Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris, March 26, 2013)


Central African Republic – Death of Indian nationals
WTO – Selection process for future Director-General – Visit by Ms. Amina Mohamed and Mr. Bark Tae-ho (March 25, 2013)
North Korea – South Korea

Central African Republic – Death of Indian nationals

Following the tragic incident at Bangui airport in which two Indians died and six others were wounded on March 25, the Minister called his Indian counterpart, Mr. Salman Khurshid, on March 26 in the morning.

The Minister, echoing the letter written by the President to the Indian Prime Minister, expressed his deep regret over this tragic incident and extended his most sincere condolences. He added that the wounded were being taken care of by France and that an investigation was under way to shed full light on the circumstances of the tragedy.

WTO – Selection process for future Director-General – Visit by Ms. Amina Mohamed and Mr. Bark Tae-ho (March 25, 2013)

On March 25, Pierre Sellal, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcomed Bark Tae-ho, Korea’s Trade Minister, and Amina Mohamed, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and Kenya’s former Ambassador to the World Trade Organization. Both are candidates for the position of WTO Director-General.

The Secretary-General had already met with five other candidates to succeed Pascal Lamy: Brazil’s Ambassador to the WTO, Roberto Azevedo; Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Mari Pangestu; Mexico’s former Trade Minister, Herminio Blanco; New Zealand’s Minister of Trade, Minister for Climate Change Issues, Tim Groser; and Costa Rica’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Anabel Gonzalez.

The nomination period ended on December 31, and there are nine candidates to succeed Pascal Lamy, who served two consecutive terms at the helm of the organization. The WTO member states must choose their new Director-General by May 31, and he or she will take office on September 1, 2013. 


Regarding the Central African Republic, I’d like your reaction to Mr. Djotodia’s announcements that he’s going to legislate by decree and is suspending the institutions.

We made several statements at the weekend, in terms similar to those of the African Union [AU], the European Union and very recently the Security Council. What’s important for us now is three things, basically.

First, a return to public order. In particular, the looting in Bangui must stop. Second, a guarantee that civilians and foreign communities will be protected. As you know, we’ve reinforced our military presence in Bangui to ensure the safety of the French nationals and citizens of other nationalities whom we have agreements to protect. In total, this concerns some 2,000 people.

Third, a return to the spirit and the principles of the Libreville agreement, which, as you’ll remember, was reached on January 11 under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States [ECCAS]. This agreement is the reference framework for us. Among other things, it includes institutional provisions, with the appointment of a prime minister and a national unity government and the organization of elections. 

Do you recognize the new authorities? Are you going to deal with them?

Once again, the framework in which our relations with the Central African Republic must be organized is the framework set in Libreville. There must be a return to it as soon as possible, and therefore a return to what was agreed at the time by the CAR under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States.

Do you regard Mr. Djotodia as an interlocutor?

You’re asking me the same question and I’m giving you the same answer. We condemned in the clearest terms the forcible seizure of power that occurred in the CAR at the weekend. So there’s no question of our recognizing this state of affairs. What we’d like is for the CAR to return to the framework accepted by it, validated by it in close coordination with and under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States in Libreville. That’s not only France’s position, it’s that of all the CAR’s partners: ECCAS, the AU, the EU and the Security Council.

As regards contacts with South Africa – which is, after all, heavily involved and which says it doesn’t intend to withdraw for the time being – is there twinning, cooperation on peacekeeping and security operations between the South Africans and the French force on the ground?

With the South Africans, given the role they play in the African Union and also in the CAR, we have daily contacts at several levels. For example, the French President talked to President Zuma at the weekend. Likewise, the Foreign Minister has contacts with his South African counterpart.

As regards the – not political but operational – contacts on the ground, I refer you to the Ministry of Defense. Let me emphasize that the French forces have the mission of ensuring our citizens’ safety, particularly by organizing patrols in Bangui. (…)

North Korea
– South Korea

Do you have any comment about the escalation between North Korea and South Korea and the state of alert issued by North Korea?

