Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, January 30, 2007)

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


AFRICAN UNION

France welcomes the election of President John Agyekum Kufuor of the Republic of Ghana as president of the African Union.

The election of John Kufuor, whose commitment to human rights and democracy have made Ghana a center of stability in Africa, is tribute to a man and to the strengthen of democracy in that country.

We also pay tribute to the outgoing Congolese president, President Sassou Nguesso, who has been personally involved in the search for solutions to several major crises in Africa.

We assure the new president of France’s support in his task and our wish to further strengthen our ties with the African Union.

AFRICA/FRANCE SUMMIT

Q - About the France/Africa summit, I’d like to know if France has invited Rwanda? Even though there are no longer diplomatic relations with the country, was the invitation sent before diplomatic relations were broken off? Have you already had an answer from Kigali? Are the French and the Rwandans still having contacts in multilateral bodies and through African military cooperation, especially in regard to the RECAMP program?

First, it’s not a France/Africa summit but an Africa/France summit.

Second, the letters of invitation come from the president of the Republic so your question should be addressed rather to the Elysée.

As regards Rwanda more specifically, we will check whether a letter of invitation was sent or had been set before diplomatic relations were broken off.

Concerning the last part of your question about contacts with the Rwandans, you certainly know the context of the decision which was taken by the Rwandan authorities. They decided to break off diplomatic relations unilaterally. It was their decision. That’s where we stand and we no longer have an ambassador there, nor do we have an embassy. As you know, Belgium is representing French interests in Kigali. This means there is no longer any official contact between Rwanda and France.

Q - Even in terms of military cooperation?

To my knowledge, all cooperation going through official channels has been broken off.

IRAN/NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - What is France’s reaction to Mr. ElBaradei’s proposal for a “timeout” during which Iran would stop its nuclear activities in order to break the diplomatic crisis?

We have taken note of Mr. ElBaradei’s statement and his idea for a “timeout” between Iran and the Six. We would like Iran to return to the path of cooperation with the international community and of negotiations with the Six. It is in this spirit that President Chirac proposed “dual suspension”: that Iran suspend its enrichment activities and the international community its action in the Security Council. This principle was moreover adopted and endorsed by the UN Security Council in resolution 1737. I refer you specifically to paragraph 24a of the resolution which states very clearly that the Security Council will suspend the implementation of the sanctions measures it has adopted if Iran suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, including research and development.

Q - Meaning that the proposal for a timeout isn’t in conformity with the resolution?

The question is rather for Mr. ElBaradei. I don’t know exactly what he means in speaking of a “timeout.” What is perfectly clear for us is the position of the international community in resolution 1737 which, as I said, takes up the idea of dual suspension: suspension by Iran of its enrichment activities on one hand, and suspension of sanctions by the international community on the other. That is perfectly clear and remains the line of conduct of the international community.

Q - Article 24a refers to research and development. What does that mean? Does it mean there has to be some control to verify whether research and development are suspended?

Yes, of course. All suspension must be verified by the IAEA.

Q - So it’s not enough for Iran to stop its sensitive activities?

It means that Iran would have to suspend certain sensitive activities and the IAEA would have to be able to tell us that these activities were actually suspended. That’s the reason the resolution asks the IAEA to submit periodic reports. As you know, Mr. ElBaradei’s first report has to arrive within 60 days of the adoption of resolution 1737.

Q - Do you have any comment on the article in today’s International Herald Tribune which says the Americans are putting pressure on the Europeans to stop or suspend economic contacts with Iran?

On this point France’s position, like that of the other European Union members, is that we are determined to implement resolution 1737 in a rigorous way. And as you know, a joint position is being prepared in Brussels to implement resolution 1737. After the common position, there will be a community ruling, a European ruling, which will impose a number of financial obligations on private actors, on companies, in accordance with resolution 1737.

The American measures to which the article refers are in reality something else and don’t follow from the application of resolution 1737. They are being taken on the basis of US legislation and so don’t affect the Europeans. Once again, our position is the stringent implementation of resolution 1737 consistent with what the resolution asks.

With regard to the financial domain, there’s paragraph 12 in particular which provides for a freeze on the assets of a number of entities, which are designated in the resolution, and paragraph 6 which bars any financial assistance for programs contributing to proliferation. This is what we are implementing on the European and national levels.

Q - Igor Ivanov was in Iran. Did he come to France before going to Iran?

I believe that Mr. Ivanov did come to France. He had contacts with the secretary-general of the Defense Ministry. I don’t have the dates in my head when he came to France. These are contacts we have with the Russian authorities regularly, especially with Igor Ivanov whom Mr. Delon had met in Moscow. We can check the dates when he was in Paris.

