Syria - Cessation of hostilities - Security Council - Statement made by M. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 26 February 2016
France welcomes the unanimous adoption of the resolution of the Security Council regarding the cessation of hostilities in Syria, effective in less than an hour. France gave its full support to the adoption of this resolution, which brings hope for an immediate amelioration of the situation of the Syrian people.
1/. Throughout the nearly five years of the Syrian crisis, France has always championed the following position: that diplomacy, and not war, is crucial to reaching a political solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Syrian people. For the past four months, since the first meeting in Vienna last October, my country has fully supported the diplomatic process that led to the formation of the International Syria Support Group, the adoption of resolution 2254, and the resumption in January, of formal inter-Syrian negotiations organized by Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
But France wants a process that leads to tangible results for the Syrian people, not a process merely for the sake of having a process. And not a fortiori a process that is in fact a smokescreen masking a military escalation whose main victims are civilians and the moderate opposition.
It is our heartfelt conviction that as long as the Syrians don’t see any results in their daily lives, the negotiations will have no credibility – an obvious fact reiterated strongly and explicitly by the Secretary-General in his letter of February 17.
2/. In this context, the cessation of hostilities agreed by the United States and Russia on February 12 must be applauded insofar as it contributes to the de-escalation and represents a step toward resolving the Syrian conflict. France, as I said, fully supports the adoption of this resolution endorsing the parameters of that cessation of hostilities.
This decisive step represents both a hope and a test:
a hope for the Syrians, who see it first and foremost as a means of ending the violence and bombardments that haunt their daily lives
and a test of the good faith of the parties on the ground, including foreign powers, that have agreed to this cessation of hostilities.
3/. The Security Council’s role is therefore to offer unwavering support for whatever may lead to a lasting reduction in the violence. But it must also remain realistic and demanding. To this effect, everything must be done to ensure that this agreement goes from being a piece of paper to a reality on the ground. To that end, France believes it is necessary to remain vigilant, on two points in particular:
first, to closely monitor its implementation at a time when mistrust among the parties has never been greater. In this regard, we want to stress that the only parties excluded from the cessation of hostilities are the terrorist groups explicitly designated as such by the United Nations. Without a strict interpretation of this point, peace will be unable to take hold. The International Syria Support Group’s task force, which will report to the Security Council, must be the collective judge of its implementation. As long as the parties alone are the judges of violations and resumptions of hostilities, the entire structure will be fragile.
and second, to bring about an effective, sustainable decrease in the violence. We must be assured that the obligations reiterated in Resolution 2254 and the Munich Communiqué are fully met before restarting the inter-Syrian negotiations in Geneva, especially the complete, secure, unhindered, unconditional delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected populations. As the Secretary-General himself stated in his letter of February 17, the negotiations will succeed only if their foundations are credible and solid. It will be up to the special envoy to determine whether these conditions are met on the day he chooses to revive the talks on the 7th of March. The resumption of discussions will only be possible if the agreed-upon commitments are strictly implemented by the regime and foreign powers that support it. In this respect, we are extremely preoccupied by the disturbing intensification of bombings by the Syrian army and Russia, a few hours only before the start of the cessation of hostilities.
For its part, France will encourage the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee to return to the inter-Syrian negotiating table, as soon as the full implementation of international obligations can be reliably established – notably, humanitarian access to all besieged areas and the effective implementation of the cessation of hostilities. The High Negotiations Committee is a major actor which role is central to the negotiations’ success. In this regard, we deeply regret that it is not mentioned in the body of the resolution when it has, and will continue to have our support.
4/. If this cessation of hostilities holds, an initial step will have been taken to end the crisis in Syria. But this cessation will remain fragile and reversible as long as it is not backed by a political process toward a transition, in line with the Geneva Communiqué. In other words, it will be necessary to make the transition from a cessation of hostilities, which is inherently fragile, to a more permanent ceasefire.
Resolution 2254 establishes clear objectives. Let me remind you briefly of the terms: a ceasefire can occur only in conjunction with a political process, with the implementation of the first stages of the transition. Once they resume, the inter-Syrian negotiations between the regime and the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee will therefore have to hammer out a compromise in order to establish a transitional authority with full executive powers, in accordance with the Geneva Communiqué.
5/. France will continue to contribute fully to diplomatic efforts within this Council and within the ISSG. With one guiding principle: seeing diplomacy prove its effectiveness for the benefit of the Syrian people.