23 July 2013 - Situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
I thank Mr. Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, Mr. Riyad Mansour, and the Permanent Representative of Israel, Mr. Ron Proser, for their statements.
The Middle East is being rocked by two crises that urgently require a resolute response from the international community. First, on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, my delegation has stated on numerous occasions that the two-State solution represents the only fair and lasting solution to the conflict. In 2013, the only way to ensure sustainability is to achieve it. In that context, we welcome the agreement in principle — thanks to the efforts of the American Secretary of State — to resume Israeli-Palestinian talks. We also welcome the sense of responsibility demonstrated by the authorities of both sides.
The process calls for the parties’ commitment to resume direct, credible negotiations without preconditions. The alternative is easy: either 2013 will see the launch of meaningful negotiations leading to a final agreement on all of the issues, or 2013 may well see slip away this final opportunity to establish peace through a viable, sovereign, independent, contiguous Palestinian State, living in peace and security within recognized borders, side by side with the State of Israel, with Jerusalem as the capital of two States.
The process calls also for a political environment conducive to the negotiations. In particular, that requires establishing trust in order to dispel the mindset of mistrust between the parties.
In that context, we are concerned about the construction of new settlements, carried out in violation of international law, which will only complicate the launch of negotiations. That is why the European Union decided to align its laws with international law and to recall that might does not make right.
A change with respect to the Gaza Strip and lifting the blockade are also imperative to strengthen support for peace among a population that today lives under the exclusive yoke of Hamas. That must be done in respect for Israel’s security. In that regard, France has firmly condemned the rocket attacks and recalls its commitment to strict observance of the truce.
As for the Palestinian Authority, we hope that it will use its new status in the United Nations constructively.
To conclude with respect to the peace process, I would like to again emphasize my country’s readiness to contribute to a final settlement, in particular with its European partners, to facilitate negotiations and to participate, when the time comes, in implementing a peace agreement.
The year 2013 must also see the liberation of the Syrian people. The situation is tragic. Last week, Ms. Amos, Mr. Guterres and Mr. Šimonović again described the suffering of the Syrian people to the Council (see S/PV.7000). The statistics are horrific. The human toll since the start of the crisis is nearly 100,000 victims, a majority of whom are civilians, as well as tens of thousands of disappeared individuals. There are 1.8 million refugees, and 6.8 million people require humanitarian assistance. Attacks carried out in Al-Qusayr, Aleppo and Homs show that the regime has continued to ramp up its military attacks against its own people and pursues massive shelling in residential areas.
The regime knows no limits in its choice of weapons. It is using cluster munitions and incendiary bombs. A growing number of information sources have indicated that the regime continues to use chemical weapons, including sarin gas, which constitutes a war crime.
We call on Syria to authorize unimpeded access to the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to investigate the allegations and incidents of the use of chemical weapons. We are awaiting the results of the commission’s visit to Damascus this week.
It is high time for the Council to take the measures necessary to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, the primary and overwhelming responsibility for which lies with the Al-Assad regime. Those measures are familiar to all: first, a referral to the International Criminal Court to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all parties in Syria; secondly, increased humanitarian action to enable unimpeded access to all populations who need it. Ms. Amos identified in the Council a list of measures necessary to meet the needs of Syria. Based on that, the Council should send a clear, unanimous message on the application of international humanitarian law and the need for the regime to authorize humanitarian access throughout the country and to the Syrian population. Thirdly, a political transition is necessary. We support international efforts, particularly those led by Russia and the United States, for a political solution in Syria that embodies the principles of a political transition, based on the first part of the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/523, annex), namely, the transfer of the executive powers to a transitional Government.
For our part, we will continue to work on structuring the opposition.
The broadening of the Syrian National Coalition and the election of a new president represent important decisions. The Coalition is also strengthening its status as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and is pursuing its steps to restructure and to unite.
We call upon the international community to support the only approach capable of leading to a political transition. We have called for a credible interlocutor, and we have one — who is recognized by the League of Arab States and by the vast majority of the international community — working to form a Government and to effectively unite the various sectors of Syrian society.
I will make a final comment on Lebanon, which is caught in the middle of the storm. France welcomes the unanimous support expressed by the Council for Lebanon on 10 July. The presidential statement (S/PRST/2013/9), adopted on France’s initiative, made clear the international community’s unanimous commitment to the sovereignty, integrity, independence and stability of Lebanon.
As the effects of the Syrian crisis are increasingly felt in Lebanon, it is important to reiterate our collective support for Lebanese State institutions, which are the guarantors of stability in the country, and first and foremost to President Sleiman and to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which today courageously uphold the dissociation policy. We must ensure that Lebanon is not drawn into the Syrian conflict.
Today we are witnessing a region on the brink of toppling because of the Syrian crisis, the burden of refugees and the radical terrorism proliferating throughout the Syrian charnel house. Doing nothing to resolve the crisis in Syria would be to abandon that strategic region for world peace and security to decades of chaos that will not remain confined to the Middle East.