Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

(Paris, May 31, 2007)

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


I will read the statement which Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner made this morning:

‘I welcome the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of UNSCR 1757 on the establishment of a tribunal of an international character for Lebanon. As the Lebanese government had requested it, the Council shouldered its responsibilities in the face of the institutional deadlock in which Lebanon found itself, a deadlock confirmed by the Lebanese government and the United Nations Secretary-General.

‘This signals the will of the international community to reinforce Lebanon's stability.

‘Finally, the Commission of Inquiry into Rafiq Hariri's assassination can now calmly continue its work. We know that the tribunal will take over from it and that those responsible will be tried. As is the wish of all Lebanese on every side of the political spectrum and of all faiths, there will be no impunity.

‘Since one of the main obstacles has thus been lifted, it is our hope that the broader Lebanese national dialogue may be resumed. We are ready to contribute to it, particularly in the run-up to the forthcoming election.’

Q - Sergey Lavrov warned against the risks of ‘destabilizing’ Lebanon following stepped-up deliveries of American arms to the Lebanese army. Do you have any comment?

As the minister said during his visit to Beirut, we support the Lebanese army’s efforts in carrying out the mission assigned it by the country’s authorities.

In this context, we for our part are determined to continue our cooperation with the Lebanese army.

Q - How do you envision the next stages in setting up the international tribunal? Would you have some idea of the time still needed to get it going? Is it still possible to delay or block it?

Yesterday’s decision to establish the tribunal, which is now legally established, will take effect no later than June 10.

The actual establishment of the tribunal, which entails resolving a number of practical matters, will be done in consultation with the UN secretary-general and the Lebanese authorities. It will necessarily take some time--I’m not in a position to assess how long.

The important thing is that the commission of inquiry is continuing its work and once it presents its findings, the tribunal will be in place to ensure there is continuity.

Q - In the minister’s statement, he hopes that the broader national Lebanese dialogue is resumed. He says that France is ready to contribute to it, particularly in the run-up to the upcoming elections. How can France contribute to the dialogue and help the Lebanese in these elections?

We have always encouraged the national dialogue, which is first a matter for the Lebanese. You also know that we are attached to seeing the presidential elections in Lebanon take place according to the timetable and without foreign interference.

In this context we are willing, if the Lebanese wish it, to support any initiative to encourage the dialogue.



Q - What steps has France taken for the Frenchman who has been condemned to death in Indonesia?

France is concerned at the announcement of the death sentence our compatriot, Serge Atlaoui, was given by an Indonesian court on May 29.

Our country, like its European partners, is resolutely in favor of the universal abolition of the death penalty and condemns its use in all circumstances.

We call on all countries where the death penalty is still in force, especially in southeast Asia, to abolish it like the Philippines, or failing that to observe a moratorium on executions and capital sentences.

Mr. Atlaoui has received French consular assistance and protection since his arrest. In coordination with our European partners and other countries concerned, we intend to take all necessary steps with respect to the Indonesian authorities who know our position against the death penalty.


Q - What do you think of the Polish prime minister’s statement insisting on a new system of voting in European bodies, three weeks before the European Council? And what do you think of the system Warsaw has proposed?

You are aware of the efforts President Sarkozy is making to break the institutional deadlock on the basis of a simplified treaty. That is what’s currently being proposed to our partners.

In this perspective, the German presidency is holding discussions with the member states so as to formulate proposals for reforming European Union institutions. It will be up to the European Council on June 21-22 to produce a consensus. We expect everyone to contribute.

To this end we are having privileged consultations with the Polish authorities as evidenced by the recent meeting between Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Polish counterpart, and the president’s upcoming visit to Warsaw.


Q - Colombia is proposing to the FARC members it is prepared to release, including one of the most important, Rodrigo Granda, the possibility of going to France. Is France prepared to admit to its territory any FARC members who asks (out of the 350 to 400 individuals concerned) or is France’s capacity for hospitality limited?

As you know, France is deeply committed to the release of the hostages held by FARC, particularly our compatriot Ingrid Betancourt, in the context of a humanitarian agreement.

We are naturally prepared to make a contribution, through the contacts we are having with the Colombian authorities. As for the possibility you mention, the question is hypothetical.

Q - The Colombian government is on the point of releasing the first FARC members. Does France support Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s initiative to release the guerillas unilaterally?

I refer you to my previous answer./.

Embassy of France, May 31, 2007