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7 June 2011 - Remarks to the press by mr Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

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Press conference given by Alain Juppé - 7 June 2011 - Photo: FranceONU/Martin Loper

Some parts translated from the French, click here for the original

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to give you a quick update on a number of issues that I had the occasion to address yesterday and today, but first of all an update on the initiative that we took up in the attempt to resume the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Why did we re-launch the initiative? Because we consider that the status quo in the Middle East is not tenable. And I must say that this observation has been agreed upon by all the partners with whom we have consulted. And it is, I would like to highlight in passing, what President Obama himself has been saying since May 19. We have therefore put forth a negotiation platform to allow the two stakeholders to sit down again around the dialogue table. At the end of my tour to the Middle East and my visits here in the United States and at the United Nations, I can come away with the impression that our proposals did manage to move things.

The President of the Palestinian Authority has responded favorably to the proposal we made. The Israeli government continues to study our proposal. I am quoting the Israeli permanent representative here at the United Nations: "We are carefully examining the proposal, we also want to return to the negotiations, and we want an indication of the direction they would take." The Israeli government will give us their answer in the coming days.

Yesterday, my colleague Hillary Clinton expressed her interest in the French proposal. She raised a certain number of reservations but she stated her wish to continue working with us. The Middle Eastern Quartet’s Special Envoy Tony Blair said he supports the French initiative. Lastly, the UN Secretary-General, with whom I have met earlier, expressed his concerns about the lack of progress and opined that our initiative was moving in the right direction. We will continue to work with all the partners that I have just mentioned, the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Americans, the United Nations, the members of the Quartet in order to see if this initiative can lead to the resumption of negotiations between now and summer. It is difficult. The fact that in the past decades a solution has not been found shows that you need a great deal of tenacity to achieve progress. But, we have tenacity and we will continue to move forward.

A comment on Libya.

We will continue to implement the Resolution 1973 of the Security Council. Within the framework of this resolution, we are stepping up the military pressure that we are exerting on the Gaddafi regime. You have seen the results of this in the past few days. But, at the same time, we are making progress in the search for a political solution. We have confidence in the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Mr. Al-Khatib’s mediation efforts. The Contact Group meeting will be held in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, June 9. We have set out two objectives for this meeting. The first is to ensure the financial assistance mechanism for the National Transitional Council is operational. We will be providing concrete proposals. The second objective is to recall the conditions of the political settlement sought. I would like to identify them briefly. Firstly, a genuine ceasefire, that is, the retreat of Gaddafi’s troops to their barracks and the UN oversight of the ceasefire. Secondly, an official commitment by Gaddafi to remove himself from all political and military functions in Libya. Thirdly, the organization of a national convention under the authority of the National Transitional Council expanded to include all those willing to join the process and namely all those who in Tripoli understood that Gaddafi no longer had a future.

Lastly, one last comment on Syria. The repression continues to worsen and the massacres to escalate. For us, it is inconceivable that the United Nations stay silent on such a situation. We are therefore working with our British friends and others to gather as large a majority as possible at the Security Council. I think that we will therefore have to vote as it is up to each one of us to assume our responsibility.

Thank you. I am ready to answer some of your questions.

Q : Concerning your proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, could you be more specific about the response you’ve got from the Palestinian authority ? Who have you got the response from and how positive have them been ? Are they saying "yes, we will come, we will speak and engage in direct negotiations with the Israelis" ?

Yes. President Mahmud Abbas has been very clear. We proposed a non-paper with a platform of parameters for re-launching the negotiation. And the Palestinian authorities expressed their approval and his interest to participate in this negotiation.

Q : Minister, when do you expect to have a resolution on Syria?

I cannot give you a specific date. We are working on it. Today, I believe I can say that a majority is ready to vote for this resolution. We are trying to improve this majority. You can see that the situation on the ground is deteriorating every day, and therefore, the sooner the better.

