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15 October 2012 - Security Council - Situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(Unofficial translation)

I thank Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman for his briefing on the situation in the Middle East and the Permanent Representative of Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine for their statements.

I will first address the situation in Syria and its consequences for international peace and security, and then I will turn to the urgency of relaunching the peace process. First, on the subject of Syria, three months ago in this Chamber I denounced the victimization of 19,000 civilians in the Syrian crisis. Now the tragic death toll is over 30,000. Syria is descending into civil war, with the situation exacerbated daily by the Syrian regime’s policy of systematically violating human rights and f louting their humanitarian obligations. Last week, the Syrian regime once again rejected the Secretary- General and Joint Special Representative’s call for a unilateral ceasefire. On the contrary, the use of heavy weaponry by the regime has only increased since July, along with the systematic use of air assets and increased indiscriminate bombardment of the civilian population in Aleppo and Homs and on the outskirts of Damascus. France reiterates that those responsible for the most serious crimes, in particular crimes against humanity, must be held accountable for their actions before the International Criminal Court.

The Syrian crisis threatens the security and stability of the region. The Council reiterated on 5 October that the Syrian authorities have an obligation to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighbouring States. We unreservedly condemn the Syrian military firing on Turkish territory and their incursions into and bombardments of Lebanese territory. The Council demanded at that time that the Syrian regime put an immediate end to its violations of international law. Likewise, in the Golan, the violations of the areas of limitation must come to an end.

In that context, we welcome the restraint shown by Syria’s neighbouring countries and their generosity in receiving their Syrian brothers. France would like to express its solidarity with its ally Turkey. We also welcome the responsible attitude shown by the Lebanese Armed Forces and the entirety of the political class, who have shown their desire to preserve stability in Lebanon. We will not tolerate a return to political assassinations, which would undermine the stability there. We encourage all political actors in Lebanon to continue to invest in the process of national dialogue relaunched by President Sleiman.

Syria and the region must prioritize a political transition that ref lects the aspirations of the Syrian people, in particular their demand to be led by a leader who does not have the blood of the people on his hands. France supports Mr. Brahimi’s efforts to move towards that transition and calls on the other members of the Security Council to give the Joint Special Representative the tools he needs to succeed despite the intransigence of Damascus.

France is working to encourage that process. We support the opposition forces’ efforts to unite and prepare for the transition. At the local level, the support that we provide to the civilian revolutionary councils, in particular the liberated areas, will enable those councils to lay the foundation for local civilian governance and to respond to the daily needs of the civilian population. At the national level, the President of France made a commitment before the General Assembly to recognize a provisional Government that is representative of the new Syria as soon as it is formed. He also recalled that that process will require that guarantees to be made to the various Syrian communities so that their security can be ensured.

There is also an urgent need for an international humanitarian response that is up to the task of meeting the needs of those suffering in Syria and that can match the generosity of Syria’s neighbouring countries.

International donors should mobilize to extend the funds called for by the United Nations, as winter threatens the most vulnerable civilians. Full access to all humanitarian actors must be agreed to by the Syrian authorities. It is particularly intolerable that medical infrastructure and personnel have been targeted and that the wounded are denied access to care because they are from combat zones.

I would now like to mention the Middle East peace process. The tragic situation in Syria should not cause us to forget the current impasse in the peace process. A year after the Quartet reiterated the basis for a process that should produce, by the end of 2012, a final agreement and the creation of a Palestinian State, side by side with Israel, we are further than ever from that goal. Two months from the deadline, it is the two-State solution itself that is threatened. Continued settlement policies by Israel in violation of international law weaken every day the physical viability of a future Palestinian State that is contiguous. They also threaten the political viability of such an entity. Each new settlement makes it more difficult to establish the climate of trust that is necessary for the return to dialogue. They also threaten its economic viability, as the structural restraints on the Palestinian economy, in particular in Area C, are the result of the settlement policy.

In that context, the Palestinian Authority fi nds itself threatened both financially and politically. The reforms that have prepared the way for a functioning State in Palestine are being undermined by an unprecedented financial crisis. Europe alone has maintained its financial support for the Palestinian Authority. France has just provided €10 million in additional budgetary support, but we cannot shoulder alone the responsibilities of the international community. While the recent facilitations agreed to by Israel, in particular regarding tax collection, are welcome, they do not ref lect the structural needs of the Palestinian Authority. Undermining those who advocate peace, as we find happening today, opens the door to those who advocate violence. We condemn without reservation the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, but we also condemn the violence committed by the settlers against the Palestinian people and the holy sites on an ongoing basis.

It has taken this long for all of the actors to recognize the two-State solution. The international community cannot remain indifferent to the ongoing undermining of that process on the ground. We must act, but how? The solution is well known, but it must be implemented. We must first define, based on United Nations resolutions and previous negotiations, a framework of parameters that allows for credible negotiations between the parties. Europe has already made its contribution in that regard. On that basis, the parties should be brought to make the necessary compromises with the needed support of the international community.

We must react, but when? We cannot wait any longer. The situation I have outlined does not allow us to. It also requires a clear timetable along with those parameters.

Who should react? The Quartet has failed. We must revisit the use of the Security Council, which remains the natural forum for bringing together the efforts of the international community that are necessary, given the scope of the task.

To conclude, I should like to return to the words of President Abbas to the General Assembly. This is perhaps our last chance, he said. Yes, it is perhaps our last chance to implement the two-State solution. It is perhaps also our last chance to change the bloody trajectory on which the Syrian authorities are dragging their people and the region. In both cases, it would be irresponsible to not seize this last opportunity, and the Council should contribute to those efforts.

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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