MSF protests comments by French Foreign Minister in Jerusalem

Paris/Jerusalem - During an October 5, 2008, press conference at the French consulate in Jerusalem, French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, made the following statement: "Officially, we have no contact with Hamas, but unofficially, international organizations working in the Gaza Strip - in particular, French NGOs - provide us information." The French section of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the NGOs working in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and, specifically, in the Gaza Strip. MSF has never transmitted political information - officially or unofficially - regarding Hamas or any other Palestinian political group to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once again, Mr. Kouchner's statements create confusion and harm our work in the field and with Palestinian civilians, who have suffered greatly as a result of the years of conflict. Confusing political activity and humanitarian work is profoundly damaging to our efforts, the security of our teams and the deployment of impartial and independent aid in crisis areas. MSF wishes to emphasize that independence from all governments and interests (political, religious, economic and military) is central to its definition of humanitarian action. Since its founding in 1971, MSF has provided aid on an independent, impartial and neutral basis. These principles, spelled out in our charter, guarantee our freedom of action in the field. Similarly, MSF has chosen a policy of financial independence, refusing any funding from the French government. Please note that Mr. Kouchner left MSF in 1979. Since that time, he has had no involvement in or responsibility towards the organization. MSF has been working in the Palestinian Occupied Territories (the West Bank and Gaza) since 1989. In Nablus, on the West Bank, MSF provides mental health care, medical care and social services to families exposed to violence. In Gaza, MSF provides a mental health-medical-social services program, pediatric activities, post-operative and outpatient treatment and physical therapy for the hundreds of people wounded in inter-Palestinian and Israeli-Palestinian confrontations. In Hebron, MSF provides mental health care.