Mr. Kouchner has been in Annapolis since yesterday. He attended a dinner organized by Condoleezza Rice with all the guests at which President Bush spoke. Yesterday he met Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit. He met Tony Blair who is the Quartet’s envoy, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner. He also met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and met in passing—I’m not going to give you more details—all the ministers. There are a great many there since all the countries in the region sent a minister to the meeting.
As far as France’s role is concerned, we’ve discussed it often here. Bernard Kouchner has been to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Territories twice. He’s done everything he could to help the dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians—and remember that the Americans who organized the conference also wanted it to be extensively prepared through discussions between Palestinians and Israelis. And based on the results of the conference, which we shall know this evening, Mr. Kouchner has also been preparing the donors’ conference, which we plan to hold in Paris on December 17 and which will enable us—after the dynamic that’s going to be created in Annapolis, we hope—to see how, in practical ways we can move forward towards economic reconstruction and towards the establishment of Palestinian institutions. That’s what the minister is doing and why he’s in Annapolis.
Q - Does France support the idea of another peace conference in Moscow concerning Syria and Lebanon? Also, with respect to the donors’ conference in Paris, are you going to invite only the representatives of the Palestinian Authority or other Palestinian representatives as well?
With regard to your first question: does France support the idea of another meeting? Yes, of course. We hope that the conference in Annapolis marks a beginning, a new drive. We knew before going there that there was question of meetings that might follow on the conference. If it’s decided, we will support these meetings. We shouldn’t stop with this conference since we know that not everything will be settled at Annapolis.
As for your second question, I leave it to the minister himself to announce the format he sees for the donors’ conference. There will be a lot of countries invited, and representatives of international organizations since the objective is to mobilize the entire international community to work on financing for projects which are part of the plan of action drawn up by Salam Fayyad. That’s where matters stand today. Bernard Kouchner will tell you more about it in Annapolis and in the days ahead we’ll be giving you a detailed presentation.
Q - Hamas has organized a counter-summit in Gaza today while announcing at the same time that it does not recognize Israel. Do you have any comment? Is it possible to achieve peace in the Middle East without Hamas, without a part of the Palestinian people?
We’ve done everything possible to make the Annapolis conference a success. That is my sole comment. We were very pleased that all the countries invited went to Annapolis, thereby showing the international commitment for this conference to be a success.
As for your second question, it is up to the legitimate authority of the Palestinian Territories, the Palestinian Authority, and therefore President Abbas and the Palestinian prime minister, to see to it that the talks with the Israelis advance and that with the support of the entire international community there’s movement towards a Palestinian state, a viable state with strong institutions and an economic situation that permits all Palestinians to live in peace and to live well in a Palestinian state.
Q - Is Mr. Kouchner going to meet with his Lebanese and Syrian counterparts?
I don’t doubt that he will meet both men. He’s certainly going to run into them at least. I told you about the meetings that the minister had yesterday. The proceedings at Annapolis haven’t begun yet. It is too soon now, 7 am in Washington. I’ll be able to tell you later if he’s had other more particular, longer meetings. At events like these, the informal aspects are very important. We’ll brief you on them.
Q - France has consistently called for the release of the 40 Palestinian lawmakers held prisoner in Israel. Are you renewing this call at the peace conference?
Of course, we want the Palestinian prisoners released. Will we be renewing our call for the 40 legislators to be released? I don’t have any specific information about it, but obviously in a general context we recall all the appeals we’ve made concerning the 40 legislators and all the Palestinian prisoners.
Q - Mr. Ahmadinejad has invited a dozen or so Palestinian groups to Iran to show his disagreement with the aims of the Annapolis conference. Does France appreciate this move?
We are in favor of anything that might help make the Annapolis conference a success. So anyone who does not help make Annapolis a success does not have our support.