Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, October 29, 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

Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade will hold a working meeting today at 3 p.m. with the NGOs and international humanitarian organizations active in Darfur in child protection in order to assess the consequences of the Zoë’s Ark/Children Rescue affair on humanitarian work.

Q - Are you asking the Chadian authorities for the immediate release of the French journalists who have been detained for four days after being arrested while doing their job, as Reporters Without Borders is demanding?

We alerted the Chadian authorities immediately that there were journalists among the French citizens who’d been arrested and asked them to respect their professional status. The minister made a particular point of this during his conversation with President Deby.

Q - Do you have any information about the situation of the seven Spanish nationals arrested in Abéché? Do you think that as airplane crew members their case is distinct from that of Zoë’s Ark officials?

If you’re referring to the conditions in which the Spanish citizens are being held, they are in the same situation as our own nationals, according to our representatives on the spot. As for your second question, that will be a matter for the judicial authorities to decide.

Q - Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno has speculated several times whether the purpose of the operation to fly 103 children out from Abéché to France was to “sell them or kill them and remove their organs” and whether it had been organized by “pedophile NGOs.” Have you asked the Chadian authorities to explain these comments?

President Sarkozy and the minister spoke with President Deby about the whole business. It is now up to the judicial authorities to decide.

DARFUR

Q - Do you think the negotiations in Sirte on peace in Darfur are last ditch talks?

Why do you call them last ditch talks? The discussions in Sirte have just started. They will be going on for several weeks. We are doing everything possible to ensure that participation is as broad as possible so as to reach a lasting solution accepted by all.

ISRAEL/TERRITORIES

Q - Do you think Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s health problems will have negative consequences on the Annapolis conference?

It is not our practice to comment on the state of health of heads of state and government.

Q - Israel has begun cutting back fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip, and two Palestinians were killed Monday by Israeli army fire. Your comment?

We deplore the Israeli decision to adopt sanctions affecting the civilian population in the Gaza Strip through restrictions on the supply of power and fuel.

These measures will have a direct impact on the already alarming humanitarian situation of the population which must not be held hostage or punished collectively.

We call on Israel to avoid any action that might exacerbate the situation of the civilian population.

France also strongly condemns the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

LEBANON

Q - The Syrian foreign minister said yesterday, after he met with Mr. Cousseran, that the French and Syrian points of view on the presidential election in Lebanon concurred. Do you agree with this assessment? If they do concur, on what points? Lastly, could you confirm the meeting being envisaged between Mr. Kouchner and his Syria counterpart in Istanbul?

Mr. Cousseran’s meetings dealt primarily with the situation in Lebanon. He told his interlocutors, Vice President Sharaa then Foreign Minister Moallem, about the results of the visit the minister and his Spanish and Italian colleagues had made to Lebanon.

Mr. Cousseran recalled our commitment to Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty, unity and stability, and emphasized that this was in the interest of all states in the region. He also recalled our positions on the election of a president with broad support, within the timeframe stipulated and according to the rules set out in the constitution. Mr. Cousseran’s interlocutors confirmed Syria’s support for an inter-Lebanese agreement in the election.

To answer your second question, the minister, like his Syrian counterpart, plans to take part in the enlarged ministerial conference of countries neighboring Iraq which will be held in Istanbul. So they will naturally see each other at this time./.

Embassy of France, October 29, 2007