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25 March 2011 - Côte d’Ivoire - Remarks to the press by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(In English and in French)

I want to say a few words about Cote d’Ivoire since the Security Council has been working on it.

We have heard the briefing by Mr Atul Khare and we have discussed the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

The first consensus is that we are facing a humanitarian tragedy in Côte d’Ivoire. There are one million displaced persons and some of my African colleagues were telling me that there are crowds leaving Abidjan. Law and order are collapsing, humanitarian access is more and more difficult, hospitals, schools are closing. There are several hundreds of casualties and maybe more. We are very close to a civil war in Abidjan and we have received reports and calls by NGOs calling us to react.

The second element, I think that the consensus which was expressed by all the colleagues I have heard so far is that the political reason for the crisis is very simple: Gbagbo doesn’t want to leave. ECOWAS and the African Union have very clearly called Gbagbo to leave and made clear that Alassane Ouattara was the legitimate president of Côte d’Ivoire. So Gbagbo has to leave.

There have been many attempts to find a political solution. The African Union recently said that Gbagbo has to leave, that there should be a national unity government around President Ouattara with all the parties of Côte d’Ivoire. But again Gbagbo is resisting.

This is the reason why Nigeria and France have presented a draft resolution that will be discussed. We have just circulated it and it will be negotiated next week.

It is saying first that Gbagbo has to leave. Second point to say to stop the violence against the civilians and especially, as the French President has declared, we would want to forbid the heavy weapons from the Abidjan area. You may be aware that actually the Gbagbo people have used mortars against civilian neighborhoods. So it is very important to do it and we want also to go to sanctions against Gbagbo and his close advisors in the resolution. I think it is an important moment and we would want that Gbagbo really listen to our call.

If you allow me to switch to French before answering your questions.

Comme je viens de le dire en anglais, la situation en Côte d’Ivoire devient une tragédie humanitaire : un million de personnes déplacées, 100 000 réfugiés au Libéria, la population fuit Abidjan où peu à peu la loi et l’ordre sont en train de s’effondrer. Les hôpitaux, les écoles ferment. Il y a des centaines de morts et sans doute plus. Nous sommes à la veille de la guerre civile.

Pour éviter cette tragédie, la solution est claire, c’est la solution qui a été demandée par la CEDEO et l’Union africaine, c’est le départ de Gbagbo.

Une solution politique a été proposée, la création d’un gouvernement d’union nationale autour du président Ouattara avec tous les partis ivoiriens. Force est de reconnaitre que Gbagbo refuse de l’accepter.

Les ONG nous ont demandé d’intervenir. Pour répondre à cet appel, la France et le Nigéria ont présenté un projet de résolution qui vient d’être diffusé, qui appelle Gbagbo à quitter le pouvoir, qui demande que toutes les armes lourdes soient retirées de la ville d’Abidjan car, comme vous le savez, les forces de Gbagbo utilisent des mortiers contre les quartiers civils et prévoit également des sanctions contre Gbagbo et son cercle de conseillers. C’est un dernier signal que nous essayons d’envoyer au clan Gbagbo pour qu’il entende la voix de la sagesse et qu’il évite à son pays la pire des tragédies : la guerre civile.

Q: Do you think ONUCI is physically capable of doing what you’re asking it to do, which is banning the use of heavy weapons in Abidjan?

I think that for some time we have urged ONUCI to adopt a robust posturing. And ONUCI is reinforced by two battalions. We have received assurances by Mr. Atul Khare that ONUCI is going to respond in a very robust way to attacks. Actually, I think yesterday or the day before, we have examples where the ONUCI force has shot back at the Gbagbo people and he was giving us an example where an ONUCI patrol was bumping into people using mortars, they were shooting back and people were obliged to flee. That’s the usual debate that you know very well here, people are accusing the UN forces of being active or not active enough. In a sense, it’s a bit sterile, it’s not really fruitful. We are asking ONUCI to be as robust, as active, as proactive, as it is possible. All the members of the Security Council have transmitted this message. We have received some assurances and there is a new Force Commander who has just arrived. We do think that his first decisions are very positive.

Q: C’est la première fois qu’un projet de résolution demande à Gbagbo de partir. Vous pensez qu’il y aura une majorité du Conseil ?

Nous allons voir. Mais je pense que nous aurons sans problème, je crois, une majorité du Conseil de sécurité appelant au départ de Gbagbo. La CEDEAO s’est prononcée très clairement. L’Union africaine s’est prononcée. Je ne pense pas qu’il y aura de problème.

Gbagbo has to leave and there is a majority of the Council behind it.

Q: There are European sanctions. But the UN humanitarian Coordinator for Cote d’Ivoire said that currently for example there is no medicine in Abidjan because, under the EU sanctions, ships are not docking. And therefore, the banks are closed, civil servants can’t get paid. I understand that those are EU and not UN sanctions, but is France comfortable with the sanctions not being targeted enough or regular people being hurt?

In this project actually, there are really targeted sanctions against the Gbagbo people, the inner circle of the Gbagbo people. In our text there are five names and maybe later on we will add in the sanctions committee, because there is sanctions committee, we’ll add other names but they are really the inner circle. We want to send a political message to the people. I forgot that in the resolution we would want also to have a reference to the ICC and to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Really, we would want to have the ICC Prosecutor and the High Commissioner for Human Rights coming to the Security Council and making a report on the situation. Which is also a way of sending a signal to the people around Gbagbo that they have to be really careful because we are not going to forget what they are doing.

Q: Is the ban on the use of heavy weapons only limited to Abidjan? What about the other cities in Cote d’Ivoire?

For the moment, it’s about Abidjan because the fighting is in Abidjan, the tragedy is in Abidjan and the mortars are being used against the population in Abidjan. It would be nearly impossible also, in technical terms, in such a country, to monitor a ban on heavy weapons. The country is too large. We don’t have the means. At least in Abidjan it’s easier and there is an emergency.

Q: Do you think the mandate is strong enough?

The mandate is very strong. If you read the mandate, everything is in it. It’s a question of implementing it in full. I think ECOWAS also made the same request in its declaration yesterday. So we don’t need to change the mandate.

Thank you.



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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