Sudanese authorities. That is why we are ready to continue the discussions at the UN on new measures and new sanctions on Sudan.

Q - When you say ‘must put pressure on’ and when you talk about continuing a diplomatic approach, does that mean there is another alternative, a military solution, for example, or a resolution taking military sanctions?

Different ideas have been put forward. Everything depends on what is meant by military option. What has been planned is the deployment of the hybrid force, that is what we’re working on. Everyone is working on this, including the Americans. Mr. Negroponte is back from Sudan and is still working to this same end. It’s just that we consider that on one hand there has to be room for political dialogue and on the other that we must continue to work towards stronger sanctions eventually, assuming that the Sudanese authorities may not follow through on their commitments.

Q - Could the military option be used as a means of pressure?

Once again, I don’t quite see what you have in mind when you say ‘military option’—that’s what’s bothering me. We are engaged in a diplomatic process. We are working on the deployment of the hybrid force and in addition we’re also working on a possible strengthening of sanctions. So there is no military option on the table.

Q - Perhaps we can be clearer about what is meant by military option. It’s the British proposal for a no-fly zone over Darfur.

This would consist of introducing measures for increased monitoring of the air space. It’s very specific as a type of measure. It is under discussion. I don’t believe that there’s been a decision about it. We have to see if it’s a conceivable option, if it’s practicable and if it’s useful.

Q - It brings back memories.

Every situation is different, and I think one should be careful about drawing parallels.

(…)

MIDDLE EAST

Q - With regard to the truce between Palestinians and Israelis, the situation has deteriorated very quickly. The Israelis are threatening to intervene in Gaza, and the Palestinians have begun firing lots of rockets at Israel. How do you see the present situation?

We condemn the Israeli army operation in the West Bank this weekend in which nine people were killed, two of them teenagers. We condemn in the same way the rockets which continue to be aimed almost daily at Israeli territory in violation of the truce.

The rocket fire is a permanent factor of tension in the region. In addition, the statements by the armed wing of Hamas about the truce being over, if confirmed, would obviously be very disturbing.

We call on both sides not to enter into a new spiral of violence but instead to maintain the truce reached in Gaza and to work for its rapid extension to the West Bank. We call on the Palestinian government to do everything possible to ensure the truce with Israel is respected.

Q - On the political level, Europe has just called the Arab peace initiative a very important element for restarting the peace process.

European ministers did indeed give their support yesterday to the Arab peace initiative. A number of contacts are taking place. There were meetings recently between several Arab countries on this question. Of course we support this initiative and we hope that this path will be confirmed, that there will be also some interest in it on the Israeli side, which has already been demonstrated in part by the Israeli authorities. We hope that the initiative will now have practical effects. I believe that Mr. Olmert made a speech yesterday in which he said he was ready to resume political talks. Of course we encourage this development./.

Embassy of France, April 24, 2007