Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, May 25, 2007)

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


IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - Has any more thought been given to the choice of sanctions that could be implemented ?

Officials—notably those of the three European countries and the other three countries that are working with us on this subject—are holding regular meetings on the issue. In this regard, considerations are under way with respect to new sanctions that could be adopted, but it’s still a bit premature. You know that the report was published two days ago, that different countries have had a chance to react, and now we are waiting to see the extent to which the Iranian positions might evolve. If they don’t, as we’ve very clearly indicated, and as the foreign minister said yesterday, we do support examining the possibility of new sanctions.

Q - Last time, France had a list of sanctions it would have liked to see applied. Does France have a new list this time to try and go farther with sanctions against Iran?

As I just said, the various officials are discussing this question, but to date, I have no list of sanctions to present.

Q - The Six are coordinating and decisions are made by consensus. But there are also bilateral measures such as those the Americans have already taken, notably on the financial level, and particularly with respect to imports and exports, and the transfer of dollars. France had considered establishing sanctions on the nuclear project in which Iran was participating. That would amount to freezing Iran’s stake and the dividends it was receiving. Can you give us any details about that? Is it in force? What’s the status of this project?

I have no more recent details to give you about our position. As I’ve said, we’re holding talks with our partners, and if you are referring to our old relations within the nuclear framework between France and Iran, we’ve already responded to this in previous press briefings in April. I refer you to what’s already been said; to my knowledge, there’s nothing new.

[…]

Q - Before the vote on SCR 1747, you thought the resolution was useful and effective. Do you consider today that it is more effective than the previous resolution? What does it bring that’s new?

One mustn’t misunderstand the effects of these resolutions. What we’ve always said is that they were aimed at encouraging changes in the Iranian position. As it happens, the IAEA report has just shown that the Iranians didn’t suspend enrichment, didn’t respond to a certain number of questions raised by the IAEA, and that consequently, we thought it was necessary to go ahead with sanctions if they continue on this path. But in any case, the dialogue hasn’t been cut off. That was the objective of these resolutions, to see if the Iranians were prepared to hold discussions with us. As you know, there was a meeting between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani. Others are scheduled, but they do show that the Iranian side is seeking to maintain the dialogue by trying to see how far it can respond to the international community’s requests. That’s the first point.

The second point, about the effect of sanctions, is that they are sparking some considerations in Iran itself. There are a certain number of investors, a certain number of economic operators who have no doubt scaled back their expectations vis-à-vis Iran, given the general context of the international community’s relations with that country.

All this leads us to think that the sanctions have had a certain effect, that the unity of the international community and all the countries taking part in these discussions has been preserved. All that shows that our side is strongly determined to get the Iranian position to change.

[…]

Q - A few moments ago, you were talking about the international community’s united front in dealing with Iran. It seems to me in spite of everything that you are having trouble preserving unity with the IAEA after recent statements and disputes with Mr. elBaradei. Has there been an explanation with respect to this disagreement with the IAEA director? We were also surprised because you support Mr. elBaradei when he thinks the same way you do, but as soon as there are differences, he no longer has your support.

We talked about Mr. elBaradei’s statements two days ago. What we want to clearly indicate is that first, it seems he was calling into question the EU’s heavy involvement, yet the EU has played a fundamental role since 2003. It was European involvement, with the EU High Representative, that made it possible to begin the diplomatic process that was then joined by the other three partners.

Furthermore, Mr. elBaradei spoke of the assessment of the Iranian program and so-called revelations from the intelligence services. On this point, we indicated that from our perspective, there were no comments to be made on intelligence-related questions. We therefore do not want to comment on these points and add to the confusion that can sometimes result from various parties’ statements.

Finally, as for the last point concerning the process itself, concerning the sanctions chosen by the Security Council—I just answered it. It is our impression that this is a process that helps put pressure on the Iranian authorities, and we should continue on this path. Once again, Mr. elBaradei made a certain number of statements recently that from our point of view and that of other delegates, notably in Vienna, called for reactions on our part. We did so, but it doesn’t mean we are calling into question the IAEA’s work, obviously.

