Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, July 27, 2007)

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


DARFUR

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner reconfirm their continued and full support for the African Union and United Nations-led political process for Darfur.

"We join other members of the international community in calling on all invited participants to attend the meeting in Arusha called by the AU and UN Special Envoys on 3–5 August. Non-attendance would signal an unwillingness to resolve the suffering in Darfur and would impede the political process.

“Both our governments are working hard in New York to achieve rapid endorsement of the AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force to ensure its early deployment. We appeal to the Government of Sudan and rebels to show their commitment to the political process by ceasing all hostilities and committing to a full ceasefire. We call on all parties to honour the commitments they made in Tripoli.

“The UK and France look forward to a sustained and inclusive peace deal that brings lasting benefits to the people of Darfur, and those in surrounding regions, who have suffered for too long."

Q - Why does it take the form of a Franco-British statement and not a European statement?

As you know, when President Sarkozy and the British prime minister met they discussed Darfur, and the two countries decided to work closely on this question. This is an illustration of it. We’ve tabled a draft resolution in the UN Security Council which is under discussion. Both ministers wished to express publicly, through this communiqué, their concern with regard to the upcoming meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, and progress in the discussions in New York on the draft resolution.

I also want to tell you about an initiative by Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade.

Ms Rama is inviting NGOs and international humanitarian organizations who are working in the field to help children in Darfur to take part in a working meeting on the programs they’ve begun, what they need and the projects that are being developed.

The meeting will be held Monday, July 30 at 11 a.m. at the Quai d’Orsay and will be followed by a press briefing given by the secretary of state at the Quai at noon.

Q - Which NGOs have been invited?

I don’t have the detailed list of invited NGOs. We can find it if you’re interested. They’re NGOs working in Darfur. Some of them have plans for receiving or special assistance for children who are the first victims in the displacement of populations.

Q - Are they Sudanese or French NGOs?

No, they’re French and European NGOs.

RWANDA

France welcomes the abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda. The abolition of the death penalty contributes to respect for human dignity and human rights. The fight for universal abolition is a priority for France and the European Union.

We call on all states that have not yet done so to abolish the death penalty and pending that to establish a moratorium on executions and death sentences.

Q - Mr. Kouchner said yesterday he wanted to see diplomatic relations resumed between France and Kigali. Does that mean there are steps under way, concerted elements, in support of that?

As the minister said in Addis Ababa yesterday, France would like diplomatic relations between France and Rwanda to be restored as quickly as possible.

As you know, the break in diplomatic relations between France and Rwanda was a decision of the Rwandan government. We said we regretted that decision and repeatedly let it be known that we were willing to restore normal diplomatic relations with the country.

Q - Do you have signs from the Rwandan side that they’re willing to normalize?

We’ll be continuing our efforts to promote normalization. As it’s a decision that was taken by the Rwandan authorities, they will have to send us a specific sign for normalizing relations. We will continue to look resolutely to the future and to work for the stability and development of the country and, beyond that, for the entire African Great Lakes region.

BELARUS

France fully subscribes to the statement made yesterday by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commission for External Relations and Neighborhood Policy, following the arrests of Belarusian opposition militants.

France remains concerned about the continuing hindrances in that country to freedom of expression and freedom of association, and more generally about the deterioration in the human rights situation in Belarus.

It regrets at this time that the Belarusian authorities continue to ignore European Union appeals to make a resolute commitment on the ground to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, values which are held in common by all the European countries.

Q - Are there still invitations from time to time from the Foreign Ministry to dissidents to come to Paris as there were for Milinkievic?

When the circumstances lend themselves to it. We’ve not given up inviting opponents. There’ve been no invitations recently because the occasion didn’t come up.

LEBANON

Q - Is there a Kouchner method? The points discussed at La Celle Saint-Cloud fell into three categories: questions on which there was agreement; questions which weren’t addressed; and questions on which agreement couldn’t be reached. What’s the strategy? (…) What does the minister intend to do in the event of an impasse or failure?

