Daily Press Briefing

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

(Paris, November 30, 2007)

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


(…)

COLOMBIA/INGRID BETANCOURT

I will read the communiqué from Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner:

“We are delighted to have this long-awaited proof [that the hostages are alive] which provides some relief to the families concerned. We shall be studying it carefully.

“Our thoughts go out at this time to the hostages and their relatives.

“It is necessary today more than ever to intensify the efforts to find a humanitarian solution that will lead to the release of all the hostages.

“The French authorities remain fully mobilized to this end, in close liaison with the Colombian authorities.”

Q - With regard to Ingrid Betancourt and the proof she’s alive, I’d like to know whether France continues to support in principle President Chavez’s mediation which has been halted for the time being by the Colombian government?

At this time, it’s true we’ve stopped talking about this mediation effort. We learned and have taken formal notice of the decisions to date, in particular the Colombian president’s decisions, and now we’re hoping we can move toward the humanitarian solution which we’re waiting for in this matter and which will lead to the release of all the hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt.

Q - Through Mr. Chavez?

We’re not talking today about Mr. Chavez’s mediation, things have changed. We’ve taken note of the proof, and moreover we’ve not seen it all. I refer you to what the president and foreign minister said this morning. We’ve not seen the letter Ingrid Betancourt sent to her mother. We hope that we can move forward towards the humanitarian solution that we’ve all been waiting for so long, for far too long.

Q - A week ago France asked the Colombian government very bluntly to reverse its decision and allow Mr. Chavez to continue his mediation. Does this mean you’ve dropped this approach?

It’s important to recognize there’s been a change in this matter. It’s no longer Mr. Chavez’s mediation that’s the issue. That’s past. The news today is that we have new proof the hostages are alive. We support in general any mediation and any facilitation. What counts for us is getting a solution. We note the fact that the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, has said he didn’t wish that mediation to continue. So let’s move on, based on this proof.

I refer you to the minister’s communiqué; it’s a positive sign with respect to what we’re looking for. We hope that with this development, with the very important element that was provided today, which has delighted the president and the minister and the families even more, we are going be able to move towards a humanitarian solution which will result in the liberation of all the hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt

After the press briefing, the spokesperson said: “The Chavez mediation may also start again in the future. We support all facilitation and mediation efforts that can help bring about a humanitarian solution leading to the release of all the hostages including Ingrid Betancourt.”

(…)

BALI CONFERENCE ON GLOBAL WARMING (DECEMBER 3 – 14, 2007)

The 13th conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 3rd meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol are being held in Bali, Indonesia, from December 3 – 14, 2007.

Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister of State, Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Planning, will represent France; the Secretary of State for Ecology, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, and the Special Ambassador for negotiations on global warning, Brice Lalonde, will also be taking part in the proceedings.

The Bali Conference comes in the wake of the publication on November 17 of the 4th report of the international panel of experts on climate change (IPCC) which confirms the seriousness of the threat of global warming on our planet.

That is why France, whose action is in line with the European Union framework, and in particular the conclusions of the European Council of March 2007, hopes that the Bali Conference will produce ambitious results capable of providing a global response to the challenges of climate change, in particular:

- the satisfactory implementation of the Kyoto Protocol for the period 2008 – 2012;

- the adoption of a “road map” leading to a global agreement by 2009 for post 2012;

- the need to perpetuate and develop the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms;

- and the formulation of a differentiated contribution from emerging countries and other developing countries.

As the findings of the “Grenelle de l’Environnement” showed in October, France is fully engaged in the fight against climate change and expects the Bali Conference to give new impetus to international mobilization.

SUDAN

France condemns the assassination of four people in the premises of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Bor, in South Sudan, on November 29.

It is a horrendous act which was committed in violation of the most elementary humanitarian principles and which affects an already particularly vulnerable population. The victims were patients at the neighboring hospital, along with members of their families, who had just been evacuated by MSF to escape their assailants.

CHAD

Q - A rebel movement in Chad has just announced a “state of war” against the French forces there. Do you have any more information and can we have your comments?

I’ve read the wire service report. I’ve no further information. We are paying close attention to what is happening in this region and we are extremely concerned about the clashes that are taking place daily, one after another. We reaffirm our attachment to the implementation of the Syrte Agreement of October 25. The seriousness of the situation shows clearly that it is necessary to make progress in implementing the operations that we’ve proposed at both the European and UN level. Our concern in this region is for the safety of the local civilian refugee and displaced populations; the deployment of a multinational presence remains essential for their protection. I hope that we will manage to set up this international presence which should help make the region safer.

