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9 December 2013 - Central African Republic - Remarks to the press by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and President of the UN Security Council

(In French and in English)

Bonjour, je viens d’informer mes collègues de l’action conduite par les forces françaises en république centrafricaine.

Après le vote de la résolution 2127, le jeudi 5 décembre, nous avons constaté immédiatement des exactions et des violences qui ont couté la vie à plus de 400 civils. Cela nous a conduit à accélérer l’intervention française qui a commencé dès jeudi.

Cette intervention a permis aux forces françaises appuyées par les forces africaines de rétablir l’ordre dans la ville de Bangui même si des violences éclatent de manière endémique ça et là.

Nous avons également poussé des forces jusqu’à Bossangoa, dans la mesure où les ONG nous ont signalé des violences pour là aussi y rétablir un minimum d’ordre.

Aujourd’hui nous avons commencé le désarmement de toutes les milices et de tous les groupes armés. Pour le moment l’opération a commencé pacifiquement. Nous sommes déterminés à faire disparaitre toutes les milices, tous les groupes armés des rues et des localités centrafricaines. Mes collègues du Conseil de sécurité ont exprimé leur soutien à l’action des forces françaises.

Par ailleurs, j’ai annoncé qu’au cours de ce weekend, le Président de la République française avait annoncé que les forces françaises passeraient de 1200 à 1600 hommes et que le contingent africain passerait de 3600 à 6000 hommes, étant donné la dégradation de la situation.

***

This morning I have informed the members of the Security Council of the action of the French army in the Central African Republic.

As soon as resolution 2127 was voted on 5 December and considering the degradation of the situation in Bangui and the fact that there was widespread violence where 400 people were killed, we have decided to launch the French intervention as early as Thursday night.

The French forces have reestablished law and order in Bangui, even if there is still some looting in the periphery because it is a bit a cat and mouse game: when we are there nothing happens.

So we have reestablished a modicum of law and order in Bangui. We have also pushed two companies to Bossangoa, where NGOs warned us there was violence. And from today we have started the disarmament of all militias and armed groups.

So for the moment, the operation is running smoothly but we don’t have illusions, the most difficult part is ahead of us. But we are determined to move forward.

The French President has announced that the French contingent of 1,200 will rise to 1,600. The African force will go from 3,600 to 6,000 troops. But it will take some time, several weeks, several months before reaching this figure.

***

Q: There are some reports that, in terms of sequencing, the Seleka rebels will disarm first.

No, we are starting the disarmament in Bangui, where there is only Seleka. The anti-Balaka are 10-15 km from Bangui, but we already got in contact with them to start the process of disarmament. On the 5 December the anti-Balaka were defeated and expelled from Bangui. So in Bangui there is only the Seleka. But of course we will disarm all the armed groups and all the militias. It was officially announced by the President of the French Republic in his speech in Paris.

Q: You have discussed Libya today, are you considering or reconsidering the protection of the mission there since Mr. Mitri spoke about the misinterpretation of their presence in Libya?

On the question of the guard, the fact is that the UN Mission doesn’t have any protection. Until the last days there were not even two policemen in front of the gate. So the decision was taken to discuss with the Libyan authorities to have a guard unit. The Libyan authorities agreed to it. There was an agreement by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. So now, the question of the interpretation of the guard unit is on the table. As President of the Security Council, I told my colleagues that we will have to revisit the issue of how to answer the protection of the Mission. I think it is a reasonable request considering the situation in Libya to ensure the security of our people on the ground. Would it be through this type of guard or another solution, we have to revisit the issue.

Q: Considering the recent rise of violence in the CAR, do you think that 1,600 French troops and 6,000 African troops will be sufficient to restore law and order?

Resolution 2127 says that the Secretary-General will transmit within three months to the Security Council a report on the situation. This report will be an assessment of the situation and whether the French and the African forces are enough. It is not only in terms of personel, there is also the question of financing the African force. Let the Africans deploy and let’s wait for the report of the Secretary-General to see if -the question is on the table - we need to go for a peacekeeping operation.

Q: Do you think the current troop strength is enough for the next three months?

Nobody can answer this question. First we do not know what the reaction of the militias and the armed groups will be, if they are going to fight or if they are going to flee and vanish in the nature. Secondly, we don’t know what the situation in the country is. The plan of our force is to move East. We will see what the real situation is, whether we need more forces, whether we need soldiers or policemen

Q: Is there any respected local force, gendarmerie, which could fill the gap and help keep law and order in Bangui when you move?

The armed force FACA nearly vanished. There are elements of the armed forces. The police and gendarmerie exist but they don’t have any weapon. According to the figures I have, they are 6,000. Our goal will be to reform the security sector but it is obvious that it will take time to provide the weapons and the training.

Q: What happened to their weapons?

I don’t know.

Q: Has France made any arrests in Bangui? There was one report of a former government minister arrested, is that the case?

When we have elements with weapons, if they give their weapons peacefully they are released, if they don’t give up their weapons peacefully there are transferred to the African force. But I don’t have any information about a government official;

I don’t think the French forces arrested a government official. We don’t have the mandate to do it, so we don’t do it.

Q: Will the Presidential Statement on Libya be adopted soon?

The goal of the penholder is to have it in the 48 hours. I invite you to ask UK.

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