France Govt Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
Statements made by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
(Paris, September 16, 2003)
[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]
RENAUD MUSELIER/DELEGATION FOR HUMANITARIAN ACTION
Idriss Deby, President of the Republic of Chad, will make an official visit from September 17 to 20.
Mr. Deby will have a meeting with the president followed by luncheon on Friday, September 19.
During the visit, two financial conventions between France and Chad will be signed by the Minister Delegate for Cooperation and Francophony, Pierre-André Wiltzer, and Jean-Marie Séverino, head of the French Development Agency:
- one for a total of 10 million euros for a hydraulic program;
- the other for one million euros for institutional support to the decentralization process.
The president of Chad will also meet with the business community and economic operators represented at MEDEF-International at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Paris.
RENAUD MUSELIER/DELEGATION FOR HUMANITARIAN ACTION
Renaud Muselier, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, is paying a visit this afternoon to the Delegation for Humanitarian Action (DAH) at its new quarters on the rue de l’Université.
Under the impetus of the foreign minister and secretary, the Delegation has become the steering board for the interministerial emergency humanitarian aid committee, established in a circular from the prime minister on August 1, 2003. The committee is chaired by the foreign minister.
The Delegation plays a key role in coordinating State services and ensures the requisite collaboration among the ministries involved in emergency humanitarian action.
I would like to read what the minister said on France Info in the event you didn’t hear him:
“One mustn’t think that it will suffice to remove one or another person to solve everything. At this point, crystallizing everything around the person of Arafat is not the answer, we see clearly that he is the elected and legitimate Palestinian authority.
“We need the Palestinians to rally together. Let’s not play on the divisions, that is certainly not the path that will open the doors to peace.”
You may perhaps also have heard the remarks by our ambassador, the permanent representative to the United Nations, yesterday, in the Security Council. He spoke in very clear language.
Q - As a logical follow-up, will you support the resolution now being debated in the security Council regarding Arafat and the Palestinian question?
The work is continuing in New York; this draft resolution isn’t a problem for us, it suits us.
Q - About Ambassador Levitte’s comments on PBS. Are his words those of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Isn’t there a possible denial of what he said on PBS? Do Levitte’s comments signal flexibility on the French position on the transfer of power in Iraq?
The French position is that expressed by the French authorities, the president, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, and repeated by him last week.
The current Iraqi institutions, i.e. the Governing Council and recently appointed ministers would be considered the repository of Iraq’s sovereignty for the transition period. Within a very short timeframe, say a month, an Iraqi interim government could be formed out of these bodies and executive power gradually transferred, including authority for economic and budget activities.
Q - So you’re saying the one month timeframe is still on the table?
Absolutely, that’s the French proposal.
Q - I’d like to take advantage of [Defense Ministry Spokesman] Bureau’s presence to ask him a question. For ten days or so, there’s been talk of preparations in France for sending a force to Iraq. There’s talk of 10,000 men. Can you confirm these figures?
JFB: Defense Minister Alliot-Marie has said that these figures aren’t terribly meaningful at this point for reasons that have been stated. A force can only be defined by a mission, once there’s a mission, the make-up of the force can be planned. As you can see, the debate and the work are now focusing precisely on the response to the question: what must be done?
That’s not a question for the military but for the political and diplomatic authorities of course.
[Foreign Ministry Spokesman] Hervé Ladsous: I’d like to add that your question is hypothetical at this stage. We’re still in the middle of discussions in the Security Council on an overall conception. We’re nowhere near that stage.
Q - Going back to the one month timeframe for the formation of a new Iraqi government. What will that change, to your mind, in relation to the existing government? Would the method of appointing it make the new government more representative? What purpose would forming a new government serve if its make-up were identical to the existing one?
You have to make a distinction between the problems over time. There is, ultimately, the future institutional framework of Iraq which presupposes a process based for example on a constituent assembly, the adoption of a constitution, elections that would lead to the formation of an elected Iraqi government. But clearly that’s for the future.
For the time being we have a Governing Council and a cabinet; let’s decide that they should become the interim government, invested with Iraq’s sovereignty.
Q - You’re combining the two, is that it?
The Security Council would recognize this entity composed of both the Governing Council and the cabinet as an entity vested with Iraq’s sovereignty. That completely changes the logic of the situation in Iraq.
Q - And all that would be done in a month?
