Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, June 25, 2007)

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


GILAD SHALIT

I will read the communiqué from Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner issued on Saturday, June 23:

“On June 25, 2007 Gilad Shalit will have spent one year in captivity. This captivity, which we condemned, has dragged on far too long. Those who hold Gilad Shalit must release him immediately. I will take every opportunity to secure his release.

“I recall that France condemned the arrests of Palestinian legislators and ministers. France is in favor of an exchange of prisoners which would permit Gilad Shalit and many Palestinians to recover their freedom.

“I thank the Egyptian authorities for the efforts they are making to obtain our compatriot’s release. My thoughts go out to Gilad Shalit’s family whose courage and dignity are known to all. I also send my best wishes to all the Israeli and Palestinian relatives, who have lived in sorrow for too long.”

LEBANON

I will read the statement made by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner on Sunday June 24:

“I have just learned that several Spanish soldiers with the United Nations interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have been killed in an explosion and others wounded.

“On behalf of France I express my deepest shock and condemn in very strong terms this act which targets UNIFIL and seriously undermines the process of stabilization in southern Lebanon.

“We wish with the international community and in liaison with the Lebanese authorities to see the perpetrators of this heinous act identified, found and punished.

“On behalf of President Sarkozy, I offer the condolences of the French people and authorities to the victims’ families, to His Majesty the King of Spain, the government of Jose Luis Zapatero and the Spanish people.”

Since that statement was issued we have learned that three Colombians were among the victims, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner offers his condolence to the victims’ families and loved ones and to the Colombian authorities and people.

FRANCE/ARAB LEAGUE

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will meet with Secretary General Amr Moussa of the Arab League tomorrow, Tuesday, June 26 at 9:30 a.m., the day after the ministerial meeting of the enlarged Contact Group on Darfur.

At their meeting Mr. Kouchner and Mr. Moussa will also discuss the latest developments in the Middle East, specifically in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. They will review the efforts to promote a resumption of political dialogue in Lebanon. With regard to the Palestinian Territories, they will discuss the situation in Gaza and the prospects for re-starting the peace process.

NIGERIA

We welcome the release on Saturday, June 23, of the four employees of the Schlumberger group who were abducted in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on June 1. One of the four was a French national.

This is excellent news and a relief for their loved ones and the Schlumberger group with whom the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry and our consulate general locally had been in permanent contact throughout the crisis.

We thank all those who contributed to the men’s release.

KOSOVO

Q - Can you confirm there’s a meeting this evening, this time for foreign ministers of countries in the Contact Group on Kosovo without Russia? Is the purpose to confer about a new proposal after Russia’s rejection on Friday at the UN? If so, is it conceivable there’d be a pause longer than the 120 days already proposed?

As many foreign ministers were gathered in Paris for the Darfur meeting, it is quite likely that other important issues of the day will be addressed on the sidelines of the meeting if the proceedings permit.

With regard to Kosovo, the talks are taking place in New York on the basis of a plan circulated last week. We hope that the discussions will lead to an agreement in the Security Council.

Q - But if a meeting of ministers on Kosovo were to take place on the sidelines of the Darfur conference, wouldn’t Russia be invited? Or, like the last time, are you having consultations without Russia?

When you’re talking about informal contacts among foreign ministers in Paris, there’s no pre-established format.

EUROPEAN UNION/TURKEY

Q - Is France opposed to opening the chapter on economic and monetary union in the negotiations with Turkey in Brussels?

The committee of permanent representatives, made up of ambassadors of the 27 member states, has just given its agreement to the common EU negotiating positions on the chapters “statistics” and “financial control” with a view to the intergovernmental conference on June 26 which will therefore record the opening of two new chapters.

Work is continuing on the EU’s draft common negotiating position on the chapter “economic and monetary policy”.

Q - Can you confirm that it was actually at France’s request that the chapter on economic and monetary policy in Turkey’s EU membership negotiations was pulled from the agenda for the ambassadors’ meeting? What was the reason?

In the absence of unanimity, the German presidency did not propose that the committee of permanent representatives approve the common position on the “economic and monetary policy” chapter.

Q - But are you satisfied that the “economic and monetary policy” chapter has been withdrawn from the membership negotiations with Turkey?

I’ve no further comment./.

Embassy of France, June 25, 2007