Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign and European Spokesperson (Paris, February 6, 2009)

France / United States
Iran / Nuclear issue

France / United States

During their first official meeting, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Bernard Kouchner had a wide-ranging discussion of the major global challenges, and most particularly, important international issues such as the Mideast, on which they issued a joint call for the opening of crossing points. They also discussed Afghanistan, Iran, certain African subjects such as Darfur, and the closing of Guantanamo.

Mr. Kouchner also drew Ms. Clinton’s attention to the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian child who, as you know, was enrolled by al-Qaeda as a pre-teen. We wanted to draw the attention of the American and Canadian authorities to his case.

Relations with Russia were also discussed.

Their meeting was noteworthy for the quality and intensity of the dialogue. Both have a strong desire to engage in an in-depth dialogue and strong cooperation. Bernard Kouchner recalled the elements included in the European paper on strengthening transatlantic ties that was prepared under the French presidency.

This evening, Mr. Kouchner will have a working dinner with Richard Holbrooke in Munich on the sidelines of the Wehrkunde meeting, which President Sarkozy will attend, accompanied by Mr. Kouchner.

Q - With respect to Mr. Kouchner’s visit to the U.S. and his meeting with Ms. Clinton—can we have some details on the Mideast question?

The two ministers spoke notably about two points: the importance of having a Palestinian government based on a national consensus, in accordance with Mahmoud Abbas’s wishes, and the importance of opening the crossing points, which will make it possible to meet the needs of the people in Gaza, along with its corollary—the implementation of mechanisms to halt arms smuggling.

Q - Can you give us any details on Iran?

With respect to Iran, Ms. Clinton reiterated the American position that has already been expressed, that is, the wish to engage in dialogue and the importance of the role of the U.S., Germany, the U.K. and France.

Mr. Kouchner and Ms. Clinton also recalled the important role that could be played by Russia and China in reestablishing the E3+3, the format of current talks.

There was very clearly a wish to work together to continue and enhance cooperation and discussions on Iran.

Q - With respect to the transatlantic partnership, did you get satisfactory answers yesterday?

The European document on strengthening transatlantic relations, which Mr. Kouchner obviously mentioned, was not a list of questions calling for immediate replies. […] The document did state that it was imperative for the new administration to get involved in the Mideast at the very beginning of its term and not at the end […] and what happened in Gaza strengthened that imperative. This message was received, as demonstrated by Ms. Clinton’s statements and George Mitchell’s appointment and trip. We got the feeling that the new U.S. administration was ready to truly engage on this issue.

The question of relations with Russia was also raised, with both sides emphasizing that Russia is an important international partner to whom strong positions must be sometimes articulated. We must engage in dialogue with this partner, including on the Iranian issue. That was underscored yesterday.

So yes, the transatlantic document was mentioned. Clearly, on several of the points considered important in that document, we saw the beginnings of a very positive joint effort.


Iran / Nuclear issue

Q - What is France’s position on a direct dialogue between Washington and Tehran?

We totally support a direct U.S. dialogue with Iran. We ourselves have a direct dialogue with Iran. It would be strange for us to be reticent toward others engaging in direct dialogue with Iran.

Q - On Wednesday there was a meeting of political directors in Germany, where they expressed the unity of the Six on the Iranian issue, on every point.

A direct dialogue is not incompatible with the process engaged thus far, nor with the Security Council resolutions, nor with the multilateral approach toward Iran.

Q - There was talk earlier of a process that included the 3+3 or the 5+1. Now there’s talk of 4+Russia and China. Are there two speeds within this process?

No. There’s a 5+1 or E3+3 process, which still exists. Yesterday in Washington […] the importance of Russia’s role in discussions with Iran was underscored, for obvious reasons, such as the program to supply fuel to Busher.

China is also very important in this process.

Q - Apart from Iran, what other questions were raised about Russia?

Energy security. This an important subject for the U.S. in its relations with Russia. Ms. Clinton had in fact spoken about it publicly. For us too it is a particularly important subject.

The issue of security architecture and President Medvedev’s proposal were also raised.

Q - Are you considering new sanctions against Iran?

Sanctions were mentioned in the general discussion on Iran. The strategy of our dialogue with Iran, whether direct or multilateral, cannot be separated from the sanctions issue. We always operate on a complementary two-track basis combining firmness and dialogue.

Q - Is the process oriented more toward dialogue or more toward firmness?

It is based on both principles. There’s an important player in the E3+3, the United States, which until now had no direct dialogue with Iran. It seems—but it’s up to the new U.S. administration to tell you this—that there is a desire for direct dialogue. That doesn’t change the approach defined by the Six, which led to the Security Council resolutions that are now being fully implemented.

Q - Since the Iranian elections are five months off, is there any talk of waiting before further pushing this issue in the Security Council?

That was part of the discussions.