29 April 2014 - Security Council - The situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
I thank Mr. Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, for his briefing.
I will address in order the following topics: the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the situation in Syria, and finally Lebanon.
After nine months of intensive efforts, the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are now suspended. We are at the end of the nine-month period envisaged by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and United States Secretary of State John Kerry to reach a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Kerry and his team have spared no effort to advance the negotiations. We welcome that outstanding commitment.
Despite those efforts, non-compliance with commitments made in July resulted in the suspension of talks, following a scenario that has been repeated many times over the past 20 years. On the one hand, the fourth group of pre-Oslo prisoners was not released; on the other, the Palestinian Authority joined 15 international conventions. The announcement of a freeze of payments of taxes and customs duties collected by Israel to the Palestinian Authority exacerbates the impasse and poses a major threat to the stability of the Palestinian territories.
Those developments have occurred while the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. Settlement has continued and accelerated; it more than doubled in 2013. Tensions worsened in Jerusalem, including on the Temple Mount and around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Motivated by its historical responsibilities with respect to Christians in the Holy Land, France reaffirms its commitment to respect for places of worship, to which access must be guaranteed, particular during Easter, the most sacred period in the Christian calendar.
It is in that context of crisis that the inter-Palestinian reconciliation agreement was concluded. We believe that the agreement could be a real opportunity, if it results, as announced by President Abbas, in the formation of a national consensus Government composed of independent personalities, under his direct authority, and in the organization of elections in the Palestinian territories. It is not possible, on the one hand, to assert that Israeli-Palestinian agreement is impossible as long as the split between the two Palestinian movements persists, and on the other hand, to consider the inter-Palestinian reconciliation to be an obstacle when it occurs.
France is ready to work with a Government of the Palestinian Authority as long as it clearly expresses its rejection of violence, its commitment to the peace process and acceptance of all agreements, in particular with Israel. Reconciliation defined on that basis would be a step towards achieving a two-State solution.
The talks today are merely suspended. Mr. Abbas has undertaken before the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization that the future Government
rejects violence and recognize Israel. He has made a significant gesture of opening by publicly acknowledging for the first time that “the Holocaust was the most heinous crime in modern history”. Those statements must be put to his credit, as they are a gesture of openness that can serve as a basis for the resumption of dialogue between the parties and to the revival of the peace efforts.
We have just heard yet again from both sides the same arguments that try to pin the responsibility for the stalemate on the other. In truth, that repeated rhetoric, Council meeting after Council meeting, underlines once again — as if that were necessary — that the two parties are incapable of moving towards peace by themselves, even if the United States supports their efforts. Sooner or later, we will have to conclude that either we have to give up and leave the conflict to them or the international community will have to decide to intervene with all its weight to reach an agreement whose fundamental parameters are, after all, well known. It is a paradox that, on the one hand, we are able to draft a possible peace treaty in broad strokes, whereas, on the other, every peace initiative has failed one after another.
I now turn to Syria, where the regime adds the absurdity of a parody of a presidential election to the infamy of the denial of humanitarian access. The second progress report of the implementation of the resolution 2139 (2014) presented last week is incontrovertible (S/2014/295). The situation of the civilian population has not improved. The sieges of the cities, three-quarters of which have been led by the regime, have not been suspended or even cut back. Indiscriminate bombing and the policy of terror against civilians continue. All of that is unacceptable.
At the political level, despite calls by Joint Special Representative Brahimi and the Secretary-General himself, Bashar Al-Assad will hold his triumphant re-election on 3 June, when the tragic parody of a presidential election will take place. The decision to hold such an election is contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/523, annex). Meanwhile, civilians continue to be bombed and massacred. No legitimacy will come out of that phantom election in a country devastated, which takes Syria further and further away from a political solution.
France shares the concern of everyone, as expressed by Ms. Kaag last week, with respect to the alleged use of chlorine gas in Kfar Zita which caused several casualties and many wounded. It goes without saying that the responsible party for the use of chemicals will be held to account, as required by resolution 2118 (2013). I would remind the Council that we want all those who have committed mass crimes in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court for judgement. We are continuing our efforts in that direction.
Finally, we must also send a message of support for Lebanon. In the light of the Syrian crisis, France welcomes the generosity of Lebanon and acknowledges the burden it has taken on in hosting more than a million refugees. It also notes that violations of civil peace in Lebanon and its sovereignty are unacceptable. Lebanon must not be drawn into the cycle of the Syrian civil war. We also recall the importance of the fight against impunity and welcome in that respect the role of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
We are pleased that the National Unity Government formed on 15 February was sworn in by the Parliament and that the latter has resumed its legislative activity. We welcome the new momentum in relaunching institutions, which should be sustained and consolidated, so that Lebanon can meet the enormous challenges it faces. In that context, it is crucial that the Council reiterate its support for the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon by calling for presidential elections to be held on schedule, in accordance with the procedures and the Constitution and recalling the importance of avoiding any vacuum at the head of the Lebanese State; by supporting the dissociation policy initiated by President Sleiman which should provide a framework for the future; and calling on the international community to mobilize alongside Lebanon so that it can cope with its crisis on its own.
The meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon in Paris on 5 March allowed for the reaffirmation of the international consensus in favour of unity, stability and sovereignty of Lebanon and for the reiteration of its support for Lebanon as it deals with the multiple impacts of the conflict in Syria. That commitment should be continued in humanitarian, economic and security spheres.