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19 July 2012 - Security Council - Syria - Explanation of vote by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations


I had hoped that I wouldn’t need to give you this sad litany.

On 4 October 2011, the crackdown in Syria had already resulted in 3,000 deaths. Russia and China used their first veto to block the Council’s action.

On 4 February 2012, 6,000 Syrians had been killed by the regime. Russia and China used their second veto to block the Council’s action.

Today, 19 July, we’re now mourning, together with the Syrian people, the death of 17,000 people – men, women and children – and Russia and China have just used their third veto to block the Council’s action.

Since the double veto in February, we’ve done everything possible to ensure the emergence within the international community of a concerted approach capable of responding to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for democracy, the rule of law and the respect of their fundamental rights.

We have tried to bring the international community together around the mission of the Joint Special Envoy, Mr Kofi Annan. UNSCRs 2042 and 2043 were adopted on the basis of his proposals. An observer mission was deployed on the ground. A transition plan was agreed in Geneva on 30 June, a plan in which we recognized, with Russia and China, the right of the Syrian people to have a democratic future, with credible and legitimate leaders whom they would have chosen themselves.

It’s now clear that Russia seeks only to give the Syrian regime more time to crush the opposition.

Over the past 17 months – during which 17,000 people have died – Russia and China have advocated gentle pressure and diplomatic contacts and have allowed the parties to assume sole responsibility for the process to be implemented. Contacts with President Assad are systematically deemed to be encouraging. The only urgent need that is recognized is the need to wait, and it seems we’re always too harsh on bloody dictators.

But let’s look at the facts: the provisions adopted by this Council have been systematically violated by the Syrian regime, which hasn’t even begun to implement any of its commitments.

Since 21 March, the Council has been calling on the Syrian authorities to stop using heavy weapons and to withdraw their troops from the cities. And since then, civilians have been crushed under heavy artillery shelling, under attacks by combat helicopters. The Secretary-General’s report of 6 June clearly noted the intensification of the attacks against civilians. And between bombings the regime sends its sinister militia to cut people’s throats, kidnap, rape and strike collective sectarian into civilians.

In response, the UN Secretary-General and the Joint Special Envoy urged the Security Council to enforce its decisions. This message was repeated by the Secretary-General of the Arab League right here a month ago, and by the 107 countries that met in Paris in the framework of the Friends of the Syrian People group on 6 July. This simple message has just met with the vetoes of China and Russia.

Our draft text established a threat of sanctions. It gave the Syrian regime 10 days to finally uphold its commitments. Ten days is a long time when a single decision is enough to put an end to the use of heavy weapons in civilian neighbourhoods; it’s too long when an additional 100 people are dying every day. It was then up to the Council to see whether or not its decisions had been implemented. It was then up to the Council to choose the sanctions it deemed necessary. The Council therefore remained responsible for the next steps.

People will say that this veto is the result of a disagreement on how to achieve a shared objective; that would be wrong.

Russia and China are now vetoing the entire legislative framework that we’ve laboriously put together over the last few months in order to achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis. We can’t just confine ourselves to endlessly calling for a political transition; we must create a dynamic for a credible transition. To refuse to give Mr Kofi Annan the tools he’s asking for to exert pressure for the road map we entrusted to him in New York and Geneva to be implemented is to jeopardize his very mission. Let there be no illusions about who is responsible.

This third veto over Syria means that, for Russia and China, there will be no consequences if the Syrian regime does not comply with its obligations. That the crimes will go unpunished. That the perpetrators will be able to continue pursuing their sickening objectives. That the legitimate aspirations of the people can be scorned. That the victims are considered dispensable.

History will show that they are wrong; history will judge them. It has already started to do so at this very moment in Damascus.

We arrived at a veto situation consciously and in full knowledge of the facts. We couldn’t be complicit in a strategy that combines the pretence of diplomatic action and de facto paralysis. That would have meant disregarding our responsibility as a permanent member of this Council, disregarding the credibility of this forum – which cannot be used to shield impunity – and disregarding the Syrian people.

I should now like to turn my thoughts to those women and men in Syria who continue to uphold their ideal of freedom, despite their suffering. France pays tribute to them. As I said on 4 February and I repeat: no, once again the double veto will not stop us. We will continue to support the Syrian opposition on the path of democratic transition. In all forums, France is determined to work tirelessly with those who share her values – and the meeting in Paris showed that there are many – in order to end the violence perpetrated by the regime against the people, in order to ensure that the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people are carried through swiftly and justly, and in order to ensure that those responsible for the crimes, and their accomplices, are brought to justice.

This double veto leaves the Security Council disarmed amid the violence of the Assad regime, but France will not leave the Syrian people alone in the face of the crimes being committed against them. Thank you.

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