As you know, when the exercise was launched, the minister’s intention, which he made clear during his visit to Beirut on May 23-24, was to show that he was available as facilitator to restore dialogue among the various Lebanese parties and to try to break the ice.

You’re asking me if there’s a Kouchner method. I’m not going to answer your question directly but what everyone has seen in any case is that all the Lebanese parties invited accepted the invitation, that everyone contributed to the exercise at La Celle Saint-Cloud and everyone agreed that the ice had been broken.

Participants talked without necessarily agreeing on all the point, as you mention, but they did express a consensus on some elements, and beyond that, they agreed to pursue this method which is to examine how to restore the Lebanese state and get the institutions functioning normally.

So there was the exercise at La Celle Saint-Cloud. The minister said at that point that he was ready to go to Beirut to meet with the leaders of the parties or the various Lebanese parties that were part of the dialogue so as to check that the method that had been decided at La Celle Saint-Cloud was shared by these various leaders and so they could continue on this path.

Now you’re saying what if there’s a failure, an impasse, a deadlock. We’re not there yet. We hope that the visit will make it possible to continue the path taken at La Celle Saint-Cloud. The minister will meet with all the various leaders who took part in the exercise at La Celle Saint-Cloud to check that we still agree on this method and on the various items that are still on the agenda.

It is assistance with the political dialogue among the various Lebanese parties that the minister is prepared to continue. Obviously, the decisions which will have to be taken are a matter for the Lebanese parties themselves. We’ve said that all along. Our role is to facilitate and to assist. But in any case, decision-making is a matter for the Lebanese parties.

The Kouchner method is to be available to the various parties so as to facilitate agreement and dialogue.

(…)

Q - Were there in fact points which weren’t addressed and points on which there was no agreement?

I didn’t make that classification so I can’t answer your question. There are some issues on which the participants agreed there was a consensus, for example on Lebanon’s independence and integrity and the Taif accords.

Also, they agreed on a working method. That is what is important. In two days we didn’t discuss all the issues, everything that was on the agenda in the discussions under way in Lebanon. That’s the reason the exercise needs to be continued.

Q - Did you coordinate with the American authorities on the Lebanese question? Cooperate on structures and the fundamentals in the Lebanese problem?

We said so and repeated what we said. We did take care to inform a number of our partners right at the beginning of this initiative. As you know, Mr. Cousseran, the minister’s envoy, went to the United States, Egypt, Morocco and Iran and to a number of countries to inform them of our intentions and what we expected from the exercise. He did so before and after the exercise at La Celle Saint-Cloud. We have a regular dialogue on this question with a number of countries.

Obviously we also keep our European partners informed also. When the minister was at the General Affairs/External Relations Council on July 23, he briefed all the European ministers on what had happened at La Celle Saint-Cloud and what we planned for the next step.

Q - You spoke in an Arab paper, Al-Nahar, of guarantees for the Lebanese parties concerned with respect to the presidential elections of the national unity government. What can you tell us about them?

I’m delighted to learn about this. I believe the reference is to the resumption of what we’d talked about earlier.

Q - You spoke of two things: guarantees and a platform for dialogue.

I definitely don’t know what you’re referring to. I’ve not made any such comments. I’d be interested to know where they appear.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - Can you explain the situation at the Rafah crossing point between Gaza and Egypt?

You’re thinking of the team that was at the checkpoint. They are still there, but the Rafah crossing is closed for security reasons. As soon as security conditions are restored, they will be able to resume their mission which has been suspended for the time being.

Q - Who made the decision to suspend it? The Palestinians, the Israelis?

Everybody agreed, the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Europeans and the Egyptians since there has to be agreement among the parties for the crossing to be re-opened.

NIGER

Q - Do you have any comment on Niger’s expulsion of the Areva representative? I saw that the foreign minister will be in Paris next week. Is this something you’ll raise with her?