Q - If I’ve understood correctly, the real difference between you and Mr. elBaradei is that he thinks we can tolerate a certain amount of enrichment by Iran, whereas you are asking for a total cessation. Is that it?

We’ve always asked for the suspension of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

Q - Yes, total suspension, not 60%.

We are asking for the total suspension of enrichment activities.

Q - So you explained yourself to Mr. elBaradei on this point?

There are regular explanations with the IAEA director, we work with the IAEA and its director general, obviously.

[…]

Q - Given the apparent differences between Mr. elBaradei’s position and those of a certain number of delegates to the IAEA and the fact that France joined in an American demarche that seems quite critical, does Mr. elBaradei still have France’s confidence to run the IAEA?

I just said that he expressed himself as he has the right to do; on our side, we issued a certain number of qualifying statements with respect to what was said by the director general. That doesn’t mean we are calling his mandate into question.

Q - Does he still have your trust?

We are not calling his mandate into question.

MIDEAST

Q - Yesterday, the UN secretary-general’s envoy to Gaza in the West Bank mentioned the possibility of deploying UN forces in Gaza. The Israeli foreign minister also evoked the possibility of a deployment on the border between Gaza and Egypt. What is France’s position on this force?

Our position on this subject is that we support the idea of an international mechanism to monitor a truce, which we would like to see in the Palestinian Territories. It is up to both parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to spell out their expectations in this regard and the format for this mission. On this basis, we are in favor of studying proposals that might be made. As I said, several international meetings will be held in the coming days, and they will provide an opportunity for the various representatives of the international community, and also for the Quartet, to discuss the topic and to see how far we can move forward on the more formal proposals that will be presented by the two parties.

Q - If the Palestinian authorities ask, would you agree, or is Israeli agreement also necessary?

It’s up to the two parties to formulate a proposal on this subject. That’s why we are asking for the President of the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Prime Minister and their representatives to reflect on these subjects.

Q - Is it a joint proposal?

What’s necessary is for the proposals to be approved by both parties. They have to be acceptable to both parties, otherwise they won’t have much chance of being respected. If we want there to be a truce, if we want efforts to be made to promote stability, the two parties obviously have to be engaged in a process.

Q - Does the international community have the means to develop a resolution and impose it on the two parties?

We’ve always said that the international community was ready to help, but that it needed a commitment by the two parties. If only one of them makes a commitment, there’s little chance that the truce and the proposed framework will hold.

Q - So France thinks it’s impossible to impose a truce without international forces, but that both parties should agree to the presence of these forces?

That’s not what we are saying. What we are observing is that for the moment, the various truces that were mentioned didn’t have a very long lifespan. You have new ideas circulating about the principle of an international mechanism. Once again, we are completely open to discussing this subject and await more formal proposals by the two parties.

LEBANON

Q - What’s the status of the arms shipments requested of the French government by the Lebanese government, either in the framework of Paris III or in the context of its support for the Lebanese government?

We have longstanding military cooperation with Lebanon which was strengthened a little more than a year ago. In this context, we have focused our efforts on training, mine clearance and small equipment. It represented a rather significant source of support for the Lebanese authorities and army in 2006. As for more recent requests, the foreign minister spoke about the subject this morning, indicating that requests had been made and that they would be favorably examined. I can’t give you any more details at this stage. We will examine the Lebanese authorities requests very favorably.

Q - Were they made this week?

In recent days.

Do you have any amounts to give us for 2006?

With respect to strictly military cooperation, 1.2 million euros were budgeted for 2006. There were other commitments in the humanitarian and financial arenas. It was all detailed during the Paris conference. Let me remind you that in Paris, we committed 500 million euros to Lebanon. I can give you a bit more precise figures on our financial commitments. The French Development Agency issued loans of about 125 million euros, and several million euros have already been allocated to Lebanese banks. Budgetary assistance of 375 million euros was provided under very favorable conditions to the Lebanese state. Before being appointed as European Affairs Minister, Mr. Jouyet visited Beirut in late April to work with the Lebanese authorities on implementing this large package of financial assistance that we had pledged during the Paris conference.

Q - Was it hard?

It’s being done. Several million euros have already been disbursed. These are commitments for 2007; we want to commit the maximum in 2007.

