Govt Of France Daily Press Briefing
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Statements made by
the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(Paris, September 9, 2003)
[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin will receive Aqila al-Hachemi, a member of the Iraq’s provisional Governing Council, on Wednesday, September 10. They will discuss the situation in Iraq and the Middle East.
The talks are being held because we are resolved to contribute to strengthening Iraq’s institutions and to listen, as always, to the Iraqi people.
Q - In what capacity is she being received?
She is a member of Iraq’s provisional Governing Council. Unlike the cabinet, the members of the provisional Council, which is a comprehensive entity, has no special portfolio. It's a comprehensive entity.
As I pointed out, the purpose of the meeting is essentially to discuss the situation in Iraq.
Q - Is it the first meeting at this level?
No, it’s not the first time the minister has talked with a member of Iraq’s Governing Council. I would remind you that he had talks on July 15 with Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (UPK), who is a member of the provisional Governing Council.
Q - The Arab League has just accepted Iraq’s Governing Council as the transitional authority. Does this meeting with Ms al-Hachemi reflect some degree of official recognition as the Arab League hasn’t officially recognized the Governing Council yet?
France doesn’t recognize governments, it recognizes states. As I just said, this second contact shows that we want to help strengthen Iraq’s institutions, and the meeting is taking place against that backdrop.
Q - Is the Council the legal interlocutor in Iraq as far as you’re concerned?
The question doesn’t exactly come up in terms of legality or not. Together with all our partners in the Security Council, we voted for resolution 1500 whereby we welcomed the formation of the Governing Council as a stage, a step in the right direction.
Q - Will the minister be going to Geneva on Saturday?
We’ve been informed about the meeting which the UN secretary-general is considering, and if it takes place then the minister is prepared to attend.
Q - The meeting on Saturday will be preceded by a meeting in Geneva of the heads of UN humanitarian agencies. There, quite clearly, the report of the mission sent by Kofi Annan has asked for serious guarantees as regards security. How will France reformulate these demands for security guarantees in the context of the negotiations which are starting on the Anglo-American draft motion?
This is obviously a very important point, especially for international personnel on the ground, particularly after the terrible attack the other day against UN headquarters in Baghdad. Again, it’s a perfectly legitimate concern, and certainly an element that will have to be taken into consideration when negotiations begin on the draft resolution.
Q - About the draft resolution the US circulated last week about Iraq and expanding foreign participation. Is there a French counter-text at this time?
No, there’s no counter-text. In any case, as I said before, the consultations which started in New York on Friday are more a debate on ideas at this stage. But I repeat, France is ready to discuss the text in a constructive way. You’ve got a process starting.
Q - France was supposed to present amendments in New York yesterday. Did it?
No, it’s a bit premature. As I said, at this stage it’s more a debate about concepts, about general directions. At some point or other it’s going to result in a text, but we’re not there yet.
Q - There’s a report that seemed very specific, quoting the Quai d’Orsay, which didn’t release the information by the way, that the timeframe set by France for the transfer to an independent Iraqi authority was two to three months minimum ?
The minister said that it should in our view be a very short period of time.
Q - Is Iraq still under the UN sanctions of 1991 or were they lifted?
The sanctions have generally been lifted but the section on arms is still in force, it hasn’t been lifted.
Q - Mr. Chirac and Mr. de Villepin have insisted on complete sovereignty being restored to the Iraqi people. There can’t be complete sovereignty when occupying forces are there. Is France demanding that the new UN resolution stipulate the simultaneous withdrawal of the US occupying forces and the installation of a permanent authority in Iraq or at least a specific timetable for the withdrawal of US forces?
I can only suggest you reread carefully what the president and minister said. What we’re asking is for a change in logic, a shift from the occupation of Iraq to an approach geared to restoring Iraq’s sovereignty as quickly as possible, within a short timeframe. That’s what we’re seeking.
Q - What’s happening with the UN vote on lifting sanctions on Libya?
With regard to Libya, our position has always been extremely clear. The negotiations involve the families on one hand and the Libyan side on the other. As soon as the families tell us there is a satisfactory agreement for them, we will draw the consequences with regard to lifting the sanctions. As you know, in facing the consequences of established terrorist acts, our conduct was based from the outset on the concept of fairness among the families of all the victims regardless of nationality. To answer your question specifically, there’s a public meeting of the Security Council scheduled today at 10:15 a.m. New York time. Contacts are continuing with our partners.
Q - The spokesman for the victims’ families said that the compensation talks could continue after sanctions were lifted. Does that mean you won’t veto lifting the sanctions?
I think the important element, again, is the families’ satisfaction. It’s for them to say at what stage they believe they’re satisfied. That is the criterion for us.
Q - Am I correct in understanding that you’ve always upheld the same position of principle, namely that in the absence of fair treatment you would oppose lifting the sanctions? Is that principle still in effect?
We’re fighting for the fairness principle and once that principle is implemented we’ll have no further reason to oppose lifting the sanctions.
Q - Do you have the program for the Saharaoui delegation? Will they be received by the foreign secretary?
I can confirm that a Saharaoui delegation is visiting Europe. They’ll be in Paris tomorrow, one of several stages, and will be received by Foreign Secretary Renaud Muselier. We’ll give you a report once the meeting has taken place.
Q – Do you have any comment on the eve of Mr. Korei’s nomination as prime minister replacing Mr. Abbas? The Italian prime minister proposed convening the Quartet on September 20 in Europe to discuss the Mideast situation. Do you have anything to add to this?
