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13 July 2009 - Security Council: Burma - Statement by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(translation of statement made in French)

At the outset, I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his briefing and the Permanent Representative of Burma for his statement, to which I listened with great attention. It was essential for the Council to be informed without delay of the results of the mission of the Secretary-General at time when the development of the situation in Burma continues to be a matter of major concern for the international community.

I also wish to congratulate the Secretary-General on his courageous, determined and tenacious commitment on this issue. He went to Burma with our support and clearly aware of the difficulties of his mission, in order to convey the expectations of the international community to the Burmese authorities. Unfortunately, as he recalled, they refused to cooperate. Among other things, they did not allow him to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and refused any substantive dialogue. The authorities thus lost an opportunity to show their desire to undertake genuine national reconciliation and a process of democratization. It is not after the visit of the Secretary-General that one should come before the Council to state that one is ready for dialogue and reconciliation; it was before and during the Secretary-General’s visit that that should have been done.

The international community has shown its readiness to work in a constructive manner with Burma in supporting the political process, but also to support the economic and social development of the country with strict respect for its sovereignty and its territorial integrity. That is the message of goodwill that the Secretary-General carried. The hand he held out was ignored.

The authorities’ unwillingness to consider the Secretary-General’s proposals continues to raise questions about the attitude of the Burmese authorities in general, since the repression of the democratic movement in autumn 2007. In its presidential statement of 11 October 2007 (S/PRST/2007/37), the Council set forth clear and precise expectations unanimously. Those demands were reaffirmed in May 2008 and May 2009.

Almost two years after they were first expressed, where do we stand in terms of their achievement? The first expectation was the timely release of all political prisoners. What have we seen? First, the number of those prisoners has continued to increase, in spite of a handful of releases. New promises have been made, including today, with respect to the release of some, but not all prisoners. Here we recall that the demands of the Council were for the release of all political prisoners.

Next, although the appeal for the release of political prisoners concerned, of course, Ms. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who continues to be detained since 2003, instead of freeing her the authorities arrested her in May and launched a political trial against her without any justification, to the consternation of the rest of the world, including the friends of Burma. The fact that the announcement of the verdict is continually being delayed clearly demonstrates the embarrassment of a regime at the weakness of the so-called charges against the head of the opposition and — as my colleague from Great Britain recalled — the only political leader in Burma to have won an election democratically.

The second demand of the Council was for the launch of a genuine dialogue among the Government, Ms. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the other concerned parties and ethnic groups, with a view to inclusive national reconciliation. Instead of initiating that dialogue, the authorities chose a policy of fait accompli, by unilaterally implementing a so-called road map. That strategy led to increased polarization within the country.

The third demand of the Security Council bore on cooperation with the United Nations. After several visits by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari — whose efforts and tenacity I commend — the Secretary-General went to Burma to offer assistance in the political, economic and humanitarian areas. No response was given to his suggestions, which were made in a constructive spirit.

The Security Council has shown great patience with respect to those various demands. We are ready to actively support change, howsoever gradual, in the right direction. It must be noted that not only have the Burmese authorities done nothing to respond to the demands of the Council, but that, over the past few months, they have taken decisions that run directly counter to those demands.

We all know that the Burmese crisis goes beyond the political dimension. The country is facing enormous economic, social and governance challenges. A response to the needs of the population in all of those areas is urgently needed.

The European Union is a major actor in humanitarian and development assistance. It has continually shown its readiness to revise its common position as the situation evolves. The onset of a genuine political process leading to national reconciliation continues, however, to be a necessary precondition to positive momentum in all areas. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an essential and irreplaceable actor in that process. Her detention is intolerable, illegal and an obstacle to dialogue. Without the prior liberation of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, any electoral process would be nothing but a parody of democracy aimed at legitimizing a fait accompli.

The current impasse is not a reason for the Council to sit back and do nothing and we agree with the Secretary-General on that point. France also encourages the Special Adviser to continue his efforts; however, those efforts can be successful only if the international community, in particular regional actors, works actively in favour of change. The Security Council must continue to follow the situation and to clearly remind the Burmese authorities of the need to implement the demands made of them. The Council must respond firmly if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is condemned.

We are committed to unity in the Council. However, the price of unity must not be inaction. We cannot risk further deterioration of the situation, which could contribute to instability in the country and the entire region.

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