Q - To discuss the Iran question?

Q - No, there’s no specific purpose. Mr. Ivanov is secretary of the Russian national security council and in this capacity has regular contacts with the French authorities, not about Iran specifically, about security questions in general.

Q - Is France worried about an American military offensive against Iran?

The minister said again this morning very clearly that in our eyes only a diplomatic solution was likely to resolve this question. He reiterated it very clearly this morning on the radio, and I don’t think there’s any ambiguity in the French position.

Q - There’s a Russian move vis-à-vis Iran, and from Saudi Arabia as well. Does France know about an initiative between Iran and the Six?

I’ve not been informed of any particular initiative. I did see that there were contacts between the Russians and the Iranians, it’s not new. There have also been contacts between the Iranians and the Saudis, among them a visit by Mr. Larijani. But I’ve not been informed of the fact that there’s a specific initiative from the Six. We’ve said repeatedly, the path to dialogue with Iran has not been cut off. A number of countries are engaged in dialogue with Iran. That’s there choice and doesn’t call for particular comment on our part.

Q - Apparently there are new Russian proposals?

I’ve not seen that the Russians have submitted new proposals to the Six. The proposal from the Six is well known, it is the one presented by Mr. Solana which remains on the table.

SUDAN

Q - Do you have any reaction to the announcement from Médecins du Monde that they are pulling out of Darfur because of safety issues?

We have taken note of this announcement. On our side we welcome the quite outstanding work that has been done in Darfur by over 14,000 humanitarian workers in particularly difficult conditions. We note that the NGOs are confronted with a generalized spread of violence and crime, and that increasingly they are directly targeted.

We consider such acts of violence unacceptable. They compromise the continued delivery of humanitarian aid on which most of the people in Darfur depend, from the camps for the displaced to the most remote places.

All this, in our eyes, pleads for the implementation of all that has been envisioned by both the United Nations and the African Union, that is, first work on the political aspect to widen the Abuja agreement, then for the establishment of an African Union/UN hybrid force—which Mr. Ban Ki-moon spoke of at the African Union summit—and then also the establishment of an international force on the borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.

AZERBAIJAN

Q - We don’t know much about Mr. Aliyev’s visit. Which issues will be discussed at the meetings?

I can’t tell you much more today because the visit is taking place now. It’s a visit at the level of the president of the Republic so it’s probably the Elysée which will give you some of the details. If you like, we can give you some information later, but I prefer not to say anything about the visit today.

Q - In your presentation about Mr. Aliyev’s visit, did you mention, for example, transparency in the presidential elections that have been held? Is Mr. Aliyev a representative of a state that respects the law?

Once again, the visit is taking place. Mr. Aliyev is president of Azerbaijan. He is received in that capacity by the president of the Republic. We did state that there would be an important political dimension in the talks since France is one of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group. For the rest and for your question, on the French side, we customarily address all questions with our interlocutors, including those you’ve just mentioned dealing with democracy.

LEBANON

Q - Yesterday I asked a question about the Israeli toxic balloons and if I understood your answer correctly, you’re waiting for the balloons to be analyzed. But does the fact of launching these balloons over Lebanese towns not constitute in your eyes a violation of resolution 1701? Does it represent a danger to UNIFIL soldiers, the Italian and French soldiers and others?

I have no new information on this. It is up to UNIFIL to see, to have experts determine the nature of these balloons, where they came from and what they might conceivably carry. I myself have no details about it. I saw some reports, generally of Israeli source, and this obviously has to be checked, that they were promotional balloons that drifted over Lebanon.

It’s for UNIFIL to make an analysis and tell us that they think.

Q - According to the Washington Post, President Bush gave the green light a few days ago for clandestine operations against certain parties in Lebanon. How do you see this action? Can it promote stability in Lebanon and the region?

I’ve no information about this. We consider our action and that of the international community in Lebanon to be in line with resolution 1701, a framework set by the UN Security Council, in agreement with the Lebanese authorities. It is in this context that we are acting in complete transparency.

Q - I’m not talking about France’s action.

I understand your question but I can’t answer for the United States.

Q - But given that you’re a member of the Security Council and Lebanon’s stability is very important to you and to the entire region…

I repeat, I’ve no confirmation. What I can tell you is how we see things, how we see the international community’s action in Lebanon. In our view this action must fall within the framework of resolution 1701 in a transparent way and within the mandate that was agreed.

Q - So you condemn it.

No, I’m not condemning is since I have no confirmation./.

Embassy of France, January 30, 2007