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16 January 2014 – Mali / Syria /CAR – Remarks to the press by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(In French and in English)

Le Conseil de sécurité s’est réuni pour faire le point sur la situation au Mali. C’est une opération difficile. La première réaction a été de constater que le Mali a réussi à retrouver le chemin de la normalité constitutionnelle. Nous avons eu des élections présidentielles et des élections législatives, à la fois crédibles et pacifiques. Donc le Mali est de nouveau sur ses jambes. C’est un vrai succès.

Deuxièmement, la MINUSMA est en train de se déployer dans l’ensemble du pays. Le rythme du déploiement est peut-être un peu lent. Nous l’avons dit au Secrétariat. Vous aurez peut-être l’occasion d’en parler avec le Représentant spécial, M. Koenders. M. Koenders a reconnu qu’il y avait une certaine lenteur dans le déploiement mais que les contingents arrivaient. Par exemple, en ce moment arrive le contingent chinois sur place. C’est très significatif qu’un pays comme la Chine s’engage dans cette opération de maintien de la paix.

Troisième point, c’est maintenant le problème de la réconciliation politique, la réconciliation notamment entre l’ensemble des communautés du nord et le gouvernement central. Nous avons eu un long échange avec M. Koenders. Il y a à l’heure actuelle un certain blocage de la négociation, sans doute dû à la période électorale que vient de vivre le Mali. Nous avons en même temps entendu l’engagement très fort du représentant permanent du Mali d’une volonté de réconciliation de Bamako. Pour le moment les pourparlers marquent le pas. Nous espérons qu’ils reprendront le plus rapidement possible.

Si le Conseil de sécurité se rend sur place, ce sera également l’occasion de transmettre le même message.

***

Today, we had a meeting with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Mali. So far, so good. We have succeeded in a few months. The Malians succeeded in organizing presidential and general elections, which are credible and peaceful. This means that Mali is back to a stable constitutional order.

On the deployment of the MINUSMA, it is a little bit slow. But we have received assurances that the MINUSMA will be able to ensure the security in Mali after the French forces decrease their personel to the level of 1,000 next summer.

The main issue now is the political reconciliation. We heard the commitment of the Malian authorities to do it. But for the moment there is a blockage on the ground. So we hope that all the parties will go back to negotiation. When I say “negotiation”, it is clear that it is to the Malian government to decide the modalities of the negotiation. But at the end of the day we know that there will not be any peaceful Mali without reconciliation between the government of Bamako and all the parties in the North, and in the North we do not only have the Tuareg.

***

Q : Est-ce que la lenteur du déploiement des forces de la MINUSMA pose problème pour le retrait des forces françaises ?

Non, je ne pense pas. Comme il a été indiqué par le Président de la République, nous allons progressivement atteindre, à l’été sans doute, le chiffre d’un millier d’hommes. Le retour à cet effectif se fera de manière pragmatique en tenant compte de la situation sur le terrain. Et nous l’avons fait également en ayant à l’esprit le déploiement de la MINUSMA. Nous tenons compte de cette lenteur du déploiement de la MINUSMA.

Q : On Syria, the Foreign Minister of Syria sent a letter to the Secretary-general this morning on Geneva II. In this letter he said “we do not agree on certain points mentioned in the letter”, meaning the Secretary-General’s invitation. Are you concerned that the Syrian Government will go to Geneva II without having accepted the terms the Secretary-General sent out for the basis of the negotiations.

It is to the Secretary-General to answer your question because Mr. Brahimi, the Special envoy, is in charge of organizing the meeting. But there is a general strong agreement that Geneva II will have to be organized on the basis of Geneva I. That is something everybody agrees on, including Russia and China. And in Geneva I, it is clearly said that the objective is to set a transitional authority will full executive power. So that is the basis of Geneva II and all the parties, whatever they say, by going to Geneva II, will accept the goals set by the declaration of Geneva I. That is the understanding of all the P5 members and also of Mr. Brahimi.

Q: Back to Mali, given the expected withdrawal of the French troops, you said that the MINUSMA has the capacity to provide security in Mali. On what do you base that, given that it has only half of its expected strength?

