We are meeting today so that the Security Council may assume its responsibilities toward a suffering people in a region where peace is threatened by the bloody abuses of a regime on its last legs. Our Council’s months-long silence is unacceptable. It is to the Arab League’s credit that it has come here to urge the Council to resume its efforts. France solemnly calls on the Security Council, to be worthy of the mission entrusted to it by the UN Charter, to come to the rescue of a people and a region who want nothing but peace and respect for their dignity.
The Arab League is taking action and going as far as it can to respond to the demands of the situation: suspending Syria from the League, sending a monitoring mission, defining a political transition plan. I want to pay tribute to the League’s courageous commitment in the Syrian conflict. I applaud the presence here today of its Secretary General, Nabil al-Arabi, and the Prime Minister of Qatar, Hamad Ben Jassem, and I thank them for their presentation. I also welcome the decision by the Kingdom of Morocco to present the draft resolution that France fully supports. Finally, I want to hail the collective effort of all the nations of the Arab League: I am well aware that decisions on the situation in Syria are particularly difficult to take and to implement for certain countries, notably given their geographical proximity to Damascus.
Today, I repeat, we are meeting in order to end this Council’s shameful silence. I am indeed using the word “shameful” and I will try to explain my use of this adjective.
What is the situation in Syria today? A people rose up to defend its freedom. Words are no longer enough to describe the horror of a brutal crackdown. To say it is worsening, to say it is tragic, is nothing close to reality.. There have been at least 5,400 deaths, according to the UN! 384 children have been killed according to UNICEF! 15 000 prisoners !15 000 refugees ! A daily torture !
I have long characterized some of the regime’s actions as crimes against humanity. The International Commission of Inquiry established by the Commission on Human Rights has confirmed this description. But beyond the numbers, it is the faces of tortured children, the bodies of abused women, the thousands of human beings who are victims of the crackdown that must guide our efforts. The humanitarian situation each day deteriorates a bit further: How much horror must there be for the Security Council to demand the cessation of human rights violations and the free access for humanitarian aid?
Each State has the responsibility to protect its civilian population. Not content with failing to protect its people, the Syrian regime despicably massacres them without restraint. This behavior has direct consequences on international peace and security: thousands of refugees are fleeing the fighting, violations of the sovereignty of neighboring states, heightened ethnic tensions, so many direct repercussions on the stability of an already fragile region. Without even mentioning the responsibility to protect, these regional consequences are enough to establish the Security Council’s responsibility.
How is this even debatable? France has repeatedly called on this Council to take decisions, to work on them and submit them to a vote. Unsuccessfully, if we leave aside the presidential statement of August 3. Is that acceptable? I don’t think so. Is it shameful? I am convinced of it.
Of course, we have continued our efforts despite this silence. Eleven times, the European Union has stepped up sanctions on the regime and its protagonists. France has worked very hard on this. We have established ties with the peaceful opposition: on several occasions, I met with the leaders of the Syrian National Council, which is to us a legitimate interlocutor, and whose efforts at unifying the opposition I salute.
But our efforts, determined as they may be, those of the European Union, those of the Arab League, cannot replace those of this Council. Through the legitimacy instilled in it by the UN Charter, it is the Council that can authoritatively express the will of the international community. The Security Council is the cornerstone of international peace and security. To remain so, it has a duty to speak out in cases as grave as that of Syria.
How? By adopting the draft resolution brought by Morocco swiftly and with broad support. This provides for our Council’s support for the Arab League, which on the strength of the crucial involvement of regional actors, is today the only body offering realistic prospects for a political settlement.
There are two key points in this text:
First of all, it unequivocally condemns the crackdown that the regime is imposing, without falling into the trap of drawing a false parallel between this and the actions of the opposition members on the ground. A small number of people may resort to violence, but the overwhelming majority of Syrians courageously take to the streets every day unarmed in the face of the regime’s indiscriminate violence. We must bow our heads in respect for these men and women, these Syrians who march for their freedom every day knowing that they could be shot dead at any moment in the crackdown.
Since he has been mentioned, I would like to bow my head to the memory of Gilles Jacquier, the French journalist killed in the line of duty. I won’t allow his death to be instrumentalized. It was the Syrian authorities’ duty to provide him the protection needed. I understand that it has not been the case. As for the report of the Commission on the Observation Mission that has been distributed, it does not clearly state the origin of the exchanges of fire which killed my compatriot. Even though the mission indicates that the journalist was killed by mortar fires fired by the opposition, this theory has not been confirmed by the Arab League and we are still waiting from the Syrian authorities that they shed full light on this issue. .
Second key point: this draft resolution allows the Council to lend its support to the 3 main components of the Arab League’s initiative: the demand for an end to the violence; the demand that the observers be given free access; and above all, for the first time, the definition of a credible political transition process. It will be up to the Arab League to implement it. Our responsibility lies in helping them to do so, by conveying to the Syrian regime the clear message that the international community is united behind the Arab efforts.
Certainly, we would have wanted the Security Council to go further. But we need a swift response which will finally provide a way to resolve this terrible crisis. We are therefore ready, right now, to vote in favor of the text proposed by Morocco.
People have made comparisons with the conflict in Libya. This is a mere pretext They’re claiming that there’s a plan directed toward a military intervention in Syria. This is a chimera. Nothing, absolutely nothing in the draft resolution circulated to the Security Council members by the Permanent Representative of Morocco can be interpreted as an authorization to use force. This draft resolution doesn’t come under Chapter VII. We are not preparing a military intervention.
The tragic situation faced by the Syrian people is more than enough to justify our action. Our objective is simple: to find a peaceful solution to the crisis which will allow this people to express their aspirations freely. I say to the Syrian people, to its various components, and no one else: we don’t have any intention of imposing from the outside any kind of political regime. It will be up to the Syrians to freely do that.
The Arab League is offering the only viable perspective for achieving this objective. We have to take it. We need to work out our differences and support the plan now being presented to us. We must live up to our responsibilities, to our political and moral duty imposed on us by the Syrian people’s peaceful uprising inspired by the momentum of the Arab Springs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Time is of the essence. In less than a year, the crackdown has resulted in more than 5,000 deaths. Every week lost leads to hundreds more deaths; every day lost leads to dozens of deaths. In memory of all the victims, I urge the members of this Council to vote without delay in favor of this text to launch a political process that will put an end to the Syrian nightmare.