24 January 2012 - Security Council
Situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
I thank Mr. Fernandez-Taranco for his briefing on the Middle East. It confirmed our concerns regarding the limited prospects for a resumption of the peace process, the continuing repression in Syria and the resulting and growing threats to the stability of the region.
We hail the diplomatic efforts conducted under the auspices of the King of Jordan, but our expectations are limited. The absence of a renewed method for bringing the parties back to the table is, for us, a serious stumbling block. For a year we have been asking that parameters adopted by the international community frame this resumption of negotiations by giving the parties a solid basis for trust. Neither the Quartet nor the Council has been able to achieve this objective. These failures have demonstrated that the will of the parties is not enough.
France believes that only a follow-up mechanism enlarged to include all stakeholders able to contribute to a definitive solution, including the United Nations and this Council, will enable the creation of the dynamic needed to resolve issues that touch on the foundations of Israeli and Palestinian national identity. That said, this is not to lift responsibilities from the parties themselves. It is to launch a call to all stakeholders, in this year laden with internal constraints, to make possible the emergence of conditions that will allow a credible resumption of peace talks.
The will of the parties is not enough, but it is essential. We were struck by the dangerous developments that characterized the situation on the ground in 2011, particularly the acceleration of Israeli settlement activity to a level not seen for a decade. Last 20 December, the four European members of this Council noted their concern regarding a systematic, premeditated and deliberate policy of illegal construction, contravening the vision of a two-State solution and in violation of international law and the resolutions of this Council. In the West Bank as well as in East Jerusalem, the Israeli authorities must immediately end this policy, which is a threat to the territorial and economic integrity of the future Palestinian State. Regarding the attempt to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank or the forced displacements of the Palestinian population in Area C, the changes in the demographic realities on the ground in violation of the Geneva Convention — as noted by my Azerbaijani colleague — must be condemned by the international community. We deplore that the Council has not been up to the task of issuing a judgment, of reasserting the principles at the heart of the two-State solution, when those principles are threatened.
In Gaza, a radical change in policy is also required. Ms. Amos indicated this to the Council. In
2011, the blockade, far from having been lifted as called for in resolution 1860 (2009), instead became stronger with the closure of the Karni crossing. The dependence of the economy of Gaza on international aid has been reinforced, as has the control of Hamas over the destiny of the population. It is not a question of compromising the security of Israel, which continues to be the target of rocket attacks, which we condemn. However, measures must be undertaken quickly to lighten the weight of the blockade on the people, who are held hostage. The viability of the political process also depends on our support for the partners in the peace process, in preserving their legitimacy, given the hopes expressed by their populations. France is committed to supporting the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in particular in the context of the Paris Conference, which contributed to efforts to build Palestinian institutions. But financial assistance, like the reforms implemented by Prime Minister Fayyad, come up against the lack of political perspectives. While President Abbas has revived efforts to foster Palestinian reconciliation, he must be supported be so that the principles of negotiation and peaceful settlement of conflict, endorsed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, may prevail.
I now to turn another topic of concern and indignation, and that is the situation in Syria. The repression led by the Syrian leaders against their people and the systematic and massive violations of human rights to suppress the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people continue with complete impunity. More than 5,500 Syrians have lost their lives since last March in what now can be characterized as crimes against humanity. The Syrian regime is dragging its people into chaos, and the entire region is threatened: refugees flow into neighbouring countries, Lebanese sovereignty is repeatedly challenged, fears for the future of minorities and of fragile religious equilibriums are growing, and there are known violations of the arms embargo imposed on Iran, with arms flowing to Syria. It is unacceptable that certain countries, including some in this Council, continue to provide the very means by which violence is committed against the Syrian people.
Given the silence of the Council, the Arab League has taken up the issue. It proposed an action plan to the Syrian regime last November and sent a monitoring mission to guarantee the implementation of the plan on the ground. This weekend, one month since the mission’s deployment, the Arab League could report only the failure of Damascus to uphold its obligations. None of the League’s four requirements — cessation of violence, withdrawal of armed forces from cities, release of political prisoners and free access to the international media — has been met. The Arab League has drawn the inevitable conclusions and called for a peaceful political transition by which President Bashar Al-Assad would hand over power.
We fully support the Arab League’s plan for resolving the crisis. It is the only way likely to return stability to Syria and to preserve stability in the region. We welcome the Arab League’s request that its Secretary-General, along with the Chair of the Interministerial Committee on Syria, be allowed to report to the Security Council on the situation. It is indeed crucial that the United Nations to provide all the necessary assistance to the regional organization concerned. It is still more necessary that the Security Council get past the blockages so as to underscore the legitimacy of this initiative by providing it unanimous support of the United Nations.
The Council’s ability to contribute to the resolution of these crises is also a matter of the credibility of its action at the regional level.
Lebanon, to which the Secretary-General has just paid a visit, is a country threatened by the spectre of the civil war unleashed in Syria. In this context, we call on the Lebanese authorities to continue to work with all the component parts of Lebanese society. We hail their commitment to respect all their international obligations, including those pertaining to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
In Egypt the people voted in elections that met the criteria for free democratic expression. The elections were an important step in the democratic transition, which must be continued. Power should be transferred to the elected civilian authorities. The rights of women and minorities, the rules of free democratic expression and the basic principle of rejecting all violence must all be upheld.
In conclusion, I appeal for consistent action on the part of the Security Council. The Arab Spring has brought unprecedented upheaval to the Middle East. The Council must necessarily adapt its actions to the new reality. We now have a moral obligation to address the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. That obligation underscores the absolute necessity for the Council to respond unanimously to the crisis in Syria, which is threatening the entire region. While the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council of Arab States are actively contributing to resolving the regional crises, it is a matter of the very legitimacy of the Security Council in the region for it to fully uphold its responsibilities to maintain international peace and security.