Q - The international presence, at least as far as the European force is concerned, was supposed to start before the end of November. Do you have any details about the timetable and the modalities of deployment?

No more than what we’ve said. The last force-generation conference when we reviewed the various contributions revealed that there were still needs for which we’ve not had responses, in particular with regard to means of transport. We’re continuing to undertake with General Nash all the necessary contacts with our partners and we hope that the EUFOR operation can be set up as quickly as possible between now and the end of the year.

Q - The EUFOR spokesman has just announced that he can’t imagine sending in soldiers before Christmas this year. What are the reasons? Are there countries that promised soldiers and have reneged?

As I’ve already said, there’ve been regular appeals to the major countries which could contribute, and at this time, we still need helicopters and equipment. We hope this operation can be quickly set up.

Q - #IRAN NUCLEAR ISSUE

Q - Is there a 5 +1 meeting scheduled for December?

As regards the meeting of the E3 + 3 group, I announced yesterday that there will be a meeting here tomorrow for the three European countries (Germany, Britain, France) and the three other countries (United States, Russia and China).

Q - What issues will they be discussing at the meeting?

They’ll be reviewing the Iran nuclear situation. We’ve already had Mr. ElBaradei’s report and we’re still waiting for Mr. Solana’s. The idea is to consider what we can do next after these reports, either at the United Nations or in the European Union.

Q - Are you still hoping to have Mr. Solana’s definitive report by tomorrow in time for the group?

As we speak, Mr. Solana is still having contacts with the Iranians as he’s seeing the Iranian negotiator today. By definition, he has to wait to see Mr. Jalili before making his report. But a representative of the secretary-general, EU high representative for the CFSP, will be attending tomorrow’s meeting.

Why is the 5 + 1 group now being called the E3 + 3?

The group was never called the 5 + 1. We’ve called it the E3 for a long time because the matter is being handled by the three Europeans. We convinced our three other partners to join us. As you will remember, we made a very ambitious offer of cooperation since our aim with the Iranians is both to negotiate and to consider sanctions so as to give the talks complete credibility. The group was subsequently enlarged to the three other permanent members of the Security Council. What’s important today is knowing we have a six-country format for considering what we’re going to do with respect to Iran.

Q - Tomorrow’s meeting was originally scheduled for November 19. Did China refuse to take part?

There were problems with schedules. China didn’t refuse to attend the meeting, but the Chinese representative had mentioned problems with his schedule. The meeting is being held today. Let’s be glad it’s on and hope that during the meeting we’ll get a fruitful discussion to see how we’re going to pursue the discussions with the Iranians.

Q - What’s the level of the participants?

Political directors, in other words, high-ranking civil servants.

Q - Will there be a communiqué after the meeting?

In principle, no.

(…)

LEBANON

Q - Is Mr. Kouchner following the latest developments in Beirut concerning the election or possible election of General Suleiman?

Yes, of course. We see the talks are continuing, that the Lebanese have decided to give themselves a bit more time, and we’re glad to see once again that all the parties seem determined to help get an agreement that will lead to the election of a president with broad support.

Q - As you’ll have seen, there’s an important and positive evolution of the situation in Lebanon, with some shifts that are fairly important. If necessary, is it possible that Mr. Kouchner might return to Lebanon’s bedside because people in Beirut are talking about a push from France being needed for procedural issues to amend the constitution and other details?

Insofar as his schedule permits, Mr. Kouchner is always ready to return to Lebanon if it’s useful to help identify a solution in which a Lebanese president can be elected.

Q - With regard to the principle, what would you say if electing a new president meant amending the constitution?

It’s up to the Lebanese to find the solution. If an amendment to the constitution is needed, it’s for the Lebanese to decide. We, and I’m speaking for the French side, are there to offer encouragement for anything that can help bring about a solution.

PALESTINE

Q - I read yesterday in your remarks that the second stage will be the donors’ conference in Paris. Is there anything specific or not yet?

I refer you to the statement I made yesterday telling you about the results at Annapolis. I confirm that the donors’ conference is being prepared actively. It is to take place in Paris on December 17. There’ll be a specific presentation to give you all the details about the format and how the proceedings will be organized.

EUROPEAN UNOIN/AFRICA SUMMIT

Q - What practical results are you expecting from the summit?

In general we’re seeking to give new impetus so as to move forward in EU-Africa relations. The last summit was held in Cairo in 2000. We are making progress in the talks with the Africans, especially on the economic partnership agreements. We hope at the time of this summit to be able to say again that we’re making progress and that we’d like to see still more progress in all the political and economic areas with Africa. That’s what we’re expecting./.

Embassy of France, November 30, 2007