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2 August 2012 - Presentation of the Security Council programme of work for August - Press conference given by Mr Gérard Araud, President of the Security Council

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m going to present to you the programme of work of the French presidency of the Security Council. This programme has largely been imposed by the schedule of the Security Council’s activity.

LEBANON

We’ll have a single mandate renewal in August, namely the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate. There’s an agreement between the members of the Council to separate the Lebanese issues from the Syrian issues. Barring any developments on the ground, I think the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate, with the consultations that will be held on 23 August, should pose no particular problem.

We then have three important dates arising from three resolutions.

SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN

We have UNSCR 2046 on Sudan. The Council made a number of demands of the two Sudans, with the deadline of 2 August – i.e. today. It’s clear that neither Sudan nor South Sudan have fulfilled all the conditions required of them. At the same time, progress has been made. So it’ll be up to the Council to decide how to maintain the quite fragile and partial momentum which has emerged.

Tomorrow, 3 August, there’ll be a meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, which should proceed with its own analysis of the implementation of UNSCR 2046. On this basis, the Council will meet next week to see how to maintain that momentum. I think the consensus around the Council table is that it’s not time, not necessary to move to sanctions but that we must continue exerting pressure on the parties to continue the negotiations.

MALI

Second resolution: UNSCR 2056 on Mali, which must lead to a briefing on 8 August that will be presented by the Secretary-General himself and will be followed by consultations. This session shouldn’t lead to any particular decisions by the Council.

SYRIA Then, and above all, the most difficult point will be UNSCR 2059 on Syria. In mid-June, General Mood said the security conditions no longer allowed the United Nations mission in Syria to continue its activities. He didn’t suspend all the activities, because the UN mission in Syria has continued to carry out a few patrols since 15 or 16 June depending on the situation on the ground, but in practical terms the bulk of the mission’s activities have been suspended.

Following the Russian and Chinese double veto, the decision was taken to adopt the text of UNSCR 2059 providing for a final extension of 30 days, to renew the mandate in a format proposed by the Secretary-General, and then to request a Secretary-General’s report for two weeks later. So as regards the new format approved by the Council, it’s been implemented by the Secretary-General: he’s withdrawn about half the military observers, who have been sent back to their countries but remain on alert and whom we can therefore bring back at any moment. The remaining observers have been gathered together in four centres in Damascus.

So as regards the report, it’ll be presented to the Council this afternoon, following the fortnight envisaged, by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on behalf of the Secretary-General.

The most difficult thing will be the fate of the mission, because the mandate expires on 19 August. We’ll be having consultations on 16 August to decide on the mission’s future. As this morning’s adoption of the programme of work proved, the divisions on the Council are still just as deep, and I’m afraid we can expect a clash between those who believe the mission no longer has any role or activity and must be dissolved, on the one hand, and those who believe it must be extended. I remind you that in order for it to be extended beyond 19 August, a new resolution would have to be passed.

SOMALIA

Another important date for the Security Council in August, which results from a presidential statement and not a resolution, is the end of the transition in Somalia on 20 August. A bit like Sudan and South Sudan, the glass is half empty or half full: things have been done but we’ve still got a long way to go. Having said that, in the latest presidential statement the Council declared there’d be no extension of the transition. So the Council will have to decide how to react at the end of this transition period. The consultations will take place on 28 August.

KOSOVO

Finally, there’ll be the ritual debate on Kosovo, which shouldn’t lead to any particular conclusion, either, but we’ll have the opportunity to get to know Serbia’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs.

SYRIA

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs has also announced his intention to hold a ministerial meeting on Syria. In Europe, and in a number of other countries, the events in Syria are causing anger among the public. The events in Aleppo in particular are on the front pages of all the newspapers and are on all the TV news programmes. But the Security Council is in deadlock following three vetoes. We’re currently exploring how to hold a ministerial meeting and what the Security Council can do today in the face of those three vetoes, in particular by working on the humanitarian aspects of the crisis.

The Minister, Laurent Fabius, is in consultation with his colleagues; we’re in consultation here, too, to see how the Council can still be of any use regarding the Syria crisis, particularly as regards the humanitarian situation. Three million Syrians need humanitarian aid. It’s not just the city of Aleppo. The Syrian authorities aren’t allowing the humanitarian organizations access, apart from the Syrian Red Crescent, which is doing admirable work but is overwhelmed by the situation. It can’t tackle this situation alone.

This ministerial meeting should be held at the end of the month. But it’s not easy, because the divisions in the Council are extremely deep and extremely intense, as we were able to see this morning and as you were able to hear this morning from the lips of my Russian colleague.

