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31 July 2012 - Interview of Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, to UN Radio

On the occasion of the French Presidency of the United Nations Security Council that will start on August 1st, Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, reviews the key issues of this Presidency.

Q: Hello Mr Ambassador, you are the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations. France will chair the UN Security Council in August. One of the burning issues that comes to my mind is Syria. How will you deal with this issue as the President of the Security Council ?

The problem is unfortunately that, as you know, the Security Council is blocked. We have faced three Russia Chinese vetos and, in a sense, we are unable to act and it’s a pity for the Syrians, it’s a pity also for the credibility of the Security Council. I think that we have to be reactive, and if the horror the Syrians are suffering is reaching new heights, I think the French presidency will feel obliged to act and to try to renew our efforts to have the Security Council doing something. It is a shame, to be frank.

Q: What sorts of steps can be taken to bridge the divide that is in the Council, to try to create more international agreement on this issue?

First, in the General Assembly the Arab group is going to present a text, a resolution setting the conditions that the Arab group thinks are necessary to solve the problem and a political transition. We do think that we need a political transition and to get to this political transition, to put a pressure on the parties, and especially on the government, which has the firepower and which is quite repressive.

The question is, from the French point of view, to try to convince our Russian and Chinese friends that we don’t have any hidden agenda. We want peace for Syria because it’s our national interest. The more we are waiting, the more we are facing the radicalisation of the resistance on the ground, the more Al-Qaeda is active in Syria. The more we wait and the more dangerous the situation is becoming, not only for the Syrians but also for us.

We do think that the policy of our Russian and Chinese friends, simply to wait, is a very dangerous policy.

Q: Another area that’s of great concern is what’s going on in the Sahel, particularly with Mali and I’m sure that France has opinions or movement that you would like to see happening there in the Council ?

Of course, that’s because of our geography, of our common history. We were the colonial power in Mali and there are a lot of Malians leaving in France.

We are really worried about the situation in Mali and, at the same time, the times have changed and it’s to the Africans to solve the African problems. We are in a sort of supporting role, we are supporting the ECOWAS, the sub regional organisation, which is trying to mediate between the different parties in Bamako, the capital of Mali and preparing a military operation.

The problem is very complicated because, on one side, you have the Bamako crisis where there was a military coup on the 22nd of March and now we are trying to have a political transition to restore a civil government. It is not easy because the military are still there. After that, once you have restored the legitimate government in Bamako, we have to go to the North, because half of the country is controlled by split groups, terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda Islamic Maghreb. So it is quite a difficult situation. For the moment, the Security Council has expressed its availability to support the ECOWAS with a resolution that France has presented. Now we are waiting for ECOWAS to come to us and to tell us what they want to do and what they need in terms of political and also material support.

Q: Mr Ambassador, I know Haiti is not one of the issues on the Security Council agenda, but recently, the humanitarian appeal for Haiti had to be reduced, because donations haven’t been coming in. Do you think Haiti has fallen off the global agenda in any way?

The Security Council went to Haiti in May. Not only we met the political leaders and the leaders of the civil society, but we visited the country, and we saw how poor the country was and what were the consequences of the earthquake. You travel for the island and you see it. Again, the problem is also for the Haitians to try to solve the problem and you know that the political life of this island is quite complicated. There is a new government, so let’s hope that it works. The problem is that we cannot ask the United Nations to do what the United Nations cannot do. The UN cannot build a political life for the Haitians. The UN can help for instance to establish a basic law and order. It can also help to coordinate the international aid. But you are right: the problem is that we are living in a time when there is a very short span of attention of the international community. And you are right that maybe people are forgetting Haiti. In a sense your question is raising a real problem. Maybe we could think of it when there is the General Assembly and the high level segment of the General Assembly. It could be a good opportunity for the President of Haiti, President Martelli, for the Secretary General, for the friends of Haiti, including my country, to remind the international community that Haiti is still there and that Haiti needs us.

Listen to the interview on UN Radio website.

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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