France came to Mali one year ago in very difficult circumstances. We took human and political risks. We have invested a lot. We are not going to run away from Mali. It is very clear. As I said, the decrease of our contingent is taking into account the tempo of the deployment of the MINUSMA. The fact is that we consider that this tempo is a bit slow. So there was a discussion. Mr. Bert Koenders will answer your questions if he has the time. Bert Koenders said that he is aware of the problem. There are commitments. But he just said that between the moment a country commits a contingent and the moment the contingent is arriving on the ground it takes 3,4,5 months. For the moment I think he has enough commitments to have a full-fledged force. But again, it takes time.

Q: Can you tell me the state of Al-Qaeda and other forces? The rports of the Secretary-General points to arab fighters. What is that supposed to mean?

The mandate of the MINUSMA is not an anti-terrorism mandate. It is very clear. When I said “so far, so good”, it is not a rosy picture of the situation. We know that we are facing major challenges. I have already described here two major challenges. On one side, the terrorist threat. It is very clear considering the size of the region, millions of kilometers square, that you can weaken the terrorists but you are not going to eradicate them. So the terrorist groups have suffered very serious blows from the French forces but obviously they are regrouping and they will try to come back. The fact is that so far their attacks have been limited given that we are in the fighting season - in two months it will be so hot it will be very difficult to fight.

But there will be terrorist attacks. It is a danger we are facing and it is to the MINUSMA to have the right posture and to be ready to face it. The French forces, out of the UN but on the basis of an agreement with Mali, are going to fight the terrorists. There will be anti-terrorist actions by the French forces. As for the Arab forces, I don’t know what the report was referring to.

Q: Back to Syria, you said that the 5 permanent members had an agreement that the terms of reference for Geneva II is Geneva I. How is that clear to you and as far as it applies to Russia and China?

It is cristal clear. It has always been the declarations of Mr Lavrov. The whole point, if I may say, is that Geneva II has been built on the basis of Geneva I. Geneva II does not make sense without Geneva I.

Q: So then the second part of my question: should there be a clear demand to the Syrian government to accept the terms of reference?

You will have to ask Mr Brahimi and the Secretary-General the way they organize and the way we go to Geneva II. We let Mr Brahimi manage the organization of the conference. There is no discussion: neither the members of the P5, nor the Secretary-General are questioning Geneva I. We go there on the basis of Geneva I.

Q: To complete my question, if I may: the Syrian government is going to this conference saying their priority is the fight against terrorism. Mr Lavrov keeps repeating that it is very important that Geneva II discusses fighting terrorism. Aren’t you afraid that we will be falling away from Geneva I?

I have so many reasons to be worried, so this reserve is very low on the agenda. We do not even know whether we are going to Geneva II. You cannot expect Mr Bashar al-Assad to say he is going to Geneva II to prepare his retirement. And you cannot expect the opposition to say they are going to Geneva II to keep Assad in power. So there will be a “kabuki”, with all due respect to the Japanese journalists. Before the meeting everybody is going to repeat their position in the stiffest manner. That is the way it works. So if they go to Geneva II and enter the room, you close the doors, you exclude the journalists, then we see whether there is a momentum or a chemistry between the two sides. What we need is to have two representative delegations which are able to make compromises in order to make decisions. On the eve of the meetings, you can be sure that the two sides are going to reaffirm their positions. One is that Assad is the only legitimate president for the next fifty years. And the other one is that Assad has to retire.

Q: On the Central African Republic, your remarks at the Rwanda meeting yesterday saying that France is facing an impossible situation... How do your remarks inform the need for a fully-fledged UN peace keeping force?

Not an impossible situation, but a very tough one.

It is not France but the international community. We are facing a very difficult situation because there is such hatred between the two communities. The French are not the only ones there. We are only 1,600. We also have 4 400 African and 850 Rwandan troops arriving. They have very good contingents. Let’s do the job with the African Union force. The problem is in the mid-term. It is clear now that the investment of the international community will be a long one in the Central African Republic. So you need a sustainable operation, financially. And you also need a very strong civilian component. The Central African state has collapsed and everything has been destroyed. The Seleka has burned the archives and registries. Plundering does not mean just taking the computers, but also the windows, the tiles, everything. In this nearly failed state, you need a very strong civilian component to help rebuild the institutions. And we believe that the UN is able to do it better. But we have to have a dialogue with our African friends and there is an ongoing one. It is not a problem of choosing between the African Union or the UN. The problem is how to do thingd in the most effective way. Thank you.


Learn more on Mali, Syria and the Central African Republic.



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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