Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, January 29, 2007)

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


ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC)

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy met with the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, this morning, January 29.

They discussed several international issues. In particular the minister expressed his concern at the deterioration in the situation in Gaza and the Palestinian Territories. He said he supported the efforts being made, notably by Saudi Arabia, to find a solution to this crisis. Mr. Douste-Blazy also said that France was in favor of an enlarged meeting of the Quartet and an international conference to support the revival of the peace process.

The OIC secretary-general presented the organization’s program of modernization which calls for increased participation in the dialogue of cultures and in concrete projects for development and partnership. In this connection the minister invited the OIC to join the international drug purchase facility, UNITAID, by contributing to programs to fight malaria in Africa.

KOSOVO

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy had a meeting today with Joachim Rücker, the UN secretary-general’s special representative in Kosovo and head of the United Nations Interim Mission for Kosovo (UNMIK).

The meeting focused on UNMIK’s role as the process to define Kosovo’s status enters a decisive stage. The minister said he hoped to see the UN mission continue to assume its mandate fully until the new status.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy reaffirmed his full support for the current process being conducted by Mr. Ahtisaari in order to propose a settlement laying the bases for a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo that respects human rights and the security of all communities.

Q - Can you tell us more about Mr. Ahtisaari’s plan? Unconfirmed press reports suggest Mr. Ahtisaari envisions a transition period to conditional independence, with supervision, during which Kosovo would enjoy maximum autonomy but would not have either an army or a seat at the UN?

UN Special Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari presented his “comprehensive proposal for the status of Kosovo” to the Contact Group on Friday. He will be presenting it to Belgrade and Pristina, and will hold intensive consultations in the next few weeks with the two parties on this text which he is ready to amend to take into account suggestions made to him.

As the minister said on Friday, we confirmed to Mr. Ahtisaari that he had our full support for his action and the steps he envisions for coming weeks. We call on Belgrade and Pristina to take this opportunity to express their concerns and join constructively in the consultations that will be starting.

With regard to the plan itself, we don’t wish to comment on the text which has yet to be presented to the parties directly concerned. The projects seems to us balanced. It takes into consideration the negotiations that have been taking place for a year in Vienna and the Contact Group’s recommendations.

ISRAEL

I will read the statement made by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy:

“I condemn the bomb attack which has just been committed in Eilat, which killed three people and wounded several others. Nothing can justify such an act of hatred.

“In this ordeal, I extend my sincere condolences to the victims' families and loved-ones and express my sympathy to the Israeli authorities.”

HOLOCAUST DENIAL

France welcomes the UN General Assembly’s adoption by consensus of the resolution on holocaust denial on Friday, January 26.

The Europeans worked with the United States, author of the text, to achieve a resolution which unambiguously condemns any denial of the Holocaust.

With the adoption of this resolution by consensus and its sponsorship by 103 states, including France and its European partners, we consider the international community has sent a strong message against all forms of denial whether by individuals, organizations or states.

EUROPEAN UNION

Q - Luxembourg Minister Delegate for European Affairs Nicholas Schmidt said Friday, after the Madrid meeting: “We are ready to improve the treaty and we want to know what’s wrong in the eyes of France and the Netherlands.” What’s your reaction?

As European Affairs Minister Delegate Catherine Colonna said in an interview published in the daily, La Croix, this morning: “There is a sequence which goes from today to the second quarter of 2008. The substantive work which is now beginning under the German presidency of the EU must lead to the adoption of a new text at the time of the European elections in 2009.”

The minister emphasizes that we must start from the existing basis, the draft constitutional treaty, and retain the balances in this text, so as to obtain a consensus among the 27 member states.

She notes that new issues have emerged since the treaty was signed and “pragmatically, starting from the draft treaty, we must look at what must be amended or improved, what can be retained, what lacks consensus now, and what must be reserved for later.”

(…)

SUDAN

Q - What is the French position on Sudan’s bid for the presidency of the African Union? With regard to Darfur, what are you expecting from the African summit which starts in Addis Ababa today?

The question of the presidency of the African Union is a matter for the Africans.

With regard to Darfur, the Addis Ababa summit affords an opportunity to discuss the situation in the region which remains disturbing, especially in humanitarian terms. The presence of the UN secretary-general in Addis Ababa means he can talk with the Sudanese president and the African Union about the terms and conditions for setting up the hybrid force (UN/AU) in Darfur, which President Bashir agreed to in principle in December. We hope that the force is deployed as quickly as possible.

(…)

MIDDLE EAST

Q - Do you support the Saudi initiative to calm the situation in the Palestinian Territories and what are the western countries doing to this end? Doesn’t the American initiative to arm and train Fatah compromise the efforts to calm the situation? Aren’t you worried about an arms race in the Palestinian Territories and Hamas turning to other countries, less “friends of the West,” to arm?

We support the Saudi initiative to find a solution to the inter-Palestinian crisis. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy emphasized this this morning at his meeting with the OIC secretary-general.

The European Union, for its part, will take part in the meeting of the Quartet scheduled for early February in Washington.

As I said on January 16, I don’t wish to pass judgment on the nature of American aid to the president of the Palestinian Authority. The European Union for its part is focusing its aid on the social and educational sectors in the interest of encouraging the development of the Territories and reconciliation among the Palestinians.

Embassy of France, January 29, 2007