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14 October 2009 - Security Council: The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(translation of statement made in French)

I should like to thank Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Pascoe, the Palestinian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Malki, and the Permanent Representative of Israel, Ms. Shalev, for their statements. France aligns itself with the statement to be made by the Permanent Representative of Sweden on behalf of the European Union.

To begin, I should like briefly to address the matter of Lebanon, which is also on the Council’s agenda. We support the Prime Minister-designate, Mr. Saad Hariri, and we hope that a Government will be formed quickly. The spirit of dialogue must continue to prevail among Lebanese parties. The countries of the region should, for their parts, also join forces to foment a climate conducive to the formation of that Government.

Moreover, it is essential that all parties respect resolution 1701 (2006). We will closely follow the review of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that the Secretariat will conduct over the coming months in accordance with resolution 1884 (2009). We express our concern about the recent spate of incidents, which are simply violations of resolution 1701 (2006). On the subject of Monday’s explosion in southern Lebanon, we await the results of the joint fact-finding mission of the Armed Forces of Lebanon and UNIFIL, which should help to clarify the circumstances of the incident. In any case, we underline our support for the complete implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), which calls on the Lebanese State to exercise its sovereignty over the entire Lebanese territory, so that no weapons can be situated in the country without its consent.

I turn now to the Israeli-Palestinian matter. I am not the first in the Council to say that rarely — in all likelihood never — has there been such an international consensus about the conditions for peace: the creation of a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian State, living peaceably side by side with Israel within secure and recognized borders, as set out in this Council’s resolution 1515 (2003). Nevertheless, we still have to determine the way to take the steps leading to that goal and to do so fast. I will suggest three important steps.

First, progress on the ground is necessary to prevent people from losing all hope. In that regard Israel should stop settlement activities in the West Bank and also in East Jerusalem. They are illegal and a major obstacle to peace. As our President Sarkozy has said, the settlements obstruct the prospects for a Palestinian State, they do not contribute to security for Israel but rather increase its vulnerability.

A second important consideration is Jerusalem. After the clashes in recent days in the Holy City, we call upon the parties to show restraint, so as to avoid the immediate risk of an escalation, whose consequences cannot be predicted. We call upon the Israeli authorities to cease the demolition of houses and other expulsions in East Jerusalem. It is a fact that settlement in that city has taken on a particularly provocative aspect. There can be no peace without Jerusalem, which will be, as President Sarkozy said in his address to the Knesset on 23 June 2008, the capital of both States.

Complementary progress must also be made in the realm of movement and access. This is the case for, Gaza — and I will come back to this — but it is also the case for the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The lifting by the occupying authorities of obstacles to movement around a number of large Palestinian cities constitutes a positive development that should be pursued.

All measures that allow for movement towards a normal life for the Palestinian population should be encouraged. Beyond their consequences in humanitarian matters these measures would also allow the Palestinians to face their responsibilities to build the institutions of their future State. Along these lines the Palestinian Authority should continue its efforts to strengthen its security sector and also to institute the rule of law. The continued fight, without quarter, against terrorism should remain a priority.

As regards the situation in Gaza — and this is my second point — the consolidation of the ceasefire that hinges on a full implementation of resolution 1860 (2009) remains a priority. This resolution has set the parameters for a lasting ceasefire, including the reopening of crossings and the implementation of mechanisms that will make it possible to put an end to weapons trafficking. These two conditions have not been met.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is concerning. We call for an immediate opening of the crossings, especially to allow for access by civilians to humanitarian assistance and also for a resumption of economic activity. Beyond the humanitarian concerns the current closing of these crossings leads to the continuation of the status quo of the political situation in Gaza. Parallel to these efforts, we continue to call for immediate and unconditional release of Gilad Shalit. I should like to thank the delegations that mentioned the case of this prisoner.

As regards the Goldstone Report, its allegations are grave. Throughout the Gaza conflict brought on by the firing by Hamas on Israel, France has reiterated its unswerving position: international humanitarian law should be respected in all places, under all circumstances and by all parties to a conflict, particularly in Gaza and in southern Israel. We believe the parties should engage in a process of independent inquiry, in conformity with international standards, into allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights during the Gaza crisis.

My third and last point has to do with inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the role of the neighbour States. Palestinians should speak with a single voice in order to put the peace process back on track. There cannot indeed be a peace accord with just one part of the Palestinian people, nor would there be a viable Palestinian State without Gaza. There cannot be peace without recognition of Israel’s right to exist, without a renunciation of violence and without respect for signed peace accords. While negotiations towards inter-Palestinian reconciliation face many challenges, we continue to support the Egyptian mediation efforts, and we should also like to pay particular homage to those efforts.

The countries of the region, of course, have an important role to play. We will continue to provide all of our support to the Arab Peace Initiative. This should be an essential foundation of a global and lasting solution to the situation in the Middle East.

All measures and gestures by States of the region to demonstrate their commitment to a lasting peace — including, in particular, good-neighbourly relations with Israel — are to be encouraged. In the context of that regional approach, we also believe that the time has come to make progress on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the peace process. Such developments will amount to nothing, however, if the two parties do not resume their negotiations with a view to reaching a definitive peace settlement whose broad outlines are already known to us.

This is a matter of urgency, as President Sarkozy has recalled by stressing the urgency of settling a conflict that is not only regional, but also concerns the entire world. Tensions have increased in recent days in the Middle East, and we all feel that a spark could ignite a fire at any moment.

This is a matter of urgency, and the international community and the Council also have a major role to play, because the situation in the Middle East is pressing and concerns us all. We therefore support the efforts of the United States Administration. For their part, France and the European Union have expressed their willingness to support and facilitate the negotiations as much as necessary and to consider the guarantees required in a possible agreement.

It is now time to make concrete progress on the path of a just and comprehensive peace that is based on the Arab Peace Initiative, the Madrid principles and the Road Map and is in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. France is prepared to play its full role in such an effort.

To that end, President Sarkozy and President Mubarak have proposed the idea of a peace summit in the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean, which would accompany a resumption of peace negotiations between the two parties and would, of course, be organized in consultation with all parties involved.



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