Aleppo: a symbol, a crossroads, a martyr [fr]
UNSC emergency meeting on Syria - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 4 May 2016
I thank the Egyptian presidency of the Security Council for bringing us together today for this public debate on the situation in Syria, and more specifically in Aleppo. France took the initiative with the United Kingdom to call for this meeting. I also thank Mr. Feltman and Mr. O’Brien for their briefings.
The diplomatic process that was initiated in Vienna raised hopes when it ended on 27 February with the entry into force of a cessation of hostilities across the entire Syrian territory. France voted in favour of resolution 2268 (2016) and welcomed the agreement as a contribution to de-escalation and as an opportunity for Syrians to finally see the diplomatic process lead to a reduction in violence and an improvement in the situation for civilians. For almost a month, the cessation of hostilities helped the population enjoy an improvement that had not been seen since the conflict began five years ago, even if humanitarian progress has never yet met their expectations.
Since last month we are seeing that the fragile vessel of the cessation of hostilities is full of holes and today threatens to sink. Let us not mince words. The Damascus regime is the main party responsible and the new offensive launched by the regime on Aleppo city on 22 April is a flagrant and tragic example of that. In many respects, Aleppo is to Syria what Sarajevo was to Bosnia — a symbol, a crossroads, a martyr. Aleppo — a symbolic city that is thousands of years old and considered to be part of the world cultural heritage — is a crossroads where so many civilizations have clashed and merged, leaving a deep and diverse imprint. The city is now suffering martyrdom. That bastion of the moderate opposition has for four years resisted the continual assaults of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and of Da’esh.
We cannot turn a blind eye on those who seek to seize Aleppo by using the cessation of hostilities agreement as a smokescreen. That is all the more true because in its offensive against Aleppo the regime is using all means possible, including deliberate attacks on civilians. We are now seeing the consequences of that. The resumption of fighting has left over 280 dead in just a few days and caused a new flow of displaced persons to the Turkish border. The use of barrel bombs on populated residential areas, the very purpose of which is to spread terror among the population, has resumed. France has repeatedly denounced such acts.
Although the Security Council yesterday unanimously adopted resolution 2286 (2016) to protect medical personnel and facilities, the regime is deliberately, systematically and methodically targeting them. On 25 April, five White Helmets were killed after their centre at Al-Atareb, near Aleppo, was deliberately attacked. On 27 April, the Al-Quds hospital was deliberately bombed by the regime, with a raft of casualties. On 29 April, the Al-Marjeh health-care centre in Aleppo was completely destroyed. The regime of Bashar Al-Assad bears the full responsibility for the breakdown in the ceasefire in Aleppo. Faced with this spiral of violence, France and the United Kingdom felt duty-bound to call on the Security Council to convene this meeting.
At this very hour, the fragile agreement between the Russians and Americans that just entered into force is an encouraging sign, but it needs to be confirmed and then translated into facts on the ground. To restore the ceasefire across the entire Syrian territory and maintain the political momentum, we must do a great deal more to ensure the cessation of hostilities is effectively respected. Otherwise, we will see a return to the horror and the resumption of clashes that, let us not forget, have led to over 400,000 deaths and millions of refugees and destroyed an entire country.France believes that the Security Council has an important role to play in monitoring the observance of the ceasefire and to punish the most serious violations by mining the information to be relayed on a monthly basis by the Geneva task force, as requested under resolution 2268 (2016). In the meantime, the supporters of the regime must shoulder their responsibilities and use their influence on Damascus to ensure that the weapons are effectively silenced, because too often the regime pays lip service to an agreement only so as to violate it more thoroughly.
Last week, Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura alerted us collectively, stressing that the cessation of hostilities was in danger. We are convinced that a collective mobilization is necessary to respond urgently to that warning. For its part, France will spare no effort in that regard, on the basis of three major axes in particular.
After this meeting, we hope that the Council will be able to send a clear message on the need to end the fighting in Aleppo and to strengthen the cessation of hostilities. That will require nothing less than ensuring compliance with resolution 2268 (2016), which was adopted unanimously as a joint proposal of Russia and the United States. We must also continue to mobilize the international community to bring pressure to bear on the regime and to seek to rebuild positive momentum. It is in that spirit that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, and his German counterpart met today with Special Envoy De Mistura and the head of the moderate opposition, Riad Hijab.Finally, as Staffan de Mistura did before this Council last week, France has been requesting for several days now that we organize, in short order, a ministerial meeting of the International Syria Support Group with three objectives in mind: first, to secure a more robust guarantee of respect for the ceasefire; secondly, to reaffirm the need to protect and provide assistance to civilian populations; and thirdly, to resume negotiations with a view to finding a political solution.
Ultimately, a single lodestar should guide us — to do everything to end the violence, in Aleppo and throughout Syria, and enable the resumption of negotiations aimed at implementing resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 (S/2012/523, annex). There is no other alternative if we are to put an end to the Syrian tragedy.