Once again, I’d like to repeat the French position. We call on North Korea to refrain from any gesture or statement that risks further increasing the tension on the Korean Peninsula and damaging peace and international security. In other words, these new statements by North Korea are inflammatory and can only be condemned in the strongest terms.



Forces under the aegis of the United Nations were supposed to be replacing the ones on the ground. At what stage are the discussions on this point?

I’d like to recall the general framework we’re working in. The idea is to have a gradual downsizing of Operation Serval from the end of April onwards. At the same time, the African force, Afisma [African-led International Support Mission to Mali], will take over. This process is already well under way. It’s being done gradually, in an orderly and controlled way.

A United Nations stabilization operation will then take over. It will intervene after the Security Council adopts a resolution, between now and two months after the end of April – [two months that are] necessary for the UN to deploy an operation of this kind.

It’s a switchover justified by the development of the situation on the ground and the change in the military presence necessary to respond to it. We’re gradually moving from an intensive military phase, launched on January 11, toward a stabilization mission at the end of the process. (…)


(…) Regarding today’s Doha summit, I’d like to know what your expectations are regarding the Syria issue.

Regarding the possible resignation of Mr. Moaz al-Khatib, are you calling on him to go back on his decision to resign?

Regarding Moaz al-Khatib, I did see the statement in which he tendered his resignation. I also saw the statements by the Syrian National Coalition asking him to go back on his decision. I think we must wait for the dust to settle and then see. Moaz al-Khatib is currently in Doha.

We’ve supported Moaz al-Khatib from the outset, and we’ve done so because in our view he embodied and still embodies, through his public stands and his beliefs, a strong commitment to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for minority rights. In our opinion, all those principles and values must be the basis of tomorrow’s Syria, and the Syrian National Coalition’s program was also drawn up under their guidance.

What we want today – without interfering in the Syrian National Coalition’s internal debates – is for the Coalition to remain united. At stake are its legitimacy and its credibility in the eyes of Syrians themselves and their international partners, as an alternative to Bashar al-Assad’s regime. For us, the Coalition is still unequivocally the Syrian people’s legitimate representative. There too, France was the first country to recognize it as such. We’d like this recognition to grow even more widespread.

Aren’t you expressing the wish that he’ll go back on his decision to resign?

That decision is up to him, but I think I’ve said how much we appreciate him and what he’s done in his post since he was appointed to lead the Syrian National Coalition.

Regarding Doha, what’s happening there is important. The Arab League, by giving Syria’s seat to the Syrian National Coalition, is providing resounding support to the international recognition for the Syrian National Coalition that I was referring to earlier. It strikes me as a pivotal moment.

Still on the question of Mr. Moaz al-Khatib, does France feel targeted by the criticisms he made of large countries that don’t help the Syrian armed opposition?

We feel concerned, but not targeted. Concerned because that remark is clearly addressed to the international community as a whole. Targeted no, because I remind you it was at the request of the French and British that this issue of lifting the embargo on weapons bound for Syria was raised again in the European framework in Dublin.

We have an intense job of persuasion to do with our European partners to convince them that such a measure is now appropriate and that we have sufficient safeguards to be able to take it. I won’t conceal from you that some of our European partners have strong reservations. We must hear the arguments they’re putting forward. We must try and provide responses. That’s what we’re going to endeavor to do. In Dublin, the ministers mandated the [European] Council’s technical groups to work on this issue and try to reach a unanimous agreement among the 27 EU member states. The subject will again be on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council at its next meeting on April 22.

Mr. Moaz al-Khatib has just requested an American intervention to ban Syrian planes from flying over the northern regions. What do you think of that? Can France be part of this “no-fly zone” decision?

In order to put these kinds of mechanisms in place, you must base them on international authorization: in plain language, a Security Council resolution. You know what the positions are within the Council today. There are at least one, even two states that couldn’t agree to the adoption of such a resolution under Chapter VII. (…)./.