Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, June 28, 2007)

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


EUROPEAN UNION/FRANCE

President Nicolas Sarkozy will receive Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, today at 5:00 p.m.

The European Commissioner will then meet with Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner and Foreign and Humanitarian Affairs Secretary Rama Yade on Friday, June 29, at 10:00 a.m. Prior to that, he will have a meeting with Jean-Marie Bockel, Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophony, on Thursday, June 28, at 6:30 p.m.

These meetings will be used to discuss with Commissioner Louis Michel the main questions in Africa, particularly the situation in Darfur, following the ministerial meeting of the enlarged Contact Group in Paris on June 25, and European development policy.

FRANCE/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit France on June 29. President Nicolas Sarkozy will receive the president of the Palestinian Authority on June 29 at 5:00 p.m.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner will have a meeting with the president of the Palestinian Authority at 8:00 p.m. Their meeting will be preceded by a press briefing at 7:15 p.m.

The French authorities will reaffirm France’s support for Mahmoud Abbas, pillar of Palestinian democratic institutions, and for the government led by Salam Fayyad.

In a particularly serious context we express our support for President Abbas’ efforts to find a political solution to the crisis and for his determination to preserve the unity of the Palestinian people.

President Sarkozy has announced to Mahmoud Abbas direct budget support of 15 million euros so that the Palestinian Authority is able to meet its obligations.

KYRGYSTAN/DEATH PENALTY

France hails the abolition of the death penalty by Kyrgyzstan. The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the fight for human dignity and human rights.

The combat for its abolition worldwide is one of the foreign policy priorities of France and the European Union. We call on all states that have not yet done so to abolish the death penalty or institute a moratorium on executions and death sentences.

France is ready to support Kyrgyzstan in its efforts to implement its international obligations with respect to human rights and establishing the rule of law, in particular in the framework of the new European strategy in central Asia adopted at the last European Council.

EUROPEAN UNION/TURKEY

Q - Portugal has said it would not hold a debate on the borders of the European Union and Turkey’s entry during its EU presidency starting on Sunday, in spite of France’s wish. European Affairs Secretary Lobo Antunes emphasized that the issue of enlargement was more political than geographic, contrary to what France claims. Your reaction?

As President Sarkozy has said, France would like to see a debate started on Europe’s borders before the end of the year at the time of the discussions that will be taking place on the basis of the Commission’s reports on enlargement strategy.

We will be discussing with our partners, particularly the Portuguese presidency, how the debate might be organized.

COLOMBIA

Q - According to the French secret services, Ingrid Betancourt’s death is considered ‘probable or possible.’ What’s your comment?

We’ve no information of that nature. As you know, we are asking that proof that Ms Betancourt is alive be sent to us.

Q - The FARC announced that 11 of the 12 Colombian lawmakers taken hostage five years ago were killed in an attempt by the Colombian army to release them by force on June 18. France, which has always stated its opposition to such an operation, asked Colombia for guarantees. Do you think that Bogotá is keeping its promises? What steps does France plan to take?

We heard about the information on an internet site reporting that 11 legislators of the Valle Assembly, held hostage by FARC since April 2002, were killed in armed clashes on June 18.

We will of course be checking this information.

The French authorities recall that the arbitrary and prolonged detention of hostages is an intolerable violation of the most basic human rights.

They also recall that the use of force to release the hostages must be absolutely forbidden.

They are continuing their unremitting efforts to achieve a humanitarian agreement as soon as possible.

Q - According to one press report, a FARC camp was attacked by an unknown group. Is the identity of this group known?

We’ve no information about the identity of the group which the FARC claims targeted them.

Q - On Thursday the family of hostage Ingrid Betancourt called on France, Switzerland and Spain to act firmly with respect to Bogotá to prevent another military operation at all cost. The family is also asking these countries to be involved more directly, through the United Nations, in resolving the hostage issue. Your answer?

We’ve informed the Colombian authorities several times that any military operation was to be ruled out completely given the risks for the lives of the hostages.

France is fully involved in the search for a humanitarian solution. It is working on this discreetly with Switzerland and Spain.

MIDDLE EAST

Q - In light of the new situation in Gaza, are Israeli forces now entitled to carry out military actions in the territory like the one on Wednesday when at least 12 people were killed, including a child? What is your reaction to this operation?

The new situation in Gaza does not change our position. We continue to call on the Israeli authorities to exercise the utmost restraint so as not to enter into the cycle of violence.

I would also like to recall that France condemns the practice of extra-judicial killings as a violation of international law. This type of practice can only strengthen the most radical elements at a time when it is important, on the contrary, to back the supporters of a negotiated solution.

IRAQ

Q - What’s your reaction to the American blunder in Iraq and the killing of several civilians that were targeted in error as being members of al Qaeda?

I’ve no particular information on the matter.

In general and in accordance with its Security Council mandate, the multinational force must ensure the security of the civilian populations./.

Embassy of France, June 28, 2007