12 April 2017 - Syria: France is devastated by the result of today’s voting [fr]
Syria chemical / rejection of resolution - Explanation of vote by François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 12 April 2017
France is devastated by the result of today’s voting. We deeply deplore the fact that, thanks to another Russian veto, the Security Council has been unable to agree on a simple, balanced draft resolution condemning and seeking to throw light on what happened at Khan Shaykhun. We nonetheless strove to engage in discussion of the draft in good faith. We have failed yet again to measure up to the responsibility that we have assigned ourselves and to the fundamental values that we are supposed to support and ensure respect for. Almost four years after the Ghouta massacre in August 2013, the Council has taken a terrible step backwards.
The attack on Khan Shaykhun would appear to be the latest example of the abject duplicity of a hard-line regime. Once again, everything about it points to the Damascus regime’s clear responsibility for the attack. Through it, the Syrian regime has crossed another threshold of horror and of scorn for the most basic standards and elementary principles of humanity, which, as we have seen, it has continued to flout.
France has always said, not as an ideological statement but because the evidence tells us so, that the Middle East will never have peace and security as long as a regime exists that is guilty of committing war crimes, indeed crimes against humanity, in order to maintain its hold on power. That regime slaughters its own population on the pretext of fighting terrorism, while continuing to fan the flames of Da’esh.
After the attack on 4 April, a military installation of the Syrian regime that had been used for chemical bombardments was destroyed by United States air strikes. The American operation was a legitimate response to a mass crime that could not go unpunished. Bashar Al-Assad, as we have reiterated on many occasions, bears full responsibility for this development.
Russia’s veto on 28 February of a draft resolution aimed at punishing those responsible for the chemical attacks committed several years ago already represented a dangerous indication of looming impunity. The massacre in Khan Shaykhoun should have acted as a wake-up call to all of us about our responsibilities. How can those who claim to be committed to the non-proliferation regime and the fight against impunity reject the evidence before them? How is it possible to repeatedly and in such a systematic manner evade the issue of the barbaric use of weapons of mass destruction targeting innocent people? Nothing can justify averting one’s eyes from such atrocities, or dissembling, or attempting to assign blame elsewhere and trying to impose counter-narratives on the world.
France will not resign itself to the notion of the Council’s impotence that some seek to impose on it. We will lend our full support to the work of United Nations and OPCW mechanisms, including in their efforts to shed light on the circumstances of the attack. We must also fully support the OPCW team responsible for the inquiry into the initial Syrian declaration. Our goal will continue to be the dismantling of the Syrian chemical-weapons programme.
France will not accept impunity for those responsible for the atrocities committed in Syria. We will spare no effort to ensure that sooner or later the perpetrators answer for their crimes. France will also work to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, which is vital for our collective security and which the Council has to date always sought to uphold.
The initiative undertaken by France, along with Mexico, on limiting the use of the veto in the case of mass atrocities is aimed at precisely situations of this kind. It is now clearly more topical than ever and reflective of our concerns.
This tragedy is yet another reminder of the fact that only a genuine political transition will allow us to guarantee peace and security for the Syrian people and a return to stability in the Middle East. We cannot wait for other crimes to be added to the long list of abuses committed by the Syrian regime, which no one, not even its closest supporters, can justify any longer.
We cannot simply give up. We owe it to the victims of this heinous chemical attack, and, more broadly speaking, to all of the victims of the Syrian tragedy. In that context, despite the fact that the veto was wielded once again today, France solemnly calls on all the members of the Security Council to come together and set aside political divisions and national interests in order to establish once again a complete ban on chemical weapons and to help bring about, on an urgent basis, a political transition in Syria, in line with resolution 2254 and the Geneva communiqué. Let us live up to our responsibilities before the judgment of history.