Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, April 26, 2007)

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


ARMS TRADE TREATY

At its 61st session, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/89 of December 6, 2006:

“Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.”

The resolution “requests the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, and to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its 62nd session.”

France is working for an international trade treaty on conventional weapons in the framework of the United Nations. Partners from organizations and the business community have been received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in connection with this.

In the reply it has just sent for the UN secretary-general’s consultation, France underlines that the main objective of such a treaty will be to persuade states to adopt rules for responsible, transparent and proportionate conduct with regard to the transfer of conventional arms. France believes that for it to be effective the future treaty will have to be universal and will in any case have to be adopted immediately by the greatest possible number of states, especially the main importers and exporters of arms.

In order to persuade states to adopt standards for responsible, transparent and proportionate conduct in the transfers of conventional arms, France considers the treaty should encourage the adoption of national export control systems that meet existing international standards and permit the application of measures decided by the UN Security Council. The treaty should limit the supply of arms and munitions to areas of instability, respect human rights, maintain peace, security and regional stability, prevent diversions, improve the management of stockpiles of arms that could have destabilizing effects and the destruction of stocks of weapons in excess of defense needs. Lastly it should result in greater transparency with regard to the transfer of arms.

The formation of a group of governmental experts at the end of 2007, pursuant to resolution 61/89, will represent an important stage in the process towards common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. France intends to participate actively and constructively in the work of the panel.

RUSSIA

Q - Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced Thursday the “direct” interference of western countries in Russia’s internal affairs via a growing “flow” of financial support for the opposition and NGOs. What’s your reaction?

I’m not going to comment on President Putin’s statements.

As far as we are concerned, we have always pleaded for NGOs to be able to carry out their activities in Russia within their area of competence, with due respect for the rules of the Constitution and in accordance with the commitments Russia undertook in the framework of the OSCE. Without there being any question of interference, dialogue between civil societies can make a useful contribution to the consolidation of democracy in Russia.

AFGHANISTAN

Q - A Taliban spokesman said that the two French aid workers were “in good health” but that there was no direct or indirect negotiation for their release the day before an ultimatum expires. Can you confirm there is no negotiation, even indirect? Do you at least have guarantees that they won’t be killed once the ultimatum expires?

We have taken note of these statements.

I don’t wish to comment on them in accordance with the discretion we’ve maintained from the start.

Q - Afghan Minister Arsala, who is close to President Karzai, is in Paris. Is a meeting with the Quai d’Orsay secretary general or other official scheduled so as to discuss the hostage situation?

To our knowledge, Mr. Arsala is in Paris in a private capacity. Contact with the services of the Foreign Ministry is not precluded.

EUROPEAN UNION/POLAND

Q - European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna assured Bronislaw Geremek of France’s “support” and announced Thursday that she’d referred the matter to the European Parliament. What can France do to prevent Mr. Geremek from being stripped of his MEP mandate at the request of the Polish authorities?

I will read the communiqué which has just been released.

“Catherine Colonna, Minister Delegate for European Affairs, yesterday telephoned Bronislaw Geremek, a member of the European Parliament and a major figure in Polish democracy, to assure him of her friendly support and solidarity in the current circumstances.

“She is contacting European Parliament Speaker Hans-Gert Pottering to ask him for details about the procedure that is in train.

“A founding member of the European Union and home to the European Parliament, France is particularly vigilant with respect to the fundamental values on which European integration is based.”

As it says in the communiqué, the minister delegate has contacted the European Parliament speaker to ask him for details about a procedure that comes under the Statute of the European legislators./.

Embassy of France, April 26, 2007