Paris, February 28, 2012
Excerpts from the daily press briefing by Bernard Valero, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesman (Paris, 28 February 2012)
Mission to Iraq by Mr. François Zimeray, Human Rights Ambassador
Human Rights Ambassador, François Zimeray, will visit Baghdad from February 29 to March 2, 2012.
As Iraq faces the challenges of re-establishing the rule of law, he will reaffirm France’s commitment to the universality of human rights, the protection of minorities, notably Christian minorities, women’s rights and the abolition of the death penalty.
Mr. Zimeray will meet with the Iraqi leaders responsible for justice and human rights, representatives from civil society, NGOs, and the UN. He will discuss with his interlocutors the situation of the refugees in Camp Ashraf. He will also meet the Vice-President of the Republic in order to reaffirm France’s attachment to the abolition of the death penalty, while the number of executions in Iraq continues to grow.
He will also meet, at an NGO-run center, women who have been subjected to violence. He will also meet with representatives of the members of the Christian clergy and the Iraqi authorities in order to discuss the situation of religious minorities in Iraq.
Handover of the Northern co-presidency of the UfM to the European Union
On March 1, France will hand over the Northern co-presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean to the European Union, as reaffirmed in the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of February 27.
At a time when the people of the Arab world are asserting their right to dignity, freedom and democracy, the UfM, building on and as part of the continuation of the Barcelona process, launched in November 1995, should allow us to take better account of the new realities in the region and foster economic and social convergence between these two shores of our common sea, which is essential for shared stability and prosperity.
France, which has co-chaired, together with Egypt, the UfM since its creation in July 2008, lent particular support to the launch of concrete projects capable of meeting the needs of the populations of the southern shore : completion of the trans-Maghreb highway, the Mediterranean Solar Plan, Foundation of Women for the Mediterranean projects, projects to support student mobility and research, and a seawater desalination plant project in Gaza.
The transfer of the Northern co-presidency of the UfM to the European Union reflects the key role of the EU in supporting the changes under way in the southern Mediterranean countries, a role already marked by the upgrading of its European Neighborhood Policy. The EU will thus strengthen its bilateral actions in support of the transitions, through its regional action within the framework of the UfM, a unique forum for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation based on the principles of equality and shared ownership.
This strengthening of the EU’s role in the governance of the UfM should also prompt the EU, through its European Neighborhood Policy, to lend increased support to the UfM’s concrete projects.
Meeting of the Weimar Triangle foreign ministers
The Ministre d’Etat will go to Berlin on Wednesday, February 29, to meet in the Weimar Triangle format with his German and Polish counterparts, Mr. Westerwelle and Mr. Sikorski.
This is the first meeting in the Weimar Triangle format this year. 2011, which marked the 20th anniversary of this Franco-German-Polish format, featured several trilateral meetings : the Weimar Triangle Summit with President Sarkozy in Warsaw on February 7, 2011, the meeting of the foreign ministers in Poland on May 20, 2011, and the meeting of the European affairs ministers in Berlin on September 22, 2011.
In Berlin on Wednesday, the minister will firstly discuss European issues, in particular European economic governance and the EU’s multiannual financial framework, the renegotiation of which has begun in Brussels.
They will then discuss the EU’s relations with its partners to the east, in particular Russia and Ukraine. Within this framework, they will debate the guidelines for the EU’s external energy policy.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
France takes note of the announcement by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) that it will put an end to the kidnapping of civilians and unilaterally release 10 police and military hostages. This decision is a positive sign.
It urges the FARC to embark resolutely on the path toward peace, by acknowledging the futility of armed struggle, by unilaterally releasing all hostages still being held, by ending all terrorist action (and in particular the use of anti-personnel mines) and by putting an end to the recruitment of child soldiers.
Ukraine – Sentencing of Mr. Yuri Lutsenko
France deplores the sentencing of the former Ukrainian Interior Minister, Mr. Yuri Lutsenko, to 4 years in prison, along with the confiscation of his property, a 3-year ban on running for office, and a heavy fine.
This sentence was handed down following proceedings that did not comply with Ukraine’s international obligations, during which Mr. Lutsenko was remanded in custody on unrelated charges, had to follow his trial while shut in a cage and was refused access to medical care. The conclusion of this new heavily-politicized trial, a few months ahead of the general elections, is very troubling.
France again urges the Ukrainian government to ensure full respect for the law, justice, human rights and its international commitments, notably those made to the European Council, as well as the commitments that it reaffirmed at the EU-Ukraine Summit in December 2011.
Sudan – Fighting in Southern Kordofan
France deplores the clashes that have been taking place since February 26 in Southern Kordofan between the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudanese armed forces, which have reportedly left many people dead.
France is concerned by this new escalation of violence which threatens to further impair relations between Sudan and South Sudan.
France urges all parties to exercise restraint during this crucial time for the future of the populations of both countries, and encourages them to engage in dialogue in a calm and constructive manner.