There are several points to your question. Let me give you some of the details of our analysis and our reactions to the latest developments in the Mideast.
First of all, you will have noted, as the minister indicated at the informal Gymnich meeting of EU foreign ministers in Riva del Garda last Saturday, that a consensus has been reached by the EU to include Hamas on the European list of terrorist organizations. This decision is consistent with our commitment to the fight against terrorism, a reinforced fight that calls for greater cooperation between departments and at the judicial level.
In the specific case of Hamas, it is clear that the attack of August 19, which Hamas took credit for, and the rupture of the truce, have created a new situation that can only lead France to draw the conclusions reached at the Thessaloniki summit.
France is now expressing its great concern over the risk of interrupting a process that has been underway since the Aqaba Summit. It reaffirms the fact that there is no alternative to a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians. All the parties must demonstrate a spirit of responsibility in this regard.
- thus, the Palestinian Authority must return to the path of unity in order to implement its obligations under the road map.
France deplores the circumstances that led to the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. It hails the work accomplished by Mr. Abbas and his government.
We have taken note of the decision by the president of the Palestinian Authority to propose the position to Mr. Ahmed Korei, president of the Palestinian Legislative Council. France, working within the European Union, will extend him its full support for the implementation of the road map. You will have noted that Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin had a telephone conversation yesterday with Mr. Nabil Sha’ath, during which they talked about all this. During that conversation, Mr. de Villepin confirmed our full support for the Palestinian government in its implementation of the road map.
- As for Israel, we consider that it has fulfilled only part of its obligations vis-à-vis the road map, which provides for an end to violence by both parties and a freeze on settlements.
Israel must also make the expected conciliatory gestures, suspend its policy of settlements and the construction of the wall, and cease military operations in the Palestinian Territories.
In this context, we can only condemn yet again the practice of targeted assassinations, which run counter to international law and have continued in recent days, notably with the attempt to assassinate Sheikh Yassin.
France calls on the two parties to regain their self-control and act in a spirit of responsibility in keeping with the quest for a political resolution to the conflict. There is no alternative to the implementation of the road map. We call for a new meeting of the Quartet.
Q – We often hear this clear and comprehensive position on the situation. But the question is, can the two parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis, move forward on their own in the process you have indicated? For several years now the same things have been repeated over and over, but nothing is happening. What must urgently be done to jump-start the process?
Clearly, the two parties, who do hold the primary responsibility, are also working with the support of the international community, as symbolized by the Quartet. You will have noted the remarks made at the European level, following Gymnich. The political support is very clear. And it’s not just political. In fact, this support takes many forms.
Q – Abu Ala is asking for clear guarantees. What kind of guarantee can you give him on the ground? Because he’s a man who is well known in every milieu; he’s a man of peace and openness. But he has to be given a chance. What can you give him?
I told you that France, within the European Union, is ready to bring its full support to Mr. Ahmed Korei to help him move forward with the implementation of the road map.
Q – You said that the technical process of being placed on the list of terrorist organizations was under way. Can you shed some light on the concrete implications and consequences of being on this list?
It’s a process. As soon as a decision is made concrete in Brussels, each EU member state draws the consequences, notably with regard to financial assets, which are frozen. There’s a whole series of consequences whose details I don’t have right now, but I think the freezing of assets will be particularly important.
Q – Mr. Mahmoud Abbas’s resignation reflects, in a way, the situation currently being lived out by Palestine and the territories. He said the Americans didn’t put enough pressure on Israel to commit to the things you’ve mentioned. Doesn’t the international community have a role to play in putting pressure on the Israelis to apply the road map?
A strong political signal is needed, and that’s why we are in favor of holding a Quartet meeting on short notice, both to send strong signals to the two parties and to demonstrate yet again our political and other support for the implementation of this road map.
The fifth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization is opening tomorrow in Cancun.
France will be represented by Agriculture Minister Hervé Gaymard and Foreign Trade Minister François Loos, who is leading the delegation.
This meeting constitutes an important step for the Doha development program, a cycle of trade talks launched two years ago, and whose work is slated to end in early 2005. Indeed, for the first time in the history of multilateral trade negotiations, development issues are at the core of the agenda. Moreover, these negotiations will concern a volume and variety of trade never before equaled. Thus, along with the trade of goods and services, discussions will notably deal with development, access to certain medications, investment, competition and the environment.
As you know, the European Commission is responsible for negotiating in Cancun on behalf of the 15 EU member states. It will do so while strictly respecting the mandate defined by the member states and under their permanent control. Thus the Council of Ministers will be meeting continuously in Cancun. In this context, France will be especially vigilant to defend the vision of a better mastered, more responsible kind of globalization. It expects the Cancun meeting to facilitate progress toward several objectives.
First, it should bolster the multilateral WTO system and help its rules to evolve. For that it would seem necessary to reach a global, balanced agreement, in which the traditional stakes of trade negotiations, such as the reduction of customs duties on goods and services, are supplemented by negotiations on a series of themes relating to the regulation of world trade.
For example, with regard to agriculture, this conference should deal not only with the economic stakes, but also with food, public health, cultural traditions, territorial concerns and the environment, both in developed and developing countries.
Additionally, the conference and subsequent negotiations must take into account the specificity of public services, must not undermine cultural diversity and must better highlight the challenges of protecting the environment.
Another particularly important objective for us is better integrating the poorest countries, notably African countries, into the world trading system. For France, along with aid policy—an area in which it is particularly active—the appropriate integration of these countries into the international trading system is essential to accelerating their development./.