We were in fact surprised to learn of the notification of expulsion of the Areva representative in Niger by the country’s authorities. It’s a move we don’t understand and which doesn’t strike us as consistent with the new momentum we wish to give to our relations, to the partnership and friendship between France and Niger and more generally between France and Africa.

As we see it, Areva is a major partner, a key, long-standing partner of this country, which is our friend. We don’t see a legitimate reason to block continuing a trustful, constructive and fruitful dialogue between Areva and the Niger authorities.

With regard to the attacks on security in the north of the country by an active minority, we have condemned and strongly condemn these acts.

We welcome the upcoming meeting between the two foreign ministers who will see each other in Paris Monday afternoon. At that time, Bernard Kouchner, with the President’s agreement, will tell Ms Mindaoudou that he is willing to go to Niger.

(…)

LIBYA

Q - Germany seems to have reservations, which were stated by Mr. Steinmeier himself, about cooperation between France and Libya in the nuclear field.

We’ve taken note of a statement which to my knowledge was made not by the German foreign minister but by an official of the German Foreign Ministry.

As we said yesterday, it seems to us obviously that we concluded this agreement for one, because it’s the result of negotiations that began several years ago. The presidential visit was an opportunity to sign a number of agreements, including that one.

Second, with regard to the risk of proliferation since that is what is being discussed by a number of commentators, we recalled several elements.

First, Libya acted on its own initiative in giving up its weapons of mass destruction programs in December 2003 and has dismantled them under international supervision. Furthermore, it showed it was ready to give up military nuclear power definitively by ratifying the international agreement and the additional protocol which entitles the International Atomic Energy Agency to check all its nuclear activities and ensure there is no clandestine program. The IAEA, as we know from the reports it issues every year on compliance by its verification mission, is carrying out its work in Libya under satisfactory conditions.

It states in the text of the memorandum that cooperation shall be undertaken and pursued with due respect for the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and its instruments: the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol, which I’ve just mentioned, with the IAEA. France’s obligations as a member of EURATOM and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, are also recalled.

The intergovernmental agreement, which will be signed later, will include, as do all the civil nuclear cooperation agreements signed by France, clauses on the peaceful use of cooperation and the application of IAEA monitoring of all materials used in all nuclear installations.

Franco-Libyan cooperation in the civil nuclear field is proof that countries that fully comply with their international non-proliferation commitments can obtain all the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

I would like to recall that the objective is carefully spelled out in the agreement. Cooperation between France and Libya on nuclear desalination is in response to Libya’s wish to diversify its energy sources. In fact seawater desalination requires substantial energy support to fuel either an evaporation process or operate pumps. The memorandum doesn’t prejudge an eventual decision by the Libyan authorities to turn to renewable energy sources as well to satisfy its energy needs.

Lastly, I would like to remind you that we favor the development of nuclear energy for peaceful ends at the global level, and that one should not confuse civil use with military use. France has been approached by many countries since we are, along with the United States, the only country to have mastered all aspects of the nuclear industry. So we’ve been approached by several countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Technical studies are being done specifically with Algeria and Morocco.

The development of a civil nuclear program is only conceivable with strict compliance with international non-proliferation commitments and I believe that we’ve taken a number of precautions, I note, lastly, that several international experts--Americans, British and from other countries--have given similar assessment with regard to the absence of the risk of proliferation that the MOU presented.

Q - Was the memorandum discussed beforehand with the Germans? Were they told that France was going to sign this document?

As I said, the negotiations began at the end of 2004. There was an initial technical mission from the French Atomic Energy Agency (CEA) to Libya in 2005. An initial memorandum of understanding was signed between the CEA and Libyan authorities in March 2006, which was completely public. From that point on, it was all public knowledge, and I believe we told our partners about it on many occasions. At least once the memorandum was public, everyone could find out about the negotiations. I remember that we even discussed them at a press briefing right here./.

Embassy of France, July 27, 2007