Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, July 24, 2007)

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


GENERAL AFFAIRS/EXTERNAL RELATIONS COUNCIL ON JULY 23

The two main questions that were discussed in Brussels at the General Affairs/External Relations Council, aside from the start of the intergovernmental conference, were one, the start of a CFSP mission to eastern Chad and the northeastern part of the Central African Republic in view of the regional consequences of the Darfur crisis, and two, Kosovo.

Q - EU foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday issued a statement on many topics, the Mideast peace process, the Quartet, the international conference proposed by the American president. They also spoke of the opening of the Rafah crossing. They called on Europe to lobby for the opening. Does France support this position?

Of course.

LEBANON

Q - Mr. Martinon’s recent comments that Mr. Cousseran’s mission was diplomatic and not political gave the impression in Lebanon that France had toned down its initiative to help Lebanon. If that wasn’t the case, could you tell us what’s going to happen from now on and if things will move to higher gear when Mr. Kouchner arrives in Lebanon?

You shouldn’t say toning down. Mr. Cousseran is the foreign minister’s envoy. As such he made a major contribution to preparing the meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud. After the meeting he went to Beirut to prepare for the visit by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner which was announced for July 28, and the date has been confirmed. The objective remains the same—to facilitate dialogue. The meetings, the talks that Mr. Cousseran has had are still directed to this end. Mr. Kouchner will be in Beirut on the 28th. He will be staying two days. The idea is still to help continue the dialogue among all the parties.

La Celle Saint-Cloud was a very important stage. It had been a long time since all the representatives of the Lebanese political forces had spoken to each other around the same table. They all decided by common agreement to continue the exercise, and Mr. Kouchner announced that he would go to Lebanon. We’re staying with that approach. And when Mr. Kouchner comes back, we’ll give you the details of his trip.

LIBYA/RELEASE OF BULGARIAN NURSES AND DOCTOR

Q - France has succeeded in securing the release of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor. I’d like to know what France plans to do to improve the situation of the 6,000 Palestinians stuck between Egypt and the Palestinian Territories?

We are doing our utmost to improve the tragic situation you refer to.

Q - A few days ago there was talk again of a million euros to be paid to each family so the nurses and doctor held in Libya could be released. Today President Sarkozy said that no money was paid for the release of these prisoners. Is it correct to say that these millions which were supposed to be paid to the families are no longer on the table?

I would like to repeat the comments made by the president a short while ago: neither Europe nor France has made the slightest financial contribution to Libya for the release of the Bulgarian nurses and doctor.

We took part in the EU actions to aid the children and the hospital in Benghazi. As part of that effort, we brought 150 Libyan children to France in 2006. This should not be confused with what was done by the EU – the anti-AIDS action plan in 2004, then in 2006 a fund dedicated more specifically for the hospital in Benghazi and for the reception of the children, and what has been done to compensate the families, which comes under the Qaddafi fund, not EU action.

Q - Mr. Sarkozy also thanked Qatar very firmly for its part in the process. Are we to deduce that there was a financial contribution from Qatar?

The president said that Qatar played an important role, but I refer you to the Qatari authorities in this matter.

Q - Did France ask Qatar to play a part?

I’ve no specific information, but it is likely that there were discussions with representatives of all the countries that wished to act in this matter and help resolve it.

Q - Since the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry isn’t able to give out details on Qatar’s role, do you have any comment on the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ms Sarkozy’s role in this matter?

I’ve no comment on Ms Sarkozy’s role and refer you to the Elysée. As for the Ministry, it was totally involved, especially our embassy in Libya. Our technical cooperation with Libya is significant, especially in the health sector. French diplomats were fully involved in all the discussions and coordinate the technical cooperation between Libya and France.

Q - Does that mean that Ms Sarkozy’s intervention, in conjunction with the European commissioner, marks a new phase in French diplomacy?

We’ve always worked in complete cooperation with the European Commission. Ms Ferrero-Waldner was in Paris a few days ago. She met with the president and foreign and European affairs minister. They decided to continue and strengthen their joint action on this question. The president was also in contact Commission President Barroso. It’s not a new phase in diplomacy. Our foreign policy has been set by the president, in close liaison with the Foreign Ministry, for a long time—it’s one of the characteristics of the Fifth Republic.

Q - Was Mr. Sarkozy’s visit to Libya subject to the resolution of this matter?

I leave it to the Elysée spokesperson to comment on the president’s travel.

Q - About the case itself. Don’t you find it strange that a president’s wife, who hasn’t been elected and who isn’t a French official in the strict sense of the word, is beginning to undertake good offices for the government?

I refer you to the Elysée. Anything that hastened the release of the Bulgarian nurses and doctor is to be welcomed. That is what the president said this morning at his press conference at which he was surrounded by Prime Minister François Fillon, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner and Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade.

