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

(In French and in English)

Nous avons présenté un texte au Conseil de sécurité, un texte de résolution sur la Syrie qui prend acte de la paralysie du Conseil de sécurité. La Russie avait présenté un texte mais, comme vous le savez, la grande majorité du Conseil s’est prononcée contre ce texte. Cela fait d’ailleurs trois semaines que la Russie n’a plus tenu de réunion de négociation. Nous avons donc présenté un texte qui soutient les initiatives de la Ligue arabe. Nous considérons tout simplement que l’initiative de la Ligue arabe est la seule initiative politique qui permette d’aller vers une solution politique de la crise syrienne.

We had a Russian text on the table, a clear majority of the Council requested to amend it deeply and Russia has not circulated any new text for the last three weeks. Meanwhile the Arab League took new decisions. We have therefore decided to reflect this situation in a text which is simply supporting the initiative of the Arab League in all its dimensions, that is the four demands: about the observers; on the release of political prisoners; on the access of media and on the withdrawal of armed forces from the centres of the cities. It also includes the political proposals of the Arab League.

Objections have been raised. There are three or four main objections. One is about the arms embargo; but there is no arms embargo in the text. Yet we can look at the text even if there is no arms embargo. The second one is on the sanctions; the text reflects the sanctions taken by the Arab League. The third one is on regime change. Again, let’s look at the text: we have taken the wording of the Arab League and the Arab League was speaking of delegation of authority by the President.

So we will have a first meeting of experts which will allow us to “clean up” the text, to identify the three or four main issues. We will hear the strong message of the Arab League on Tuesday and I guess that on Wednesday we can start the negotiations of the three or four political issues at the level of the Permanent Representatives. I guess that we will have a very determined negotiating process in the coming week and I do hope that we will agree on a resolution by the end of next week.

Q: Does the text mention any threat of sanctions which the Russian Ambassador just said he will oppose?

I’m sure that this is one of the questions which will be raised. It can be interpreted as sanctions, several countries have expressed their reluctance of accepting sanctions or even the prospect of sanctions. It will be one of the three or four political issues that we have to handle. Negotiating is precisely about trying to find a way to solve these issues.

Q: Are the Arabs and yourself willing to negotiate and give concessions on that?

If you look at the text, what we are trying to do in a very faithful way is to reflect the decisions of the Arab League. That’s what we are trying to do and we are trying to do it in the fairest way. It means that the objections which have been raised have actually been raised against the Arab League. I think it will be important for the countries which have objected to the Arab League requests or demands to hear the Arab League on Tuesday. It will allow us to have an informed discussion at the political level on these issues and in particular the way the Arab League is seeing the transition. It will be a good opportunity for these countries to ask questions to the Arab League, if it is regime change or if it is not. And I trust the Arab League will be in a position to answer to these questions.

Q: Withdrawal of the president and regime change: what’s the difference?

We’ll need to ask this question to the Arab League. If you read the text it is not withdrawal ... We are trying to put the Arab League request in the draft resolution because it’s the only game in town; we have tried to transform it in a Security Council text so that the Arab League has behind itself the weight of the Security Council. For those who know our jargon, the text is under chapter VI of the UN Charter which means that it is not imposition. This is a chapter which is clearly about mediation, negotiation. To answer some objections, we are not imposing mandatory measures.

Q: What do you think of South Africa’s argument that the Council did not give the same deference to the African Union on Libya, there was no presidential statement no meeting, how do you distinguish the two?

I’m talking about Syria. South Africa could have organized meetings, could have circulated texts, could have done what we are doing right now. Nobody prevented South Africa to act on Libya in the same way so I don’t see where the problem is. Every question is handled in its own way and merits and every question has its own logic.

Q: We all know that most of Arab states are not represented by elected rulers, how come you consider them beacons of democracy and follow the Arab League lead in this case?

We are in an organization of states, and we are handling foreign relations with states. There is a regional organization which is the League of Arab States, which has taken a decision. We are facing a major crisis. I am not playing with words here. More than 5500 of people have been killed, the country is sinking into civil war, we are desperately looking for a political solution. There is no alternative: we stand here, the League of Arab States is proposing a solution. Our reaction is simply to support it, there is no other option. Our national interests are not at stake, it is simply that we see a country sinking into civil war.

Q: The transfer of power could be temporary?

Look at the text, there is nothing else but the text of the Arab League: we stick to what the Arab League is doing. But again, we can negotiate, we want to negotiate and have an agreement by consensus among the 15 members. The issue is too serious, the exchanges have been too acrimonious between the members of the Council not to have the 15 members agree now. I think there are elements for an agreement. I don’t think it will be too difficult to reach an agreement.

Q: You are saying that there is no alternative, but what about the people of Syria, and there are many who support not having any intervention whether it would be the Arab League or NATO.

Nobody has spoken about an intervention of NATO. If you read the text, it is under chapter VI and nothing in the text is compelling the use of force. What we want is to allow the Syrian people to express themselves. Allow me to note that for 40 years the Syrian people has never been allowed to express itself.

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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