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10 January 2012 - Syria - Remarks to the press by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

in English and in French

It was the first briefing of the beginning of the year on the Syrian situation. The feeling was that of course the Arab League mission was a step in the right direction but we are very far from the implementation of all the requests of the Arab League. People forget that the Arab League has asked also the Syrian forces to evacuate the cities, which is not the case the Syrian forces are still in the cities. They also asked for the release of political detainees. The problem is that some political detainees have been released but we don’t know whether they were political detainees and as you know observers didn’t get access to some detention centers they have requested. It was also asked to put an end to violence and as you know hundreds of people have been killed since the 27th of December. We also have seen recent incidents against the observers themselves.

For the moment, we have to wait for the final report of the Arab League which will be presented to the ministers on the 19th of January. Because everybody agrees that for the moment the “only game in town” in political terms is the Arab League mediation that everybody is supporting, so we are going to wait for the 19th of January.

There were also some feelings of regrets that negotiations have been very slow on the Security Council side on the text which was presented by Russia which was a step in a positive direction even if it was grossly inadequate in its content. Actually we have been asking for a new text for some time and we have expressed our frustration. We think that the negotiation should move at a normal pace which is clearly not the case right now.

Q: Do you really hope that Russia might change its position?

We are not naive but we have to take into account the situation in the Security Council. I think that the next stage for us is the report of the Arab League on the 19th of January and we will see on the basis of this report whether it is possible to move forward in the Security Council. But in the Security Council we have already been vetoed by Russia and China and for the moment we have the impression that if we present a text without the clear support of the Arab League it will be very difficult. Our political vision is to move in the Security Council with the support of the Arab League.

Q : Etes-vous globalement satisfait de la mission des observateurs qui ont été dénoncés pour leur manque de professionnalisme sur place ?

Les observateurs de la Ligue arabe font un travail difficile dans une situation extrêmement délicate. Les autorités syriennes font tout pour que leur mission ne soit pas efficace, elles ne leur donnent pas accès aux prisons, elles ne retirent pas les forces armées des villes et vous savez qu’il y a aussi des tireurs isolés qui sont évidemment une menace à la sécurité de ces observateurs. Nous faisons confiance à la Ligue arabe qui à la suite d’un premier pré-rapport à annoncer qu’un nombre supplémentaire d’observateurs serait envoyé sur place. Cela étant, comme nous le répétons, les observateurs en eux-mêmes ne suffisent pas : il y a d’autres demandes qui ont été formulées par la Ligue arabe : le retrait des troupes syriennes des centres, l’arrêt des violences, l’accès des prisonniers notamment, et ces conditions ne sont clairement pas réunies.

Q : Est-ce que l’ONU va soutenir ces observateurs en les formant ?

Oui, depuis le début l’ONU a dit qu’elle était prête à soutenir les observateurs et la mission de la Ligue arabe, notamment en termes d’entrainement. Des contacts, des offres ont été formulés par les Nations Unies à la Ligue arabe dans ce domaine.

Q : Une demande formelle a-t-elle été faite par la Ligue arabe ?

Je ne suis pas sûr qu’une demande formelle ait été formulée mais je sais qu’au Caire durant ce weekend l’idée d’un soutien à l’entrainement par les Nations Unies a été exprimée.

Q : What kind of reaction do you expect from Russia? Do you still ask for a reference to arms embargo and sanctions?

We have presented a lot of amendments to the Russians. Basically we would want to have reference to all the demands of the Arab League, I insist there are other demands of the Arab League than simply the observers mission. Secondly there is an obvious debate about the equivalence, the debate between the demonstrators and the Syrian forces. We heard this debate today. Actually some countries and not only Russia are putting on the same level the repression and the demonstrators. If you look at the Russian text it is, I should say, an “equivalent” text and for us it is totally out of question to put on the same level the demonstrators and the repression. Most of the demonstrations are peaceful. In the beginning, 6 or 7 months ago, they were peaceful and it is little by little that facing the armed repression some demonstrators have been reacting. So there is no equivalence for us and as you said there are also the issues of arms embargo and sanctions. But the problem at the moment for us is the beginning of negotiations and after we put our amendments and we are simply waiting for a text. Where is the Russian text? The problem for us is that we have the impression that there are no real negotiations which we are simply asking for. After that what would be the final text, the result of the negotiations would be a compromise but I don’t know where the compromise will be. But to have a compromise you need a negotiation

Q: What is the reaction on the attack on the monitors?

I think everybody said there is a responsibility for the Syrian authorities to ensure the security of the observers and that it was a sign of the growing violence in Syria.

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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