Q : Are you going to push as soon as possible, this week maybe ? If you say you have 11 votes, why do we hear from the Brazilians they want consensus ? The other African countries are hesitant. But you say you have eleven votes. Why don’t you bring it to the vote or are you waiting for the situation to get worst to convince the others ? I have answered this question before. I’ve told you that we are waiting for as large a majority as possible in the Security Country. I think it’s a question of days, maybe hours.

Q : Russia has made very clear its intention to veto it. How far are you willing to go in conciliation? What could you do to convince the Russians at least not to veto it?

I believe that today the resolution project is rather clear. We don’t see the possibility for making fundamental changes to it. As I’ve said, it is up to each one of us to assume our responsibility. The Syrian regime is in the process of savagely repressing the popular movements; it will be up to the international community to judge the position of each one of us.

Q : The draft resolution is being prepared and the terms are very clear "we are calling upon everybody to assume their responsibilities". I want to ask on Libya, what do you make of the criticisms ; the African Union seems to have a slight different position that the one you laid down and they are supposed to come on 15 June. Do you think that it should be an open meeting, how do you explain or address this ? And also I want to ask on Côte d’Ivoire, when the Force Licorne has a responsibility to protect civilians, even now. There has been a report of Ouattara’s forces engaged in reprisal killings, is Licorne still on the streets to defend people or is it to return to its space ?

Please don’t mix everything. In Libya we think that we are acting in the framework of resolution 1973 of the Security Council. We are targeting military objectives and we are avoiding the civilian casualties. On Côte d’Ivoire, everybody recognized that our intervention has been successful. We are now supporting the process of national reconciliation engaged by President Ouattara and President Ouattara said that there will not be impunity for any kind of massacres or of casualties made either by one side or the other one.

Q : You were saying yesterday that France was ready to put the resolution to a vote and risk a Russian veto, is that also the position of your partners, especially the United States, because here at the UN we understand the US are very reluctant to go for a veto ?

It’s not only the position of France ; it’s the position of the United Kingdom and all the countries supporting this resolution, and I think that Hillary Clinton yesterday is on the same line but it is up to her to define and to express the American position, of course.

Q : A question on the Committee 1267, there are reports that actually the committee 1267 which is the terrorist list of Talibans and Al Qaeda is going to be split in two and that the Afghan government is pushing for a large number of Taliban names to be removed from the list. Can you tell me what the position of France is on this point and are there any behind the scene negotiations where France is involved regarding this ?

I think that it will be necessary in Afghanistan to support the process of reconciliation between the parties and to have discussions with the Taliban, provided the Taliban accept some important requirements: renunciation to violence of course and adherence to the Afghan Constitution. If these requirements are fulfilled, I think it is necessary to develop these talks and we are ready to participate with our American friends to such a process.

Q : Regarding the work on the Declaration on the fight against AIDS, France approved yesterday a treatment of an additional 8 million people but opposed a firm financial commitment. Is France backpedaling from its objectives for 2015? I’m not aware of this particular point. I recalled the figures earlier; I believe that France is the second biggest contributor in the world in terms of aid for the fight against AIDS, at UNAIDS, at UNITAID, as well as at the Global Fund. Therefore, I believe that on this issue we are quite exemplary. I have not observed that we are disengaging, on the contrary.

Q : On the Israeli-Palestinian proposal, you said that Hillary Clinton had some reservations, I wonder if you could elaborate on what the American concerns are ; and not having looked at the French proposal very carefully, is France saying that the negotiations have to start based on the pre-1967 War borders or are there any other conditions like that for starting direct talks ?

You can read the statement by Hillary Clinton, and I think she is the best person to comment the American position. Our American friends are, obviously in some extent, reluctant to the idea of a large political conference if that conference is not before prepared by a pre-agreement of the parties, and that’s exactly what we have proposed. We think it is necessary to have an agreement of both the Palestinians and the Israelis on the parameters we are proposing. So, we are still working on those ideas and I think there will be positive developments during the next weeks.

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