Q - In the delegation accompanying Mr. Kouchner, is there a military component, someone to study this aspect with the Lebanese government?

To my knowledge, the delegation is from the Foreign Ministry.

[…]

Q - The foreign minister said this morning that he was prepared to meet with everyone in Lebanon; are there meetings scheduled with other interlocutors?

The foreign minister said he was prepared to see many political officials. He considers it part of his mission to meet with the maximum possible number of political interlocutors. That’s what he said this morning, that’s what he did during his trip to Lebanon, and that’s what he will continue to do, either when he returns to the region or by receiving political officials. He noted that the question of Lebanon remains an important priority, and that he intends to talk with all the necessary interlocutors./.

ASEM

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will be in Germany, in Hamburg, on May 28 and 29 to take part in the 8th meeting of ASEM foreign ministers.

(…)

Ministers will have three working sessions largely given over to the main international questions of interest to our two continents.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the minister will have bilateral meetings with several of his counterparts.

Q - At meetings of this kind, can the question of using the Olympic Games be addressed?

Several items are on the agenda: issues linked to current events in the case of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and also the Middle East. You have questions linked to global problems, energy, climate change, and counter-terrorism. Then you have regional questions linked to cooperation with ASEM, specifically trade issues, development in Asia and in Europe.

The question you asked as such will not be on the agenda. I can also say that Darfur isn’t explicitly there either.

On the other hand, the minister will have several bilateral meetings, including one with this Chinese counterpart.

Q - What is France’s position on using participation in the Olympic Games as a political tool to pressure the Chinese to cooperate with Europe in several areas?

It’s a question that until now was discussed in the context of the election campaign. What we’re saying is that we have to work closely with the Chinese authorities, especially in the Security Council, so as to move forward together on the question of Sudan. So we’re in favor of the closest possible relations with China. We noted that China had recently sent a special representative to Sudan. It is showing a sustained interest in what is happening there. Our position is to involve the Chinese authorities as closely as possible in the question of Darfur.

Q - Will the question of sending North Korean missiles be discussed at the meeting?

As we’ve said, under the current issues which are on the agenda for the meeting, there’s an item concerning the Korean peninsula and issues of denuclearization. So it will come up under this heading.

As for North Korea, we don’t have any specific elements at this stage on what has happened. In any case we recall that the Security Council, in SCR 1695, told North Korea that it has to show restraint and refrain from any action that could worsen tensions. So we recall the content and the information which appeared in SCR 1695.

G8

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will take part in the G8 foreign ministers meeting in Potsdam on May 30 that will prepare the political part of the summit that is to be held in Heiligendamm from June 6 - 8.

The G8 foreign ministers’ meetings are traditionally held twice a year, before the annual summit and in September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Participants will consider texts dealing with the fight against terrorism and non-proliferation and also the main foreign policy issues: the situation in Darfur, Lebanon, the Middle East and the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues and Kosovo.

France welcomes the German presidency’s initiative to invite the Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers to attend the meeting so that they can discuss with their G8 counterparts the development of the border region between the two countries.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the minister will have bilateral meetings with several of his counterparts.

(…)

Q - And Iraq?

It’s conceivable that the Iraq question will be discussed among the issues concerning the Middle East.

Q - Why have the Afghan and Pakistani ministers been invited?

We wish to work with the Afghan and Pakistani ministers to try, as we’ve just said, to bring the positions of both sides closer with regard to the situation on the border. As you know, it’s a region where a number of things are happening and where it is necessary to promote closer ties and dialogue between the Pakistani and Afghan authorities. This is the contribution sought by the German presidency. For more details on what they expect from the meeting, I suggest you ask them.

Q - About the shells launched from Pakistan into Afghanistan a few weeks ago or thereabouts, diplomatically what can France do since it is present in ISAF?

What you’re referring to is precisely part of the general problem in the region today, especially in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s the reason we support the German presidency initiative to encourage a meeting at foreign ministers level with all the G8 ministers on this sensitive question. With regard to the general situation, we are in favor of a dialogue between the two countries and we are ready with our G8 partners to contribute to this.

Q - Do you have any comment about dialogue with the Russians in the G8 framework?

