Monday, November 3, 2008

Democratic Republic of the Congo / Statement by the spokesperson for the French minister of Foreign Affairs

KINSHASA, Dem. Rep. of Congo (DRC) November 1, 2008

I confirm that Bernard Kouchner is leaving this afternoon for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for Kinshasa and Goma. He also plans to go to Rwanda, to Kigali. He will be accompanied by Alain Joyandet, Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophonie, and his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

The mission leaving this afternoon has several objectives. The first is to convey a very clear political message from the European Union demanding that the situation be stabilized and that politically the various actors agree to talk to each other since there have already been contacts—so the first objective is clearly political.

The second is to assess the situation of civilians. The EU has decided to add an important contribution to European humanitarian efforts for the area around Goma.

Thirdly, it’s to evaluate the security situation on the spot.

At the same time the EU political and security committee (COPS) has been meeting in Brussels since this morning. The 27 are discussing various options that might be taken in a complementary way. This is all part of a simple, clear perspective: international community support, especially the EU, for the UN and MONUC specifically since it is actually there in Goma. By going there in the context of the French EU presidency, Bernard Kouchner wants to invite all the parties to cooperate fully with MONUC, and to ensure that MONUC personnel have free and unimpeded access to all the areas in and around the region of Goma.

Q - You’re not confirming that a European force is going to be sent there?

The various options are being discussed in Brussels right now.

Q - Is Mr. Solana going with the minister?

There are complex logistic and organizational questions given the very short time for preparing the trip. In spite of the short notice, it hasn’t been ruled out for Mr. Solana to take part in this mission.

Some logistic problems aren’t simple.

What we can confirm is that Bernard Kouchner will be traveling with Alain Joyandet and David Miliband. For the rest, given that the idea is to go there as a European configuration, we’re trying to see how to involve Javier Solana.

Q - Do you know what stopped the rebel advance on Goma?

Probably a number of factors. I believe a combination of the political messages sent immediately by the international community through the Security Council, MONUC which did its job on the ground even though it was difficult in complicated circumstances, and perhaps the regional dialogue also helped. All these elements seem to confirm that the cease-fire is holding for the time being. That will also be one of the objectives of the mission leaving this afternoon.

Q - Can you tell us if the EU will send a European force to the Congo?

The work of the COPS committee this morning is drawing to a close. The committee looked at the various options. I can’t give you any conclusions since they’re still meeting.

It’s fairly likely there will be no decision today and over the next few days other than to continue discussions because it’s essential first to evaluate the situation on the ground.

The scenario outlined by Bernard Kouchner was made before there was a cease-fire and also before we’d assessed the overall situation on the ground.

That’s the reason Bernard Kouchner is going with David Miliband and Alain Joyandet and maybe other European leaders; it’s one of the reasons the mission is going.

Q - A few NGOs recently called the MONUC mission a failure in the DRC.

Do you confirm this?

No. We do not confirm that it is a failure. We confirm that it’s difficult, that the task assigned to MONUC is extremely complex, that the situation is strained, but I don’t think it’s fair to talk of failure.

MONUC has to be able to fully carry out the mandate assigned it in UNSCR 1279, 1291, 1445, 1565 and 1797, especially with regard to the protection of civilians and providing security for humanitarian shipments. We condemn any attack on MONUC and any hindrance to its action. MONUC must be ready to take steps against any party which through violence compromises peace and security in North Kivu and in the region, and in particular against any party preventing people in need from getting humanitarian assistance.

We’ll see on the ground exactly how things are going, and our sense at this point is that while it’s been possible for the situation to be stabilized, it’s also because MONUC is there in Goma

But I wouldn’t say that the situation is stabilized for the long term; the situation is difficult and there’s still a lot of tension.

We refuse to speak of failure but we recognize that MONUC is confronted with a major challenge.

Q - Can you give us the agenda for the visit?

The minister will leave this afternoon with his British counterpart, David Miliband, and Alain Joyandet. Mr. Solana will probably join the delegation in the DRC/

The plan is for the delegation to go to Kinshasa, Goma and Kigali, but logistic issues still have to be worked out before we give out the exact order and time in each place.

Q - How long will the visit last?

The visit will last between 24 and 48 hours depending on circumstances.

As you know, it was decided only a short time ago. We think it’s necessary and we’re preparing for the mission at this very moment.