In Sudan, especially in Abyei and South Kordofan, we have heard reports by the churches, by NGOs about violence against civilians. France has requested a meeting of the Security Council to hear a humanitarian report about the situation in South Kordofan especially, because on Monday the Security Council is going to meet to discuss about the political issues, the political discussions that are ongoing. All the members of the Security Council expressed the hope that Special Representative Haile Menkerios and President Mbeki will succeed in getting a settlement with the Sudanese government about the status of Abyei and Southern Kordofan.
I think it was an important message, first to discuss with our friend from DPKO, Alain Le Roy, to make sure that the UNMIS was really doing its job to protect the civilians. It’s always a very difficult situation when suddenly the two sides are fighting. It’s always a difficult moment for the peacekeeping force to do the job, the protection of civilians. We have been told that, around the UNMIS compound, Kadugli was one of the focuses of the fighting. We were told by an Anglican bishop that the cathedral has been razed, churches have been burned. It’s important that the compound of UNMIS can become a sort of safe area where civilians are effectively protected. We have been reassured that instructions have been sent to UNMIS to do their job. DPKO has also told us that one supplementary company of Bangladeshi soldiers has been sent to reinforce the protection of the areas. It is a really important element and we have really insisted on that.
Alain Leroy has told us that several times a day the Chief of the office of the military affairs, General Gaye, is in contact with the Force Commander, who is himself in contact with the Sector Commander. We wanted to make sure that we were doing our utmost and we have also on the side of the OCHA information about what they are trying to do. We also have the responsibility of the safety of the UN personnel. We were also informed about the way they are trying to do their utmost to know where are the expatriates as well as the local personnel, to get in touch with them, in this difficult situation. So it was an expression of our concern and an expression of our worries about the humanitarian situation. NGOs’ reports were very worrying, so we wanted to have information.
I insist that the release will be on Monday because people are telling us that the political process is ongoing. We do hope to reach an agreement ; we do feel that this is necessary and we also support what President Mbeki and Haile Menkerios are trying to do. France considers that on Monday, the Council will have to take its responsibility if we have an agreement, inch’allah. Let’s hope we have an agreement. But if we don’t have an agreement, I think the Council will have to express itself in very strong terms to call for an end to the violence that the civilians are suffering from. Last point, we have to think of political points in the mid-term. On 9 July, the South of Sudan will be independent and it is important to solve these issues because if we don’t solve them right now, after the 9th of July, there is a danger that the situation could escalate between the two States, North and South Sudan.
Q. Did you discuss if a peacekeeper’s battalion declined to come out of its base ?
We asked DPKO about the instructions that were made to UNMIS and a question was specifically asked whether all the instructions had been followed. Alain told us "yes, they have always been followed." The only example - which was an example where the personnel was requested to evacuate, so it’s not a question of protection - was when the personnel hesitated for a few hours because of their own safety on the ground. So it was the only example. According to DPKO, the chain of command has worked all during the crisis.
Q. About Syria, what are you going to do ?
For the moment there is nothing new on Syria. The situation is exactly where it was, unfortunately I should say. So I really don’t know what we are going to do. It will be decided at the highest political level in the capitals. We still do think that the Council has to react. The situation is not improving, the situation is worsening. We do think the Council should express itself, and we regret that it has not done so so far.
Q. The South African Foreign minister said there are some statements insinuating regime change in Syria. Is it the case ?
Of course not. You know the text that was circulated. Everybody has the text. You read the text, there is nothing more than the text, and there is nothing about regime change in Libya.