22 October 2013 - Security Council - Situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
I thank the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, the Permanent Representative of Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine for their statements. My delegation aligns itself with the statement to be made by the observer of the European Union.
With respect to the main issue of the peace process in the Middle East, negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians have resumed after three years. The viability of a two-State solution, which is the only lasting and durable solution to the conflict, is at stake.
In that context, we welcome the initiative and commitment of United States Secretary of State John Kerry. At the ministerial meeting of the Quartet on 27 September, representatives agreed to support the designated goal of the negotiations, namely, to conclude an agreement on all final status issues and to establish a methodology based on regular meetings scheduled over a nine-month period. Twenty years after Oslo, a new interim agreement would serve no purpose, nor would continued negotiations with no end in sight.
We also welcome the sense of responsibility manifested by the leaders of the two sides, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas, in deciding to return to the negotiating table and urge them to maintain that same approach in conducting the negotiations. In order to overcome scepticism and the temptation to withdraw, both parties should adopt confidence measures aimed at changing the situation on the ground and outlining a path to a just and durable peace. They must refrain from any decision that could hinder the progress of negotiations.
In that context, our position has been constant. First, the continuing settlement activity contravenes international law and calls into question the viability of the two-State solution; in that connection, the European Union has drawn the appropriate consequences. Secondly, violence, in all its aspects, must cease. Israel’s security and similarly, respect for the human rights of the Palestinians, cannot be compromised. In that context, France regrets the loss of life on both sides resulting from the too frequent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. Thirdly, the situation of Palestinian prisoners and the issue of administrative detention — despite recent progress on the latter — remains of concern. We call for the release of the second group of Palestinian prisoners, which is a cornerstone for the resumption of the peace talks and has been again postponed to 29 October. Fourthly, it is equally important to ensure sustainable economic development in Palestine in order to strengthen, on the Palestinian side, the peace camp of President Abbas.
The Gaza blockade — which benefits Hamas — does not help the situation, nor do the financial difficulties of the Palestinian Authority and the economic slowdown evident in the Palestinian territories. We must help President Abbas with those issues. The measures taken by Israel in recent months to ease restrictions — especially those concerning work permits and water access — are steps in the right direction. They should be continued and strengthened, including in Area C and in Gaza.
In terms of Syria, beyond the process of dismantling its chemical weapons, the Council must stand ready to respond to the ongoing tragedy. Faced with evidence of the horrifying massacre of 21 August, which resulted from the use of chemical weapons, the Security Council demanded an end to Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. As France had requested, the decision allows for monitoring by the Council and measures under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in the case of non-compliance by the Damascus regime in assuming its international obligations.
The Council must ensure the strict implementation of the decision. I commend the cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which have been given the responsibilty for dealing with the weapons, and their courageous staff, who are already deployed in Syria. I also express my delegation’s support and confidence to Ms. Sigrid Kaag, who was appointed by the Secretary- General as Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission of the OPCW and the United Nations. Nevertheless, such progress must continue. A crucial issue is the fact that every day, innocent civilians are being killed in attacks carried out by the Syrian regime.
For its part, France calls for a political solution. In that context, it supports the convening of a conference in Geneva, “Geneva II”, leading to a political solution in Syria based on the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/523, annex) of 30 June 2012. States participating in Geneva II must fully embrace that goal. It is important that the process be credible and lead quickly to the establishment of a transitional Government with full executive powers, including presidential powers in the security, intelligence and armed forces sectors.
The Secretary-General and the Joint Special Representative, Mr. Brahimi, are committed to organizing the Geneva II conference. France is fully cooperating in those efforts, together with its partners. The successful ministerial meeting convened by France on the margins of the General Assembly with Mr. Al-Jerba showed the international community’s support of the Syrian national coalition that represents the moderate opposition to the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and should guide the opposition’s delegation in Geneva.
Pending the Geneva II conference, the Security Council must ensure that the presidential statement (S/PRST/2013/15) of 2 October, on humanitarian access in Syria, enables real change on the ground. It is clear that, three weeks after its adoption, there is no improvement in the humanitarian situation in Syria. The regime continues to refuse to grant United Nations agencies and other humanitarian actors free, immediate and unimpeded access to populations in need. France supports the initiative to invite the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Valerie Amos, to present to the Council a first evaluation of the implementation of the presidential statement.
Lastly, I would like to say a word on Lebanon, which is suffering the consequences of the conflict in Syria. Lebanon is dealing with the challenges and threats it faces because of the war in Syria. Refugees from Syria are arriving in increasing numbers and today represent approximately 30 per cent of the Lebanese population. The deterioration of the security situation due to the fallout from the Syrian crisis and the resultant worsening of community tensions, including the two attacks of 15 and 23 August in Ruways and Tripoli respectively, are tragic illustrations of this. There is a political and institutional crisis, with institutions paralysed, waiting for a new Government to be formed. There is also an economic crisis, which weighs heavily on the country’s internal balance. Given these threats, the dissociation policy adopted by President Sleiman must at all costs be maintained and respected by all the Lebanese actors who collectively adhered to it by signing the Baabda Declaration on 11 June 2012.
Lebanon must be supported. We welcome the launching, on the margins of the General Assembly, of the International Support Group for Lebanon, which enabled an unanimous expression of support for the stability and independence of Lebanon and respect for its sovereignty. We believe that it is now crucial that we pursue this mobilization with the United Nations. The Group’s work is ongoing, in particular in Beirut, with a view to demonstrating our solidarity with that friendly country and to helping it face this sweeping crisis, which is not only humanitarian in nature but also affects the political and security environment.
Finally, I would like to reiterate our support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Its work has been affected by the difficult situation facing the country, but its role is crucial in supporting Lebanon in its efforts to fight against impunity.