MALI

Final point – although it doesn’t depend on the Security Council – ECOWAS has announced several times that it’ll be returning to the Council to request the deployment of a peacekeeping force in Mali. If ECOWAS returns to the Security Council, then we’ll have to examine the terms of this request and respond to it.

SYRIA

Q. – On Kofi Annan and the United Nations, does this mean the UN will do nothing?

We’ve come up against three vetoes in succession. The texte we submitted was in particularly moderate language. There were no sanctions and no threats of sanctions. We were seeking to put the Annan plan under Chapter VII, which simply means that if it’s not implemented the Council must examine measures where appropriate. All this was extremely moderate, but the three vetoes were extremely clear. Indeed, the risk is that a number of countries might draw conclusions from the fact that the Security Council is definitively powerless as far as Syria is concerned.

France believes it would be unfortunate and dangerous. That’s why we’d like at least to prove that in the humanitarian field, where the tragedy is becoming more and more serious, the Council can react.

We entrusted Mr Annan with an impossible mission; we must recognize this. It’s not surprising he’s reached this decision.

What’s clearly also very serious is the feeling that we no longer have, we don’t have and maybe never have had a political process. There’s no political process and there’s no negotiation process under way. So we get the impression that on both sides the military approach is prevailing, with everything it entails in terms of suffering for the people and uncertainty and political risks for the region.

Q. – Are there disagreements within the Council? Do you think you can overcome those disagreements when it comes to the mission’s mandate following Kofi Annan’s resignation?

To be honest, I don’t think there’ll be an agreement. I think the mission will finish on 19 August; I think that’s very clear. Because of the stance taken at the highest level by certain member states on either side, I see no scenario that could enable the mission to be continued, except change on the ground. This means the mission, in my opinion, will finish on 19 August.

Q. – Your foreign minister has been working to speed things along. Isn’t he going to try to overcome these differences of view?

With all due modesty, we think the Council can be useful. Given the political gulf which has opened up between “two Council members” and the “majority of the Council”, we’re trying instead to work on humanitarian issues, and we hope to be able to get the Council united again on these issues. But you don’t need to be certain of success in order to act. We’ll see if we manage to do it. The Minister’s determination is very strong and I believe there will be a ministerial meeting of the Council before the end of the month.

Q. – Are you working on the idea of a successor to Mr Kofi Annan?

As regards Mr Annan’s resignation and the appointment of someone to succeed him, it’s up to the Secretary-General, in contact with the Arab League – since he was a joint special envoy – to appoint a successor to Mr Annan if necessary. Even though the situation is desperate, even though there’s no political process, I think it would undoubtedly be useful to have someone to succeed Mr Annan.

DR CONGO

Q. – As regards the statement to the press on the DRC: it talks about “outside” [support for the March 23 movement, M23]; I don’t know if you’re referring to one or several countries?

I’m replying in my capacity as President of the Security Council. The wording of the presidential statement I read – which is a text we’d distributed on Monday evening and which took a while to be approved – obviously came up against the issue of whether certain countries were going to be mentioned by name. What you quoted is the result of a delicate compromise between several positions on whether one country or two countries were going to be mentioned. So it’s the result of a compromise which was difficult to achieve.

On the situation in the DRC, I often say that it’s undoubtedly, in my three years in office, the issue which for me is morally the most tragic. We know there have been hundreds of thousands of deaths, and we’re forever seeing every six months, every year, the return of suffering, fighting. It seems to be a situation we’ll never manage to resolve. Let me remind you that since the fighting resumed, 200,000 people have been displaced. As the presidential statement says, the M23 has enlisted children. Families and children are sheltering in forests to escape it. Mass rape has once again taken place. And there’s a feeling of powerlessness. There is a hive of diplomatic activity being conducted bilaterally. I think MONUSCO is also doing a very brave job. It’s joined in the fighting to try to protect civilians. It’s easy to criticize United Nations action, but as you know, we’re talking about [a country with] a surface area which must be bigger than the size of Spain, where there’s practically no infrastructure and where we have a very reduced force. 19,000 troops over an area of half a million square kilometres is nothing. And MONUSCO has completed its mandate. A peacekeeping force doesn’t usually actively participate in fighting and this one has done so using, among other things, heavy helicopters, blocking the Goma road, and from a diplomatic point of view we’re encouraging the DRC to come to an agreement. There have been meetings between Presidents Kagame and Kabila. There’s been the idea of setting up a neutral force. Further meetings are going to take place. We sincerely hope to get a result.

Q. – Regarding the Group of Experts on the DRC: how were they selected?

The United Nations does its best to recruit experts; mistakes can be made – it’s human nature. But when these mistakes are brought to the Council’s attention, they may have to be examined. In the two cases you mention, those of us around the Council table think that the Group of Experts’ conclusions are relatively balanced.

