Syria : We must halt this vicious cycle [fr]
Syrie - Emergency meeting at the Security Council - Speech of Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development - 8 October 2016
Faced with the unbearable horror of Aleppo’s martyrdom, the Security Council must again assume the responsibility entrusted to it by the international community to guarantee peace, ensure security and protect civilians.
We heard yesterday from Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura. His description resounded like a warning cry. If this situation continues, by the end of the year we will bear witness to the destruction of Aleppo. The message Staffan de Mistura addressed to the Security Council is unambiguous. If we do not act, the city will soon be no more than a field of ruins and will go down in history as a place whose inhabitants were abandoned to their executioners.
Fifteen days ago in this Chamber, on behalf of France I called for an immediate ceasefire (see S/PV.7774). Since then, following a stillborn agreement, the Syrian regime has confirmed its objective with breathtaking brutality — and it has nothing to do with the fight against terrorism. Its objective is the capitulation of Aleppo. Daraya, Hama, Aleppo — with each, the tactics of the Syrian regime have been the same: indiscriminate bombing and the methodical destruction of civilian infrastructure to inflict maximum suffering on the population. Most recently, this has included eliminating the supply of drinking water in Aleppo and the systematic targeting of hospitals and health personnel. Each time, those who back Damascus provide decisive support for a strategy that seeks exclusively to secure the surrender of fighters and the exodus of civilians through operations that involve a cycle of potentially devastating ethnic cleansing.
How can we collectively tolerate this? The Secretary-General has spoken of war crimes. We all recall Guernica, Srebrenica and Grozny. What is happening before our eyes in Aleppo is the sinister repetition of those tragedies. If it does not pull itself together, the international community will share the responsibility for these events.
The regime and its supporters claim to act on behalf of the fight against terrorism. I denounce that fraudulent claim with great force. Bashar Al-Assad does not fight terrorism; he feeds it. Since the beginning of the conflict, he has targeted the moderate opposition above all because it embodies the only hope for the eventual restoration of a united and peaceful Syria. He has organized a lethal understanding between himself and Da’esh and Al-Qaida, groups with which he has shared goals and which he deliberately spares.
France has paid the price of terrorism. It cannot allow this critical fight, which should bring us all together, to be derailed by punitive actions that ultimately only strengthen those it claims to wish to eliminate. Destroying hospitals, starving civilians, massacring women and children, and besieging cities as in the Middle Ages merely fuels radicalization and terrorism. We must therefore halt this vicious cycle on an urgent basis. Today, faced with this horror, the Security Council must make a simple and obvious decision. It must demand immediate action to save Aleppo, an end to all bombing by the regime and its allies, and the unhindered and unconditional delivery of humanitarian assistance to a population that desperately requires it. That is what the situation in Aleppo calls for.
And that is what France, alongside most members of the Council, has promoted tirelessly. A week ago, alongside Spain, we submitted a simple draft resolution in response to this emergency. What does it say? It reaffirms the obvious unacceptability of the indiscriminate repression by the Syrian regime of its own people. It recalls all the decisions taken by our Council since the onset of the crisis. It sets out the conditions for a just and lasting peace — a political solution whose outline we defined long ago. Finally, it expresses a desire for unity around the goal that brings us together — the fight against terrorism.
The draft resolution also makes clear and precise demands, including an immediate halt to the bombing and military flights over Aleppo; humanitarian access; respect for the truce, guaranteed by an effective verification mechanism whose modalities are open; the withdrawal of all forms of support or collaboration with terrorist groups designated by the Security Council; and the resumption of the political process.
Some would impose conditions on the halt to the bombing, including the precise identification of the whereabouts of terrorist groups and their separation. That is a sham because it is unachievable so long as the bombing continues. That much is obvious. Moreover, smashing a city with bombs and massacring civilians is tantamount to doing the terrorists’ work for them, not fighting them. I reiterate that the genuine emergency is an end to the bombing, which is the only valid precondition because it determines everything else.
We patiently negotiated the draft resolution in good faith and with the desire to unite the international community around a single goal. The legitimate concerns raised by some have been taken into account, and it is with an open heart and extended hand that I have personally striven in recent days and hours to create the conditions for consensus, in all sincerity and without ulterior motives, driven by the sole desire to promote the return of peace in Syria, to end the martyrdom of a people and to promote a solution to the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons. I feel that the broad majority of Council members understand and approve of this approach.
The adoption of the draft resolution could restore to the inhabitants of Aleppo, the Syrian people and the rest of us a glimmer of hope for an end to the spiral of violence and for a new political dynamic based on the immediate resumption of negotiations for a transition, the outlines of which were unanimously defined by the Security Council a little less than a year ago.
If instead our draft is rejected, despite enjoying broad support, what will we have left? There will be more death, more refugees, and more displaced. But we must neither reject it nor give up. Each of us will have to imagine the consequences and take the serious and necessary decisions to ensure that the perpetrators of war crimes do not go unpunished, that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons are identified and punished, and that those who abet an exhausted regime shoulder the consequences. All those who refuse to give up must come together and act.
In 2011, a people rose up peacefully against oppression. For five years, despite savage repression, that people has not given up. Let us not leave that sorely tested and suffering people to choose between an inhumane executioner or the abject terrorism of Da’esh and the Al-Nusra Front. I call on every member of the Council to assume its responsibilities to save the population of Aleppo, come together for peace and send the Syrian regime the message it should have heard long ago.
What is at stake today is, first of all, the fate of Aleppo and its population, but it is also above all the hope of finally ending a conflict of whose catastrophic costs we must all pay the price. Faced with such dire stakes, to hinder the adoption of the draft resolution before us today would be to allow Bashar Al-Assad to keep on killing. It would above all be offering a senseless gift to the terrorists. My dearest wish is that the Council does not offer such a gift.