For example, a month, as the minister said, in an extremely short period of time.
Q - Is there a timeframe in the next resolution?
It’s one of the elements we’ve proposed.
Q - Is it correct to say that France is urging the Security Council members to recognize an interim government in Iraq?
It would be one of the logical consequences of the decision if it were adopted.
HL: Jean-François Bureau, Defense Ministry spokesman, and I are going to sum up Operation Artémis in Ituri, in eastern Congo, which has now been wound up.
In making a general assessment, we will have to say that Operation Artémis achieved the objectives assigned it in UNSCR 1484. These were to secure the airport in Bunia, stabilize the security situation and improve the humanitarian situation in coordination with MONUC. These results were achieved without any large-scale clashes. Artémis above all acted as a deterrent.
It made it possible to stabilize the capital of Ituri, the city of Bunia and its environs, and avert a humanitarian catastrophe on a major scale. It resulted in a large part of the population of Bunia returning after they’d been driven out by the fighting and by atrocities.
It enforced the rule of “no visible arms.”
It strengthened the interim special administration by making it its sole official interlocutor.
In collaboration with MONUC, it helped to secure safer working conditions for NGOs, thereby making it possible for them to return.
Artémis was conceived as an interim operation. The purpose was to allow for the deployment of a substantial UN force in a high-risk context. Before Artémis, there were fewer than 700 Uruguayan blue helmets in the field and a few military observers. Now MONUC has more than 2,500 UN troops in Bunia and eventually that number will be about 4,000.
It’s important to stress the smooth transfer between Artémis and MONUC. MONUC—and Artémis resulted in its mandate being strengthened—is now entirely under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, according to res. 1493.
This was the first European military operation carried out in Africa. It was also the first autonomous EU military operation. It provided an opportunity for the British and French to work side by side in the Great Lakes region. Moreover a total of 17 nationalities under the EU flag worked side by side—Europeans as well as South Africans, Canadians and Brazilians.
The operation, lastly, stimulated more interest in the peace process in the Republic of the Congo among our European partners. And now the European Union is financing, via Echo, an important humanitarian program. It has decided to finance a program to rehabilitate the rule of law and is preparing to take in hand the training of part of the Congolese police.
JFB: I’d simply like to add a few comments of a more military focus. General Neveux, who commanded the Artémis force, will himself present the operational conclusions tomorrow in Brussels and Thursday morning at the Defense Ministry briefing.
To go back to the substance...Artémis was an interim emergency force. Interim in the sense that it was designed to enable MONUC to discharge its mission in better conditions in the region of Bunia. The conditions for the transition from Artémis to MONUC were highly satisfactory as we just said in passing. So it was a good transition. The emergency meant the force had to take decisions quickly, deploy personnel and equipment rapidly and deal with the most constricting, the most difficult objective, which was, through its presence, to stop the violence and threats to the people in the region (...)
With 2,000 soldiers from 17 countries, the EU carried out its first autonomous operation, in which its assigned objective was to have the capacity to do so. This is one of the first military lessons and probably the most important from this mission, looking beyond the political. Getting together a force with the procedures you know, conferences to generate forces, involved for the framework nation (France had responsibility for assembling the force on behalf of the EU) tapping 17 countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Canada, in the requisite conditions and timeframe.
The EU demonstrated that its political and military decision-making mechanisms, the political and security committee which represents governments, the EU military committee, the EU chiefs of staff, are all structures in which each has its place and is capable of taking decisions.
(...) The other aspect worth noting, I think, is that the fact that the EU not only acted autonomously for the first time in the military sphere but did so in the context of Africa. From the standpoint of common external security policy, the African dimension has been taken into account in these security objectives, reflecting, I think, a significant development.
The last soldiers with Artémis left Bunia on September 7. About 600 are still in Entebbe as the air base there was vital to the rapid deployment of Artémis. That’s a fact I’d like to point out. And between now and the end of September, all personnel will have left Entebbe with completion of the mission.
HL: I’ll just add that one of the elements that came out of the operation is in fact that lessons can be learned from a European point of view since this was the first operation, after Operation Concordia in Macedonia, carried out by the Union with a framework nation, France, at a distance, beyond the continent of Europe. (...)
Q - Are missions authorizing armed retaliation going to become more general in Africa beyond purely peace-keeping missions?