We are important partners of Russia in the G8 framework. We consider Russia is an essential partner for us. The minister also plans to meet with his counterpart, Mr. Lavrov, fairly soon. For reasons of scheduling and in particular his traveling to Lebanon, he’s not yet been able to do it. He will try to talk with him even before the G8 meeting, which takes place next week. As you know, President Sarkozy has spoken with President Putin. The conversation was quite warm, but I suggest you ask the Elysée for details of what they discussed. For us, bilateral relations with high-ranking Russians continue on a regular basis. There were a number of such meetings over the past few months.

(…)

Q - What do you understand by Middle East questions? Will the Arab peace initiative be discussed?

The G8 meetings afford an opportunity to review all the current issues. So obviously the Middle East is on the agenda. Telling you precisely what items will be discussed is, once again, more a matter for the German presidency and the way it wishes to organize the debate on this question. But it’s conceivable they will discuss Lebanon, the situation in the Palestinian Territories, the revival of the peace process, Iraq and all these questions, which are in the news on the international scene.

Q - Angela Merkel was highly critical of Russia at their last meeting on the question of these demonstrations which have not succeeded. What sort of connection does France think there should be with Russia on these questions?

The meeting between the EU and Russia, the Samara summit, showed the unity of the European Union, expressed through the presidency and the Commission, and our wish to maintain a sustained dialogue with the Russian side. From this point of view we welcome the efforts of the presidency and the Commission.

As to the questions under discussion, you know that there are negotiations on a future agreement between the EU and Russia to replace the present partnership and cooperation agreement. It's an objective shared by the Russians and the Europeans, starting these negotiations. It is indeed important for us to give long-term relations between the EU and Russia a common and stable framework. It is in this context that we will take up the various issues of interest to the bilateral relationship.

(…)

COLOMBIA

We have take note of the FARC statements reiterating their willingness to reach a humanitarian agreement and to receive emissaries.

We’ve also noted statements by the Colombian foreign minister, Mr. Araujo, who takes a favorable view to the prospect of such a meeting.

We hope that these elements will quickly produce a dynamic that will lead to a solution to the painful matter of the hostages, among whom is our compatriot Ingrid Betancourt.

Q - Mr. Araujo spoke of a French envoy to negotiate the release of the hostages. What can you tell us?

As you know France and two countries, Spain and Switzerland, have been involved for quite a long time already in talks with both the Colombian authorities and FARC representatives to foster an agreement on a humanitarian exchange. That is the context in which the statements that have been made should be interpreted. We are continuing our efforts to this end and we hope that the element indicated in both the FARC statements and the Colombian minister’s statement will enable us to set in train a positive momentum.

Q - You’ve just mentioned a humanitarian exchange. When the Italians agreed to exchange prisoners in Afghanistan for the release of their national, you were critical. What’s the difference now?

Once cannot compare these matters. Each hostage situation is special. Also I don’t see what statement you’re referring it with regard to the Italian matter. Also, with regard to the hostage issue in Colombia, we have been working for a long time on the conditions for this humanitarian exchange. It’s not something new. We’ve been involved with a number of partner countries. Mr. Restrepo, who is working on this question for the Colombian authorities, was received in Paris by the president this week and I invite you to refer to the comments that were made from the Elysée after the meeting. We are working in this context.

Q - According to the latest information, the Colombian president has maintained his position on a military option. Has he changed his mind and is he opting for a more peaceful change? The demilitarization of the area covers 450 square kilometers. Why such a big area?

With regard to your first point, I'm not going to speak for the Colombian president. What I observe, what we’re saying in our statement, is that the Colombian foreign minister was favorable to the prospect of a meeting and has lent his support to the efforts our country is making. We consider this a rather positive position.

With regard to President Uribe’s positions, he has spoken with President Sarkozy. As you know there were a number of statements made after the telephone conversation.

As for your second point, this is part of the discussions which are being held and will continue to be held on the conditions for this exchange. I don’t have information to give you about the place and size of the demilitarized zone that is being discussed. I believe a request was made and it’s being discussed by the parties concerned.

Q - Is the French envoy already there.

I don’t know.

Embassy of France, May 26, 2007