Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, October 26, 2007)

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


CHAD/ZOE’S ARK

I would like first to speak about a particularly painful matter: the tragic situation of the 103 children who have been much in the news since yesterday and who are in Chad, in Abeche. We issued a communiqué yesterday.

As soon as we learned that the Chadian authorities had arrested nine French citizens who were on route to the airport at Abeche and preparing to leave for France with 103 children of unknown nationality, we asked our ambassador in N’djamena to mobilize and obtain from the Chadian authorities all the necessary information so urgent measures could be taken for the children’s protection. We also contacted, through our embassy, the humanitarian agencies on the spot—UNICEF, UNHCR, the Red Cross—so as to be assured conditions for the children were satisfactory in terms of their health and social and psychological well-being.

We strongly denounce the conditions in which the operation was apparently organized. We were informed some months ago that Arche de Zoë [Zoë’s Ark ] intended to carry out operations of this kind but we had no information about this isolated operation. We had moreover voiced serious reservations every time members of the association had spoken to us about them.

They had a meeting with the minister’s staff and also the staff of Secretary of State Rama Yade We reacted publicly on May 25, June 14 and August 3, publishing communiqués that you will find on our website, France diplomatie. We have also been very attentive to the situation of the families who are in Vatry and who were led to expect the arrival of a child. Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade is ready to meet with these families if they wish.

Lastly, our consul will arrive in Abeche in a few hours to provide consular protection there for all the French citizens who have been arrested, including a journalist who was covering the operation.

Q - Did France ask the Chadian authorities to intervene so as to interrupt the operation and arrest the French nationals?

We were informed of the operation by the Chadian authorities. They were responsible for arresting the nine French citizens who accompanied the children. It goes without saying that as soon as our consul is on the spot, we will make sure that he does have access to the French citizens and that they are detained in satisfactory conditions.

(…)

SYRTE NEGOTIATIONS ON DARFUR

The negotiations on Darfur, which will being in Syrte on October 27 under African Union and UN auspices present a decisive opportunity to move towards peace.

France will fully support this process. As the foreign and European affairs minister is traveling in Asia at this time, it is Mr. Barnier, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, accompanied by representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who will represent President Sarkozy at the opening of the negotiations in Syrte.

France calls on all the parties, the Sudanese authorities and rebel movements, to demonstrate a sense of responsibility with respect to the peoples of Darfur by creating the conditions needed for the talks to succeed. This requires the constructive participation of all the protagonists and the immediate cessation of violence in Darfur and the neighboring region of Kordofan.

France welcomes the Security Council’s adoption on October 24 of a statement marking its commitment to assist the negotiating process by showing the requisite firmness with respect to those who continue to engage in violence or obstruct the talks.

Q - Since it’s the day before the meeting, is now the time to draw the consequences of Mr. El Nour’s refusal to take part?

I’ve nothing to add to what I said yesterday. We are waiting for the meeting. We hope that all the parties will be there and we hope the results will be positive. If certain parties don’t go, as I said yesterday, we will act accordingly.

UNITED STATES/IRAQ/FRANCE

Q - I have a question about the presence of Mr. Rumsfeld in Paris. Several human rights organizations have filed a complaint for torture and claim that under the 1984 convention on torture France is obliged to prosecute. What’s your analysis of this question?

I’m just learning a bit about it as my entire morning, I’ll be frank, was fully taken up with the Arche de Zoë association. I understand that Mr. Rumsfeld is in Paris on a private visit. We’ll look into it. I would just like to recall that with regard to the acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison and in other custodial centers in Iraq, a number of cases have been brought before American courts.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - You’ve not commented on the current situation in Gaza. The Israelis may cut off power in retaliation for rocket attacks from Gaza.

We call on all parties, and today the Israeli authorities in particular, to avoid any move, any action, that jeopardizes regional stability. We reiterate this today in regard to the fact you mention, just as we condemn the firing of rockets. Any act of violence imperiling the stability of the region must stop.

In this specific case we call on Israel not to follow through on its decision. It is essential to avoid any action that exacerbates the situation.

(…)

Embassy of France, October 26, 2007