Let’s be pragmatic. We wanted to obtain the release of the five nurses and doctor sentenced to death. We were delighted that their sentence was commuted. We did everything possible to hasten their release. We are glad that after over eight years of imprisonment when they weren’t guilty, the nurses and doctor have at last been released.

Q - On the substance of the case, the Quai d’Orsay has been very much involved all the same. It was a Libyan judicial matter. Usually diplomats don’t interfere in judicial matters. Did the Franco-Libyan judicial dimension, as far as concerns the six condemned in France, enter into the negotiations or talks?

There is no Franco-Libyan judicial dimension.

Q - Did the Libyans ask for anything as regards the UTA flight?

I’ve no information on what you’re referring to.

Q - Is Mr. Kouchner accompanying the president to Libya tomorrow?

Yes.

Q - Is it possible to ask Ms Sarkozy to do something for the sick Palestinians who are at the border?

I invite you to ask the Elysée directly.

Q - You say 150 Libyan children were brought to France. Are they still in France? Are there going to be more?

They’ve left. It was an operation to provide treatment in the context of the fund set up by the European Commission in 2006. France and Italy took in children under the program. These children returned to Libya after spending several months in French hospitals.

Q - But was that part of this release?

No, the program was a demonstration of our solidarity with the sick children.

Q - And that was when?

In 2006.

Q - The 150 who left are getting retro-viral treatment. Who’s handling follow-up?

Treatment follow-up is being provided in Libya. We’re concentrating our efforts moreover on the hospital in Benghazi so that the children can continue their treatment.

Q - How does one describe the current relations between Libya and France, and is France going to be talking about democracy?

For questions about the president’s trip I refer you to the Elysée.

Q - How do we describe the current relations with France?

There has been close dialogue between our two countries in liaison with the European Commission. I refer you to everything that has been said about the trip which was said in the last 48 hours.

Q - According to French diplomats, Libya is trying to integrate fully into the international community. Do you believe that this is a step towards this process?

Libya wants to have normal diplomatic relations with all countries in the world. The release of the nurses and doctor is a positive sign.

Q - To handle Libyan diplomacy, the minister of foreign and European affairs said that Libya signed a close partnership and cooperation deal with the European Union. Can you describe this agreement for us?

I’m not familiar with the text so I can’t describe it. You’ll have to speak with our European partners about it. There is no cooperation agreement with Libya at this time. On the other hand, there are discussions with Libya in certain Mediterranean forums such as the 5+5.

Q - Is this in the context of the Barcelona process or is it directly with the European Union?

Libya is not a full party in the Barcelona process. The release of the nurses was one condition for normalizing our relations.

Q - And the cooperation and partnership document doesn’t exist?

I don’t know what document you’re referring to. But we must now work on normalizing our relations.

Q - During this whole affair which dragged on for nearly nine years, was normal trade disrupted between France?

Our trade continued, but we have a deficit because of the oil.

KOSOVO

Q - After the failure to pass a resolution in the Security Council, how will the talks move forward? What’s the French point of view?

As you’ve seen, we decided to allow a little time for a resumption of talks between the Serbs and the Kosovars. There’s to be a meeting in Vienna tomorrow of “Balkans” from the contact group on Kosovo. This will allow us to take stock and work out the modalities for the talks to resume.

There were exchanges in Brussels on the format of the talks and the role of the contact group. There will also be a troika—the US, Russia and the EU--to assist these talks. Details will be given tomorrow.

Q - Does the notion of duration and predefined solution of independence remain the main obstacle to the adoption of a draft resolution? Is it still conceivable as part of the conditions?

We would like to see real discussions without predetermined outcome. We’ll see what they lead to. It is not impossible for Serbs and Kosovars to reach a solution. You’ll have noted that the Kosovars, who were in Washington at the beginning of the week, said that they would not declare independence unilaterally and without discussing it with their partners.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner, who was in Belgrade and Pristina a few days ago, has specifically urged a resumption of dialogue.

As for your question about the duration, the draft resolution presented to the UN Security Council provided for 120 days. It’s a duration that seems reasonable. The question will in any case be discussed on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September. For the time being everyone is concerned to advance these talks.

We’ve given our full support to the Ahtisaari plan. Let’s be pragmatic. Let the parties discuss matters, let’s help the discussions and wait for the results.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - Do you have any comment concerning Tony Blair’s visit to the region as the Quartet’s envoy?

He is continuing his tour. The 10 foreign ministers of the EU Mediterranean countries sent Tony Blair a letter that showed we encouraged him in anything he could do to improve the situation in the region. And the General Affairs Council in Brussels yesterday expressed its support for Tony Blair’s mission./.

Embassy of France, July 24, 2007