As far as the FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] is concerned, it’s obviously an armed group which has committed atrocities, so this group has to be fought. Moreover, MONUSCO is helping the DRC armed forces to fight it. They must hand over their weapons. And they obviously have to be brought before the relevant courts, including the International Criminal Court if necessary.

SYRIA

Q. – Syria is on the agenda. You’ve demonstrated many times that you’d really like to resolve things at the Security Council. How do you hope, on this point, to try to resolve the situation? And as an experienced diplomat, what’s the depth of the challenge?

We’re actually including Syria on the Security Council’s programme of work not because we decided to but because we’ve got to. This is provided for as part of the implementation of UNSCR 2059, which we approved. As you know, under this resolution we have to see how UNSMIS [United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria] implements its mandate – we’ll see this afternoon. We have to look into the question of the deadline of the UNSMIS mandate, which expires on 19 August. Consequently, France has to include this on the agenda, as Russia would do.

Divisions within the Security Council are really very deep; they seem to me irreconcilable on the political front. As I said, even during this morning’s discussion of the programme of work – it’s a routine exercise but, even so, our discussions went on for an hour. It was two countries, still the same ones, against the majority. That’s all we did, apart from uttering a few fine words of diplomacy of no importance.

Perhaps you can look at the statement my Russian counterpart made after the Council – you can find it on UN TV, the United Nations television channel: it’s the same thing, the same remarks.

This is why we’re presenting a resolution to the General Assembly. It’s the same as after the second veto. There was an overwhelming majority, 137 votes against. We also hope that tomorrow there’ll be an overwhelming majority to approve a text based on the text Russia and China vetoed, to send a message.

Obviously this text won’t have the same force, but it sends the same message – i.e. the international community really wants to act and Russia and China represent a tiny minority which is nonetheless blocking the Security Council.

Once again, as I say, I repeat, given the Council’s inability to act, there’s a considerable danger of seeing certain countries act outside the Council. This is something which could be dangerous. It’s why, at the end of the month, we’ll try to bring the Council together over the humanitarian issue. There can be no disagreement about the fact that we have to help the millions of Syrians who are suffering.

I said that this was clearly a hope, because I doubt it will be very easy to do. I can already tell you right now what the objections put forward by the two countries will be. So we’ll do our best to have a ministerial meeting by the end of the month.

Q. – You described the situation at the Council as one of deadlock, of irreconcilable positions. You said the Security Council is currently powerless. The Secretary-General himself described this situation of deadlock as an obstacle to diplomacy. This situation is very serious. Don’t you and your colleagues at the Council fear that the international co mmunity’s moral and financial support for the Council will be further and further reduced? As I was saying, this is serious not so much for us, with our small Security Council concerns. It’s serious above all for the millions of Syrians; that’s the problem. You have millions of Syrians who are suffering, and the city of Aleppo, which is under Syrian bombardment. Above all, you have this intolerable feeling that the situation may get worse. The Red Cross is already announcing officially that it believes it’s a civil war and that it’s not going to stop. This may have consequences for the region, particularly pressure on Lebanon. I have to say that the way Lebanon, the Lebanese authorities, the Lebanese people and the Lebanese political parties are reacting is really admirable, because they sense the danger but for the moment they’re managing to remain united so that their own country doesn’t get dragged into the crisis.

Obviously the Council’s credibility has been affected. Again, even though I’m a diplomat and I think the Council’s credibility is important, what’s much more important is the situation the Syrian people are in.

Q. – Don’t you think there’s a certain contradiction in the different remarks you’ve made about Syria? For example, you said it was dangerous for countries to act outside the Council, and you also said there was deadlock and the positions are irreconcilable. That means that at political level, there’s ultimately no other solution than to act outside the Council. Perhaps something can be done at humanitarian level; that’s where the Council can make a more modest contribution. So I get the feeling we might wonder at this stage what the other options are.

It’s not a contradiction to say it’s both inevitable and dangerous. And those responsible are the two countries who have used vetoes and prevented the Security Council from acting. That’s dangerous. But for the moment, from the political viewpoint, we can’t see what we at the Security Council can do.

So what we’re going to try and do is work with the Syrian opposition, to try and have a Syrian opposition that is united and also has a common platform so that, when the time comes, that opposition is capable of engaging in political dialogue if possible. But it’s true the crisis is now very much out of the UN’s control. No doubt it’s been very much out of the UN’s control from the outset too, unfortunately.

