I would like to thank the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs for his briefing and the Permanent Observer of Palestine for his statement. France associates itself with the statement to be made by the Head of the Delegation of the European Union.
The peace process in the Middle East remains at an impasse. On 21 September the Quartet established a one-year deadline to achieve a framework agreement on all final status issues for the creation of a sovereign, independent, viable and democratic Palestinian State living in peace alongside Israel within safe and recognized borders. We recall the importance of achieving this goal because more than ever, time is working against peace.
Attaining this objective in 2011 means the swift resumption of negotiations on final status issues, which is the only way to bring an end to the conflict. The deadline established by the Quartet is ambitious, but this urgency is dictated by the situation on the ground, where the viability of a two-State solution seems more threatened every day. In the immediate term, moves to recreate the conditions for confidence that are necessary for negotiations, both politically and on the ground, are awaited.
The parameters for a negotiated solution are known, and we do not need to reinvent the foundation of a process that has been under way for some 20 years now. Moreover, the European Union publicly recalled those parameters recently. Accordingly, France deems it necessary, in line with what Mrs. Clinton said in her speech at the Saban Forum, to call on the parties to provide their positions on the main final status issues. We welcome the fact that the United States is planning to provide the parties with its proposals if that becomes necessary, but we recall that a close involvement of the other members of the Quartet and certain Arab States in those efforts would increase their chances of succeeding. The international community, including within this Council, must indeed be able to support those efforts in all their forms and confer on them the necessary legitimacy. We thus hope that the forthcoming meeting of the Quartet, on 5 February, will contribute to recreating conditions of confidence that are necessary between the parties.
France and the European Union have reiterated their availability to make a substantial contribution to a peace agreement and to the arrangements that that would involve. That is the message that the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Michèle Alliot-Marie, while visiting the region from the 19 to 23 January, will bring to the parties, as well as to the two main regional actors in the peace process, Egypt and Jordan. The support of States in the region for the political process, based on the Arab Peace Initiative, remains crucial.
This objective involves preserving the viability of the two-State solution on the ground.
Given the increasing speed of construction, the international community, in particular this Council, cannot relax its attention with regard to the question of settlement activity. As the European Ministers recalled on 13 December, settlement activity is illegal. It is an obstacle to peace, as it undermines confidence between parties and the viability of prospects for peace.
France desires that initiatives in this area may constitute a constructive element of the effort to relaunch discussions between the parties on all final status issues. There will be no solution to the conflict without a cessation of settlement activity, including with regard to natural growth of existing settlements.
We are asking in particular for the cessation of all measures that affect the demographic balance in Jerusalem, which is destined to become the capital of the two States. In East Jerusalem, settlement activity is not only illegal but increases the likelihood of violent incidents in the Holy City, with political implications that are to be feared. At present, France is concerned by the situation and condemns the recent demolition of Shepherd Hotel in order to build a new settlement in the Palestinian quarter of Sheikh Jarrah. We call on the parties to avoid all provocation in a context of increasing tensions.
This situation on the ground, like the increasingly fragile political outlook, is likely to undermine the projects of the Fayyad plan, which is main tangible achievement on the way to the attainment of a Palestinian State since the Annapolis Conference in 2007.The support of the international community for the Palestinian Authority and for President Abbas in order to strengthen the institutions for a future Palestinian State must not waver. In order to consolidate this international support, the President of France announced our country’s willingness to organize a second donor conference in Paris in the spring. This should be linked to the political process; it can in no way be an economic substitute for the peace process.
The challenge is also for Israel to align itself with this movement in a much more determined way, particularly in the West Bank. Gestures have been made on the ground, but they remain insufficient, especially in terms of freedom of movement and access.
The situation in Gaza continues to be of concern. A change in approach, without infringing on Israel’s security imperatives, is necessary and possible. Our Minister of State, who is going to Gaza, will reaffirm our willingness to contribute to this.
France welcomes the Israeli Government’s recent decision to authorize the export of several categories of products from the area and to develop infrastructure at crossing points. This announcement is in the right direction, as it promotes the growth of Gaza’s economy by supporting the development of its private sector. We should work together to ensure that it is rapidly implemented, and secure complementary measures that can help achieve a comprehensive lifting of the blockade. In that regard, we are also awaiting sped up implementation of United Nations construction projects and a relaxation in restrictions on movement in and out of the Gaza Strip. The European Union has proposed concrete assistance in that regard.
We must not forget Gilad Shalit, who has been a hostage in the Gaza Strip for four years now, in disregard of the principles of international humanitarian law and basic humanity. France remains ready to help achieve his immediate and unconditional release. We also continue to call for an immediate halt to all violence, particularly rocket fire into southern Israel.
With regard to the political crisis that Lebanon is currently experiencing, France supports the Lebanese authorities and remains committed to respect for institutions and the framework defined by the Taif Agreement, as well as democratic principles and the stability, independence and sovereignty of Lebanon. We encourage the Lebanese people and representatives of Lebanese institutions to find a solution to the current crisis through dialogue.
Given recent developments, following discussions with the main Lebanese and regional stakeholders, France’s President has proposed international consultations to help Lebanon overcome the difficulties it faces. France is of course coordinating its efforts with the Secretary-General.
With regard to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, on 17 January the Prosecutor submitted an indictment to the judge, thus launching the judicial phase of the Tribunal’s work. France of course fully supports the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was established by resolution 1757 (2007). We call on all parties, especially those in Lebanon and the region, to respect the Tribunal’s independence, to reject any political manipulation and to refrain from hindering the Tribunal’s work.
Lastly, in this very unstable environment, we call on all parties to respect resolution 1701 (2006), and commend the work done in southern Lebanon by the United Nations Interim Force in that country. The regional aspect of the peace process is crucial. We are working to create the conditions for a renewal of negotiations between Syria and Israel, in close cooperation with the United States and Turkey.
The Middle East is a region of great cultural, human and religious diversity. Peace and stability there is inconceivable without the preservation of the culture of tolerance and respect that is the foundation of the region’s richness. The recent attacks aimed at religious communities demonstrate a desire to fuel hatred. We must join forces with those countries that have been attacked so we can together fight terrorism and combat those who want to promote the notion of a conflict between civilizations. The perpetrators of such terrorist acts must be prosecuted. Members of religious minorities must be able to live in safety in their countries. France stresses the importance of the effective protection of minorities, of respect for their freedom of religion and belief and of the promotion of tolerance. We encourage and support the efforts of the Governments of the region to that end.