Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign and European Spokesperson (Paris, January 05, 2009)
Union for the Mediterranean
Following presidential balloting that was universally hailed for its transparency and lawfulness, the Ghanaian people once again demonstrated their attachment to democracy.
France is pleased that the values we share with Ghana have taken root in that friendly country.
Mr. Atta-Mills’s election—as well as the withdrawal of President John Kufuor and Mr. Akofo-Addo’s acceptance of the results under the terms of the Constitution—stand as an example for Africa.
Q - Can you give us an estimate of the number of French or dual citizens that still live in Gaza? Do you know if any have been wounded? How have you approached the occupying force to get them out of this situation? Is there a common European approach to EU passport holders?
There are currently 40 French nationals residing in Gaza who are registered with our consulate-general in Jerusalem.
About 20 people, French and/or Palestinian citizens (the spouses and families of French citizens) have asked the consulate-general in Jerusalem for help in leaving the Gaza Strip.
Their transfer via the Erez checkpoint is being organized with the Israeli authorities.
We are not aware of any French citizens who have been wounded.
We are also in touch with our European colleagues to exchange information on the situation of Europeans who have remained on the ground.
Q - A Hamas spokesperson warns that all international interposition forces will be treated and fought as an occupation force, but all the proposals to end the crisis call for an international force, and France, as well as the EU, have offered to participate. Does Hamas’s position change the situation and impact your proposals? How do you respond to this new approach?
As you know, we are prepared to examine the possibility of resuming and if necessary expanding EUBAM’s border assistance mission. An enlargement of EUBAM’s mandate must be discussed in the framework of an agreement to end the crisis.
Q - What is your reaction to Israel’s refusal to allow journalists to enter Gaza, despite a Supreme Court ruling in Israel? How is France obtaining information about what is happening in Gaza?
France has on several occasions called for the reopening of checkpoints and free access to Gaza by international and humanitarian organizations, diplomats and journalists.
The jurisdiction of France’s consulate-general in Jerusalem extends to all the Palestinian territories. The consulate staff is maintaining contact with the people of Gaza.
Furthermore, we are in regular contact with the international organizations that are present on the ground, notably those of the UN system, such as UNRWA [UN Relief and Works Agency] and the WFP [World Food Programme], and with our partners in the international community.
Q - Israel claims there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza despite nine days of attacks and a ground invasion of this occupied territory. But NGOs on the ground such as Oxfam and the UN bodies say the opposite. They assert that only 100 trucks carrying relief supplies cross the border each day when 800 would be necessary to meet the people’s needs. Do you have any information on the situation on the ground from French NGOs, and what are they saying about the suffering and conditions of civilians in Gaza?
We are extremely concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
On December 30, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs held a meeting with French NGOs working on the ground.
We maintain continuous contact with humanitarian workers, including Palestinian NGOs working in Gaza such as the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, and UN agencies.
Humanitarian organizations are confronting three major challenges:
-first and foremost, people’s ability to securely access humanitarian goods and services
-the ability of humanitarian personnel to enter and move about within the Gaza Strip
-the possibility of transporting sufficient volumes of humanitarian relief in the Gaza Strip, notably, food aid, to meet all needs.
This situation is making it that much more urgent to establish—as the EU demanded during the foreign ministers meeting in Paris on December 30—a humanitarian truce and opening up points for the passage of humanitarian supplies and personnel so that all necessary relief can reach the population.
Q - Why hasn’t Rama Yade said anything about the current crisis in Gaza?
Rama Yade is fully involved in defining French positions, which have been forcefully expressed since the beginning of the crisis.
Q - Will there be a meeting between the members of the French delegation and the members of the Hamas delegation invited to Cairo by President Mubarak? Is the Israeli intervention complying with international agreements on the protection of civilians in wartime and in war zones?
No meetings are planned between the French delegation and the Hamas delegation. On the other hand, we support all efforts, notably by Egypt, to promote a lasting cease-fire between Hamas and Israel and inter-Palestinian reconciliation.
As for your second question, let me remind you that France condemned the Israeli ground offensive against Gaza, just as it condemned the continued rocket fire on Israeli territory. It demanded an immediate cease-fire and respect for international humanitarian law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians and the population’s real access to humanitarian goods and services.
Union for the Mediterranean
Q - Who is currently sharing the presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean with Mr. Mubarak, France or the Czech EU presidency?
On the European side, the governance of the Union for the Mediterranean in the first half of 2009 combines the country holding the EU Presidency, that is, the Czechs, and France./.