Q. – On tomorrow’s resolution, following Kofi Annan’s resignation – the resolution says “we support the Joint Special Envoy and his six-point plan” – you’re now talking about humanitarian activities. How are you going to proceed with tomorrow’s resolution in the face of this new scenario? Is the text going to change a lot? What’s your position?

The text was prepared by the Arab group; it’s no secret to say we expressed certain reservations about the text at one point. It’s legitimate for the Arab group to present its own text. Regarding the Joint Special Envoy – again, there may be a successor to Mr Annan –, must the text be changed? I must admit to you I haven’t yet had time to re-read it, and it’ll be up to our Arab friends to change the text following the resignation. But I don’t know; I’m not convinced; I’d have to read the text to know whether there are any substantial changes to be made to it.

We’re going to vote tomorrow at 10 a.m., and again I hope we’ll have a broad majority, the situation being much more delicate than last time, because it’s August and there are a lot of people absent from the General Assembly. That may influence the results.

Q. – I know the problem just arose a few hours ago, but have you yourself been in touch with Mr Elaraby or Ban Ki-moon here in New York about the appointment of a successor to Mr Annan? In your opinion, in a national capacity, do you think someone should be appointed?

We think there is nothing more dangerous than an absolute political vacuum, and therefore having a joint special envoy – because this is a joint UN-Arab League initiative – could perhaps be helpful. So in a national capacity, we support the appointment of a successor to Mr Annan. Who will this successor be? It’s up to Mr Annan to contact Mr Elaraby, and then he’ll contact us. Names are circulating, and we’ll see which name our two secretaries-general decide to choose.

Q. – Based on your analysis of the deadlock in the Security Council, what’s the French position on supporting the Syrian opposition by military means? Can you confirm that France will vote against renewing the mission in Syria?

As my country has said, it provides the Syrian opposition with political support. We’re working with other countries, particularly Turkey, to unify the Syrian opposition around a democratic platform that guarantees minority rights.

We’ve already announced that we’re ready to provide non-lethal equipment, particularly communications equipment, to the Syrian opposition. But at this stage, the French authorities have no intention of delivering weapons to the Syrian opposition.

As for voting on a resolution, I can’t say, because I’ve received no official voting instructions. As you know, we operate on quite a formal system. Before each resolution, I must ask my authorities how to vote. But it’s reasonable to note that the UN mission in Syria had two purposes. One was to contribute to reducing the violence; the other to provide support for the political process. There is no political process and the violence has never been so serious. The observers’ security is at stake. Why keep observers in Syria who have to stay in their hotel rooms 95% of the time? People have not sufficiently emphasized the fact that – and this may be the first time – the UN has sent its observers into a war zone. Usually, UN forces are called upon to implement a peace settlement that has been negotiated by the two parties. There, and there may be other examples, we’ve sent our observers right into the middle of a confrontation, and they’re risking their lives. We also have a responsibility, vis-à-vis our troop contributors, for the security of these soldiers.

If nothing changes by 19 August, we must draw conclusions and put an end to the mission. But again, I’ll have to ask for instructions.

Q. – Can you be more specific about the objectives of this ministerial meeting, as far as humanitarian issues are concerned? What adverse arguments were you referring to before? Have other countries already agreed to this ministerial meeting?

We don’t have to ask for approval for a meeting. Any Security Council member can ask for a Council meeting. The meeting will take place if France, Russia or Azerbaijan ask for one. There will be a Council meeting if we ask for one. As for the level, each party is represented at the level they choose. If France wants to be represented at foreign minister level, she can be. The other 14 members will decide if they want to respond at that level by sending their own minister. In every ministerial meeting we’ve held, there are ministers and countries that decide not to send a minister, whether it be for scheduling reasons or because they don’t consider the subject important enough to justify sending their minister. From that standpoint, the meeting is decided in principle; it will take place.

The problem is to make sure it is useful, particularly as regards humanitarian access. Humanitarian organizations don’t have access to the Syrian population. There’s only the Syrian Red Crescent, which is doing an admirable job, but it’s swamped. We must therefore try to see if the Security Council can send a message, in a form as yet to be determined, on humanitarian access. The Minister is in touch with his colleagues by phone, and I myself am in contact with all our partners.

The problem – which already existed at the time of the two briefings by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Pillay, who came to describe the situation to us – is that each time, Russia makes a point of diluting the problem, saying “why are we only talking about Syria? We have to talk about every subject.” That is a manoeuvre whose sole aim is to distract attention from the Syrian crisis. We’ll examine the programme of this meeting, the date, the programme… In our minds, we don’t want another confrontation. That’s why we’re taking a very cautious approach. I’m not announcing anything today because I don’t want to renew the confrontation the Security Council has met with on several occasions.

Thank you very much.



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