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25 March 2009 - Security Council : Open debate on the situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent representative of France to the United Nations

(UN translation)

First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for his presentation. It is up to the nations of the region and the international community to ensure that the current transition period in the region, as described by Mr. Pascoe, makes it possible to lay the cornerstones of peace in the Middle East. As President Sarkozy has said, peace is possible, even if it demands painful concessions and real political courage. Allow me to raise three main points:

1. With respect to the situation in Gaza, and this will be my first point, consolidating the cease-fire through the full implementation of resolution 1860 remains the chief priority: Resolution 1860 established the main parameters for a lasting cease-fire, notably the reopening of crossing points and the establishment of mechanisms to put an end to arms smuggling. In this regard, we support the Egyptian efforts and call on the parties to move swiftly toward an agreement.

France and the European Union are determined to assume all their responsibilities in support of the complete implementation of resolution 1860. The European Union has notably said it was ready to reactivate the EUBAM RAFAH mission as soon as conditions permit, and to study the possibility of extending its assistance to other crossings if security is guaranteed.

The question of opening crossing points is of course key to improving the humanitarian situation and carrying out the reconstruction of Gaza. In this regard, we applaud the Sharm el-Sheikh conference and the pledges of contributions that were announced there. It was important for that meeting to deal with Gaza as well as the entire Palestinian economy: This effort is in line with the Paris Conference and underscores the fact that the Palestinian Authority must oversee all reconstruction projects.

Mr. President, there is no military solution to the Gaza crisis. We have repeatedly condemned and continue to condemn the rocket fire. We have also condemned the Israeli military operations on the ground and the Israeli army’s bombardment of Palestinian hospitals and UNRWA buildings.

France believes that international humanitarian law must be respected everywhere, in all circumstances and by all parties to the conflict. In this context, we supported the UN Secretary-General’s decision to create a Board of inquiry, and we are waiting for its conclusions to be presented to the Security Council.

Along with the efforts mentioned above, we continue to call for the immediate, unconditional release of Gilad Shalit. We support the Egyptian mediation effort and are very closely monitoring the discussions under way.

2. My second point concerns the steps that the two parties must swiftly take to get the peace process back on track:

First, I want to stress the importance of inter-Palestinian reconciliation: The Palestinians must be able to speak with a single voice in order to get the peace process moving again. Indeed, there can be no peace agreement with just part of the Palestinian people, or a viable Palestinian state without Gaza. At a time when talks aimed at achieving an inter-Palestinian reconciliation are confronting numerous challenges, we continue to support the Egyptian mediation efforts.

We hope an important step can be taken, notably with a view to the Arab summit in Doha, toward inter-Palestinian reconciliation. Naturally, the countries of the region have an important role to play. When the time comes, we will be ready to work with a national unity government that respects the fundamental principles of the peace process and agrees to resume negotiations with Israel to achieve a two-state solution.

We also continue to offer our full backing to the Arab Peace Initiative, which shall constitute an essential basis for a comprehensive lasting resolution of the situation in the Middle East.

We have equally high expectations of the new Israeli authorities. Despite the international community’s repeated, unanimous calls, settlement activities continue. On top of this, we are now seeing a wave of demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. As the President of the Republic said, by complicating the prospects for a Palestinian State, settlements are not contributing to Israeli’s security but, on the contrary, are increasing the dangers. In order not to compromise the peace process, the time has come for Israel to make a strong gesture: Settlement activity must be completely frozen, in accordance with all the commitments that have been made since the adoption of the Road Map.

We support the resumption as soon as possible of talks between Israel and Syria, and their success is indispensable to stabilize the region.

Mr. President,

The factors I just mentioned will determine, in this crucial period for the Middle East, the progress made toward the necessary resumption of negotiations on the creation of a viable, secure, modern, independent and democratic Palestinian State living in peace alongside Israel within secure, recognized borders. Peace must be based on the land-for-peace principle, on UNSC resolutions, and on the Arab peace initiative. The international community and this Council have a role to play in this regard. While maintaining its conviction that peace must be negotiated first and foremost between Israelis and Palestinians, France is determined to take or support all useful initiatives.

3. Finally, Mr. President, let me conclude with a few words on the Lebanon situation: First of all, France welcomes the appointment of a Syrian ambassador to Beirut on March 24 in accordance with the commitment of the Syrian and Lebanese heads of state. After establishing diplomatic ties, opening embassies and appointing a Lebanese ambassador to Syria, this is a historic step in the normalization of relations between the two countries.

The French authorities also took advantage of President Sleimane’s state visit to Paris to reiterate their support for Lebanon and to reiterate their attachment to the implementation of the Doha agreement, which permitted the Lebanese to resume the path of dialogue and national reconciliation. My country expressed the wish, in this regard, that the June 7th legislative elections take place amid stability and a respect for democratic rules, and that they help consolidate Lebanon’s unity and independence, which we all value.

My country also welcomed the establishment, on March 1, of the Special Tribunal aimed at bringing an end to impunity and allowing justice to finally prevail in Lebanon. We also recalled the importance of nations’ continued cooperation with the prosecutor’s office, in keeping with Security Council resolution 1852.

Finally, speaking more generally, France remains attached to the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 1701. We attach particular attention to the reinforcement of tripartite cooperation under the aegis of UNIFIL on the ground, to the decommissioning of militia weapons in the framework of the national dialogue and to the strict adherence to the arms embargo, as well as to resolving the question of Ghajar. In due course, progress on the issue of Shebaa will be necessary. We support the work of the SGUN to that effect and we invite all parties to engage in a true "diplomatic process".

Thank you./.

(unofficial translation from the French)

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