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3 August 2012 - Syria - Interview given by Gérard Araud, President of the Security Council, to BBC’s Newshour

Q: Explain to us, what has exactly the General Assembly decided today?

With a massive majority, 133 against 12, the United Nations General Assembly basically endorsed the Arab League decisions, which were calling for a political transition in Syria and especially with the exit of Assad. It is very significant, it’s a long text and there are a lot of other things. The political message is pretty strong. It’s the second time that the Assembly General is voting in such a way, with always a large majority and with always the same twelve “no”: Russia and China have only succeeded to have with them democracies like Iran, DPRK or Zimbabwe, which is also very telling on the consensus.

Q: Talking about consensus, as well as criticizing the violence in Syria, the General Assembly is criticizing the UN Security Council itself…

And they are right! France is the President of the Security Council in August. I told the press when I left the room: unfortunately, they are right. Three times, the Russians and the Chinese have opposed their veto to a very moderate text, which was not even imposing sanctions on Syria but only frightening with sanctions

Q: When they are criticising the Council you are saying, they are in fact criticizing Russia and China, not the body of which you are President at the moment?

Well, I think they are criticizing the body and not my side… I’m answering and they are aware of it of course. The body wanted to act and every time we had a vote with only to “no”, two permanent members with the rights of veto and no other no. It means that Russia and China are responsible of the blockage, yes.

Q: Well, they would say they are responsible for their point of view. To what extend is this calling into question the Security Council further operations?

Well, it’s a very particular case. I never caricature the positions of the people I disagree with. Russia is telling us: it’s Assad or the islamists, and we don’t like Assad but we don’t want the islamists. On our side we answer them that we are going to get Assad and then the islamists. Because Assad will fall and the more we wait, the more radicalisation there will be among the opposition, the more we are going to see Al Qaeda active in the country. It’s a real political debate with the visions of a very important conflict.

Q: It is a political debate while hundreds of people are being killed. Does the vote at the General Assembly bring a resolution any closer?

You are raising the point because beyond our diplomatic nicety, what is at stake is the life of hundreds of people. We are in a very bad situation, as for the food or for the medicines. I think, and that’s what the French Presidency wants to do, as our new Foreign Minister has announced it, we would like to work on the humanitarian access. Maybe it’s less glorious than a political solution but let us look at the emergency. And the fact is that now, no international organization; no NGO has any access to the Syrian people… Maybe Russia and China would accept to work at the Security Council towards this need: the humanitarian access to the Syrian people.

Q: What about a likely successor to Kofi Annan? Now, he has stepped down from his position. Is there any sense of who that might be, if there will be another envoy?

There will be another envoy I guess and I know, actually that there are discussions between the UN Secretary-General and the Arab League Secretary-general. We can be very very pessimistic on the short term about a political solution but I think it will be good to appoint a sort of go-between. Somebody able, if things are hanging or if there is some opening, to launch, a political process.

Q : You are talking about the need for humanitarian access, but what we are seeing on the ground is a considerable build up of military means, around Aleppo in particular and the main battle is about to start. It does not sound as if the conditions of allowing people in to help the humanitarian situation are in place.

You are perfectly right. I think that unfortunately, we have been horrified by what was happening in Aleppo, the worse part is ahead of us, and that is terrifying. For the humanitarian access, Aleppo is in a terrible situation and, as I just mentioned according to some figures, there are three millions of Syrians throughout the country that don’t have access to food, children food or to medicine. They are still things that we can do.

Thank you very much.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU