24 October 2011 - Security Council
Debate on the Middle East - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
I would like to thank Mr. Lynn Pascoe for his speech. I will address the following points:
Three months ago France expressed the hope here that the legitimate aspirations expressed by the people of the region for freedom and democracy would be swiftly and peacefully realized.
Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya now face many challenges in building a democracy while ensuring civil harmony and respecting pluralism; France will continue to lend them its full support. We welcome the fact that the Tunisians turned out in great numbers at the polls to express their views on the political future of their country. A new page is also being turned for Libya, where we urge the National Transitional Council to continue to work towards achieving a democratic and pluralist Libya while respecting the rule of law, the fight against impunity and fundamental freedoms.
In Yemen, we hope that a peaceful political transition can take place immediately. This Council assumed its responsibilities by urging President Saleh on Friday to engage in a peaceful transfer of power, based on the GCC initiative.
In Syria, the leaders who have lost all legitimacy are clinging to power, dragging their country into a bloody downward spiral. The Syrian people are already mourning the death of more than 3,000 people; tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators have been snatched from their families, held in secret, tortured. Those responsible for this violence will be held accountable for their acts. The crackdown must stop in order to allow Syria to engage in a peaceful transition process that responds to the aspirations of the Syrian people. This is the only way to restore stability in Syria and to preserve the stability of the region, which is threatened by Syrian incursions into Lebanon, the influx of refugees into neighboring countries, as well as the Syrian regime’s attempt to exploit Palestinian demands.
The members of the Security Council which opposed a draft resolution or which didn’t vote in favor of it should explain to history, to the Syrian people, to the international community and to their own populations what they’re proposing - in concrete terms - in order to put an end to the bloodshed. The time for talking is over since the regime is not listening; it’s time for action. Inaction on the part of the Security Council means supporting Assad’s regime, it means choosing his side; the Syrian people have realized that.
In this volatile context, it’s vital that, with respect to Lebanon, the parties demonstrate the utmost restraint and continue to cooperate within the framework of the Tripartite Committee in order to avoid any further increase in tensions along the Blue Line. We renew our appeal to the Lebanese government to comply with all its international obligations, in particular those relating to the Special Tribunal and resolution 1701.
The Palestinian people’s demands are no less legitimate than those expressed in the rest of the region. The Palestinian people’s demand for the establishment of a Palestinian State is legitimate and normal while the two-State solution for two peoples and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination have the full consensus of the international community.
It’s in this context that President Abbas submitted an application for full membership of the UN on September 23. I will not elaborate on the examination of this request which is still in progress within the admissions committee and which will soon be addressed in a report at the Security Council.
But everyone knows that the path toward UN membership is now strewn with obstacles. That’s why on September 21 President Sarkozy proposed an intermediate step that could constitute tangible progress for the Palestinians by enhancing the status of Palestine at the United Nations to that of Observer State. This is the best chance we have now of breaking the current deadlock.
A tangible response to the Palestinian demands requires the creation of political conditions that would allow the establishment of this Palestinian State on the ground, and that’s what we must make a priority.
In order to achieve that, President Sarkozy called for a change of method. The call for this change of method is based on the conviction that forgoing multilateral forums, like that of the Security Council, or the support of partners – regional and European partners in particular – doesn’t work. It was also a matter of underlining the need for a credible framework, such as the parameters defined by the Europeans here in February or those set out by President Obama in May. A credible framework that should be based on a detailed negotiation timetable, in order to allow the parties to resume negotiations on a sound basis and thus remove the preconditions.
On September 23, the Quartet established this negotiation timetable. We welcome the fact that the parties responded positively to it. In two days’ time, the Palestinian and Israeli representatives will meet the members of the Quartet in Jerusalem for a new attempt to relaunch direct negotiations, which would begin with a new phase devoted to borders and security and which would result in an agreement on all final status issues in a year. The chances of success are low given that the trust between the parties has been shattered and that’s why the international community must join forces and unanimously urge both parties to avoid provocative actions. France proposes holding a donors’ conference in Paris which would help relaunch the process and support the consolidation of the Palestinian institutions.
In this context we once again condemn the latest announcements relating to the expansion of Israeli settlements which undermine these efforts and constitute an obstacle to the two-State solution. Construction plans in Gilo were approved immediately following the Quartet statement. A new project in Givat Hamatos was then announced. This project threatens the contiguity of the Palestinian Territories and the West Bank, and therefore threatens the achievement of the two-State solution, of which Jerusalem is destined to be the capital. This announcement seems not only to be a provocation that undermines trust, but seems to be part of a deliberate attempt to make the establishment of a Palestinian State impossible. How many times must we say and repeat this: settlement activity in the West Bank as well as in East Jerusalem is a clear violation of international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions. Israel must stop all settlement activity and abandon the projects announced. In the same spirit, we can only condemn a decision to legalize outposts. Settlement activity now represents a clear sign of conflict, the concrete refusal to engage in any discussion on the desire to seek a peaceful solution.
However, we welcome the agreement that led to the release of Gilad Shalit and Palestinian prisoners. We hope that this agreement will make it possible to advance the process of Palestinian reconciliation, under the authority of President Abbas and within the framework of the commitments made by the PLO and reaffirmed on September 21 at the General Assembly. Since we can’t leave Gaza out of the efforts to lay the concrete foundations of a Palestinian State. As such, the full implementation of resolution 1860 remains crucial; it should involve the lifting of the blockade imposed on the civilian population of Gaza and the cessation of the unacceptable rocket attacks against Israel.
The people of the region are claiming the right to express their opinions and to have a role in controlling their destiny. This Council heeded that call in the case of Libya and Yemen, and it responded clearly. The situation in Syria should not be handled any differently and this Council must put an end to its silence, its inaction, and its complacency in order to exert the necessary pressure on the Syrian regime. Lastly, in conclusion, I would like to quote President Sarkozy in his speech to the General Assembly, “the spring of the Arab peoples imposes upon us a moral and political obligation to finally resolve the Middle East conflict.” This Council, whose mandate under the UN Charter is to maintain peace and international security, cannot, as a matter of principle, be excluded from this.