JFB: I don’t want to generalize too much. I’ll just make one comment on the lines of an observation. It is MONUC which is acting in Bunia now, under Chapter 7, unlike the MONUC that was acting there in the spring, and on whose behalf we took over when Artémis arrived.
It is clear that the determination of the international community was also reflected in that decision. (...)
Q - Is the EU already capable of planning major actions outside NATO planning resources?
JFB: Operation Artémis, the force, was wholly planned within the EU military structures without recourse to NATO planning capabilities.
Q - In the case of Artémis, what combat aircraft did France deploy? Did they see action and would France make an air force available to MONUC for eventual ground support?
JFB: You’re right. At the operational level in the strict sense of the word, one of the innovations with the Artémis force was the fact that it was protected from the air by combat aircraft from Chad in some cases. These aircraft did not fire their weapons but their presence meant pressure for moderation unquestionably. I think everyone on the spot realized that.
Will MONUC have the same arrangement? So far as I know, it’s not planned. These days, MONUC is not deployed with air cover provided by France.
On the other hand MONUC does have air mobility, specifically helicopters which are important today in enabling it to carry out its mission.
Q - Is there any kind of follow-up from France now that Operation Artémis has ended? Can MONUC forces on the ground still have logistic support, or advice from France?
JFB: On the strictly operational level, I recall that UNSCR 1591 asked us to act to assist MONUC until September 15 if need be. For the rest, there'll be no monitoring of MONUC action by authorities other than MONUC’s.
HL: Now, everything is going to be happening at the Security Council where there’ll be regular reports on MONUC activities. I also want to say that we’re supporting the process of political transition in Kinshasa, which I’ve briefly described, and which we hope will make it possible to bring this entire region out of crisis.
HL: The process of national reconciliation has recently seen several significant phases: the announcement about presidential elections in October 2005 by the prime minister on August 24 and the request for UN support in organizing the elections; President Gbagbo’s speech on August 26 reaffirming his determination to continue resolutely on the path to peace and national reconciliation; the fact that on September 10 the prime minister established a committee on reunification, the reopening that same day of the border with Burkina Faso; the decision by the UN September 12 to move onto phase 2 with regard to the security alert planss in the center, south and east, and phase 3 in the north and west—an indication of significant improvement in the security situation.
In addition, the appointment on September 12 of defense and security ministers on which, as Ms Alliot-Marie said on the spot, it is not for us to comment.
All of this amounts to a raft of rather meaningful elements in the context of the national reconciliation process.
But we feel however that further progress must be made to consolidate these developments. In this context it’s conceivable to envision an extension of the zone of confidence in the north of the country. This would make it possible to guarantee the integrity of the country and reach a new stage in stability and reconciliation.
In any case France is making every effort to promote reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire and intends to continue in this direction. The return to stability in Cote d’Ivoire implies, as stipulated in the Marcoussis and Accra II accords, maintaining the mandate of the head of state and holding free, open and transparent elections in the timeframes laid down.
On the diplomatic front, we have mobilized and continue to mobilize the international community to help find solutions at the UN, in the EU, the IMF and in cooperation with ECOWAS.
At the military level we’re helping to finance the MICECI, and in the context of Operation Licorne we’ve deployed 4,000 men.
JFB: The sense of the Defense Ministry is that the stabilization process has to be consolidated by all the initiatives that have just been mentioned but that the process is under way. Extending the zone of confidence is part of these initiatives. And the goal of the proposal to extend the zone—I insisted on the word proposal—is simply to strengthen the security zone, to enhance stability.
(...) It’s been noted that relations and coordination between the MICECI and Licorne are very effective on the ground and that the role they’re taking in stability and security is extremely satisfactory. All that is obviously the effect of the acknowledged professionalism of our personnel.
Q - You speak of expanding the zone of confidence in the north. You’re speaking of weeks, months, three months?
JFB: Something more on the lines of weeks, in parallel to the implementation of the DDR process which is its indispensable complement. (...)
Q - You talk of the DDR. We don’t understand when the DDR is going to begin exactly. Last week when the defense minister was appointed, some announced officially that they would not be disarming? What does your optimism suggest?
JFB: Our sense today is that the authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, the president and prime minister, representatives of all the elements in the Marcoussis process, are convinced that it is only by continuing the Marcoussis process that stability, that lessening the difficulties is going to happen. The appointment of the defense minister is one element in this conviction./.
Embassy of France, September 16, 2003