France today requested that the situation in the eastern part of the DRC be urgently discussed at the Security Council.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet has just provided the members of the Security Council with an update on the situation on the ground.
As you know, fighting has resumed in recent days between the regular Congolese army and the M23 rebel movement to the north of Goma. After several days of bombing, and because of the M23, fighting is still continuing.
Mr. Mulet has just now confirmed that the M23 repeatedly and deliberately fired on civilians in Goma and on MONUSCO, including on a MONUSCO ambulance. Several civilians died as a result of these indiscriminate attacks by the M23.
Mr. Mulet also underscored that the M23 was firing into Rwandan territory from positions in the DRC. In response to our questions, Mr. Mulet stated that the only shelling observed that was targeted against Rwandan territory, close to Goma, came from positions held by the M23.
In accordance with its mandate to protect civilians, MONUSCO has been lending support to the Congolese army for several days now in order to put an end to the M23 attacks.
Several MONUSCO soldiers have been injured during clashes with the M23. A Tanzanian Blue Helmet was killed yesterday. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of this peacekeeper who died in the service of peace and who had been deployed at the request of the Security Council. France also extends its condolences to the Tanzanian authorities.
The M23 attacks against civilians and against MONUSCO are unacceptable. The M23 are inflicting suffering on the civilian populations in the region, and they are fostering a permanent climate of violence.
France utterly condemns the actions of the M23 and we call for the disarming and disbanding of this rebel group as well as all armed groups operating in the DRC, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 2076 and 2098.
Those responsible for violations of human rights and international law must be held accountable.
With respect to this new crisis, France would like to reaffirm its full support for the action of MONUSCO and Mr. Kobler, Special Representative of the United Nations.
Furthermore, France calls on all countries in the region to demonstrate restraint and a sense of responsibility in order to avoid any military escalation, the consequences of which would be extremely serious.
We urge them to implement in good faith the commitments made under the Addis Ababa framework agreement. The hopes raised by the recent progress should not be dashed. Ms. Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, has been tasked with supporting the implementation of the framework agreement. We support her.
Q: The Council recalls that it is a war crime to attack people engaged in peacekeeping as long as they are entitled to the protection of civilians under the law of international combat. If for example intervention brigade is flying attack helicopter and attacks M23, are they protecting civilians from combat or have they made themselves party to the conflict… and do you see a problem with the UN being party to the conflict ?
The Security Council has indeed released today a press statement which expresses the condemnation by Security council of the current attacks and of course renews his support to MONUSCO, which is implementing its mandate. The mandate of MONUSCO is to ensure the protection of civilians. At the request of African countries, the Security Council decided to create an intervention brigade, allowing MONUSCO to enforce its mandate. This is what is currently taking place, in order to make sure that the shelling of civilian population stops in the city of Goma, in IDP camps. MONUSCO is enforcing its mandate through its different components. MONUSCO is implementing its mandate, the mandate that the Security Council has decided to create. MONUSCO is implementing its mandate and the Security Council supports MONUSCO fully.
Q: Rwanda has accused the Congolese army of shelling into its territory. There is a reference to this but the press statement is not accusing anyone. But Mr. Mulet has told the Council that MONUSCO witnessed the M23 firing into Rwanda: would this be not a concern and should the UN do something about it?
At this moment MONUSCO is actually trying to make sure that M23 stops shelling and firing mortar against the civilian population. M23 has indeed shelled Goma and also, as you said the Rwandan territory. You are right, M. Mullet explained to us this morning that MONUSCO witnessed shelling from M23 positions, that is shelling coming from the M23 towards Rwandan territory. I would like to make it even more precise, Mr. Mullet explained that actually the only act of shelling witnessed by MONUSCO towards the Rwandan territory in vicinity of Goma was coming from M23.
Making sure that M23 stops doing these crimes is actually what MONUSCO is doing and this is also an action that the Security Council strongly supports.
Q: Do you believe that the government of the DRC should continue to negotiate with the M23 or are those talks over and now it is just about eliminating this group?
There is a framework for the talks: because the solution can be, must be indeed political. There is a framework for that; this is the Framework Agreement of Addis Ababa. All the parties of the crisis and all the parties of the region have renewed their commitment to implement this agreement just a few weeks ago, at the end of July, under the American presidency of the Security Council and of course all these parties have to stick to their commitments.
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