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2 August 2012 - Syria - Remarks to the press by Mr Gérard Araud, President of the Security Council

(In English and in French)

We had today the report of the activities of UNSMIS by Mr Ladsous. He told us that the mission has been reduced to 150 military observers and 80 civilians. They are in four spots including Damascus. They are trying to make some patrolling, to gather some information but he said that their mission was more and more dangerous, especially in Aleppo.

Hervé Ladsous also underlined the fact that the Secretary-General has sent a letter about chemical weapons to the government of Syria and has received the answer of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria that Syria would abide by the 1925 Convention on the use of chemical and biological weapons.

At the end, Mr Ladsous expressed the wish of the Secretary-General that the UN keep some sort of presence in Syria after August 19, after the expiration of the mandate of UNSMIS and that the Secretary-General will make proposals to the Security Council.

The members of the Security Council showed the usual deep divisions. You have heard our Russian colleague who has expressed very clearly one side of the Council. The opposite views were also expressed on most of the issues: political, military… The Council was as divided as usual.

Regarding the humanitarian question, I clearly said that if the political division was impossible to overcome - and frankly the session of this afternoon and the declaration of the Russian Ambassador show that I don’t know how we could overcome our political divisions - maybe we should work on humanitarian situation which is becoming disastrous. At least the Security Council would be useful. As Hervé Ladsous has also told us, there are 2 or 3 millions of people in need.

On UNSMIS, this morning I didn’t say that we oppose its renewal, I haven’t received my instructions yet. I don’t know what they will be on August 19. I simply reminded everybody what the conditions of the resolution were i.e. it is a final extension. It could be renewed only if two conditions were met: the end of the shelling of civilian neighbourhoods by the government, and secondly the decrease in the level of violence. This is what 2059 says.

I repeated this evening, as French Representative, that instead of waging, already on the 2nd of August, a war about it and saying that we have to keep the UNSMIS, which is an ideological decision, we’ll have to see on the 16th of August what the situation is, whether the shelling of Syrian neighbourhoods will have ceased, whether the level of violence will have decreased. On this basis we will decide whether we keep UNSMIS or not.

If we can’t keep UNSMIS in Syria, we are ready to consider any proposal by the Secretary-General and all the members of the Council said they were ready to consider his proposals if UNSMIS is terminated. But if by any chance the government of Syria, and it can do it in a blink of an eye, stops the shelling of civilian neighbourhoods - and it’s not that difficult it can be done in 5 minutes - and if as a result there is a decrease in violence, a decrease in the number of civilians killed by the regime, we can keep UNSMIS. When people are saying "we have to keep it at any cost", they are simply ignoring the resolution that they have themselves voted.

Do you think you will be able to make some compromise?

It is hypothetical, I really don’t know. I don’t know what the Secretary-General will propose and, I think, nobody knows seriously. We have to wait until the 16th of August, and we have two weeks ahead of us. Considering the situation on the ground, a lot of things may happen. It will depend of the situation on the ground, it will depend on the political situation, and then we will see what we decide. But it’s not an ideological battle, it’s a factual battle: what is useful, what is possible.

Q: The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Georgieva said that having UNSMIS there is actually helpful to deliver a humanitarian aid even currently, with the shelling and all. What do you make of Ambassador Churkin saying that Mr. Guéhenno going back to Paris for this job: writing a white paper about defense has somehow a political motivation to pull an end to the mission.

It’s typical conspiracy theory. It’s unfair to attack an individual. Mr. Guehénno has been appointed for six months; it was a short term mission. The new French Authorities offered him a new job. It was his choice to accept this offer. And to think that the government of France suddenly decides to plot doesn’t make any sense.

Q : Est-ce que la démission de Kofi Annan met de fait un coup d’arrêt aux efforts diplomatiques des Nations unies et est-ce que cela impactera sur la conférence voulue par Laurent Fabius prévue à la fin du mois ?

Evidemment, la démission de M. Annan est d’abord la manifestation d’une impasse politique. Nous l’avons dit aujourd’hui : le Conseil de sécurité est paralysé. Il n’y a aucune possibilité pour le moment d’avoir un accord politique au Conseil de sécurité. Or, la mission de M. Annan repose sur l’accord du Conseil de sécurité, donc je crois que M. Annan a tiré les leçons du blocage politique. Il y a eu trois doubles vétos russo-chinois ! Ce n’est pas arrivé souvent dans cette organisation depuis la guerre froide d’avoir trois doubles vétos sur des résolutions qui étaient modérées. Quand j’entends mon collègue russe dire que nous voulions imposer des sanctions, c’est faux. Les résolutions ne parlaient pas d’imposer des sanctions, mais de menaces de sanctions.

La réflexion que nous menons, pour voir si le Conseil de sécurité peut encore être utile, porte plutôt dans les domaines humanitaires, plutôt que dans le domaine politique ou visiblement nous sommes dans une impasse.

Q: When you talk about humanitarian side, are you working on a draft resolution?

We are trying to be useful; we are looking at what is possible. Maybe nothing is possible; it is a deeply divided Council. Look at what is happening in Aleppo, in Syria, and we are bumping again and again in the same wall of Russia and China.

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