Promoting multilateralism in the face of crises in the Middle East [fr]
Comprehensive review of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa
Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 25 June 2018
At the outset, I would like to welcome and thank the Secretary-General for his personal commitment to resolving the crises in the Middle East.
I would also like to thank the Russian presidency for organizing this debate, in which I would like to explain the great principles that guide France’s action in the face of the multiplying regional crises. First is the goal of establishing inclusive and democratic governance, which is key to the stabilization of the Middle East. Next is combatting terrorism, which, today, is one of the greatest threats to international peace and security. Finally, there is a need to promote the multilateralism of the United Nations and the international legal framework.
Democratic, inclusive and pluralist governance in the Middle East is a precondition for any long-term stability in the region. There is no alternative to a political solution for conflicts in the Middle East. Regional conflicts are often the product of and are always fed by the lack of the rule of law and political openness. It is imperative to create the conditions for inclusive governance based on respect for human rights.
The case of Syria is an unfortunate and perfect example. The regime’s long years of dictatorship over its people created and nourished the conflict and fuelled radicalization. The regime’s choice of repression as a one-size-fits-all response to any dissent, its polices of sieges and forced displacement, and its recent legal expression under Law Number 10, cannot only lead to diminished stability. Today, the risk of regional escalation is real.
After seven years of war in Syria, only a political transition based on an inclusive intra-Syrian transition, in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015) will allow for an exit to the crisis and long-term stability. Any solution ignoring that dimension will not address the causes of the conflict. Neither France nor any of its partners will participate in financing the perpetuation of this unjust and unstable system. In order to achieve an inclusive political solution, all concerned parties, particularly small groups and the Astana guarantors, must band together in support of the mediation of the United Nations. France is working actively with its partners to implement a coordination mechanism between the two forums on the basis of three primary priorities: allowing the establishment of a constitutional committee that is balanced and effective; implementing confidence-building measures leading to conditions conducive to a political process; and preparing free and transparent elections in which all Syrians will participate.
We know that the vacuum left behind by the destruction of all political spaces favoured the emergence of terrorism in Syria, just as it did throughout the region. The fight against terrorism is the priority in our action in the Middle East. Da’esh, in recent months, has suffered significant military defeats in the Levant, thanks primarily to the action of the Global Coalition against Da’esh, in which France has participated since its creation. While the group has lost its essential territorial stronghold, the fight against Da’esh in Syria and Iraq is not yet over. In order to prevent the creation of sanctuaries, we most sustainably stabilize the regions liberated by the Coalition. The threat posed by Al-Qaida in the region is also far from over. It remains clearly present in the Arabian Peninsula.
Apart from the military effort, France believes that we should do better collectively in four areas in which France spares no effort. The first matter concerns the overwhelming number of foreign terrorist fighters. The second issue is combating financing for terrorism. That is why France organized an international conference on the topic in Paris from 25 to 26 April, which led to the international community adopting an ambitious agenda. The third area is the propagation of the ideology of terrorist groups, in particular through the Internet, where there is still progress to be made, in close partnership with the private sector. The fourth issue is fighting impunity for crimes committed by terrorist groups. Reaffirming the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons is essential, while not only the Syrian army but also the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant and in Iraq frequently resort to such weapons. Preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons and their spread to non-State actors requires above all strengthening the means available to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and establishing a new attribution mechanism to succeed the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism.
In Libya, as in the rest of the Middle East, lasting success against terrorist groups requires not only a political solution and a stabilization and reconciliation process but also strengthening and unifying national civil and security institutions under the control of civilian authorities. The national conference process launched by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General should make it possible to establish the conditions necessary for elections and for the main Libyan actors to commit to respecting the time frame established in Paris on 29 May, in close cooperation, of course, with Mr. Ghassan Salamé, who can count on our full and complete support. The international community must be unified in its support for the commitments made.
Terrorists are also fueled by organized crime, in particular all kinds of trafficking. In that perspective, the Security Council adopted individual sanctions against a number of migrant traffickers in Libya. In order to dry up the resources of criminal and terrorist groups, it is necessary to combat the economy of predation and criminalization in Libya, as well as elsewhere. Combating terrorist groups ultimately means seeking to put an end to the breeding grounds for recruitment by ensuring that a lack of prospects does not make a new generation vulnerable to their rhetoric.
In that regard, the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), among other entities, is exemplary. Let us bear that in mind a few hours from a pledging conference that will largely determine the possibility for UNRWA schools to open for the next school year. Everyone should very carefully weigh their responsibilities in that regard. Any space in the region left vacant by UNRWA will be filled by other actors, in particular in Gaza, where minors make up more than half the population.
I come to my last point. Given all the crises in the Middle East, it is more crucial than ever to ensure that our approach focuses on the international framework for crisis settlement through two pillars: promoting multilateralism and the role of the United Nations, on the one hand, and respect for international law, on the other hand. In that regard, the role of the Security Council is essential. We demonstrated that by adopting resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a result of the international community’s resolve and pragmatic and realistic multilateralism. France will continue to meet its responsibilities for as long as Iran fulfils its commitments. We also call for a response to our concerns with regard to the ballistic and regional activities of Iran. That is necessary for the security of the region.
However, the silence of the Council with regard to certain crises will compromise our collective credibility in the long term. After three conflicts over the past decade, the Gaza Strip has been on the brink of collapse and a new escalation for several months. In that regard, on several occasions we have called on the Security Council for a clear message that does not ignore either the responsibilities of Hamas or the obligations of Israel. We regret the fact that, to date, we have not been heard. However, we will not give up. The recent developments cannot be disassociated from the lack of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question. It is more necessary than ever to reaffirm the parameters of the two-State solution, to which there is no viable alternative and which is enshrined in a Council resolution. The ongoing settlement activity in all its forms destroys such a prospect on the ground. I am thinking in particular of the threat to the Khan Al-Ahmar community. The Security Council cannot abandon its responsibility. France stands ready to contribute to any new development in that regard.
In conflict situations, the role of the Council is to call on all warring parties to respect the relevant law. With regard to the situation in Yemen, we should remind the parties of the need to respect international humanitarian law and to protect civilians, in particular women and children. It is imperative that the parties ensure comprehensive and unimpeded humanitarian access, in cooperation with the United Nations, and protect the health infrastructure and personnel, as resolution 2286 (2016) underscores.
With regard to United Nations mediation, the Security Council has expressed its unanimous support for the work of Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and for his efforts to relaunch the peace negotiations. We remain convinced that the only lasting resolution of the crisis in Yemen is a political solution. That is why we should contribute and continue to call on the parties to engage in good-faith negotiations, facilitated by the United Nations, with a view to an inclusive political agreement.
France is convinced that respect for human rights and international humanitarian law is an essential precondition for lasting peace in the Middle East. Impunity for crimes should not and cannot be an exception regionally. All victims of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law deserve justice. The international community must work to that end, in particular through mechanisms to combat impunity that it has set up created or implemented adopted whether they be international criminal jurisdiction, such as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon or the International Criminal Court in the case of Libya, or to collect evidence in order to prepare legal proceedings, such as in the cases of Syria and Iraq, in support of the competent national authorities or as a substitute for them if such authorities cannot or are not willing to do so.
In conclusion, Sir, you may rest assured of the resolute engagement of France in that region of the world in respect of its principles and in commitment to its tireless efforts to address the crisis in the Middle East. We would like to see the Security Council fully shoulder its responsibilities. France also intends to contribute to all efforts to establish regional dialogue mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes and dialogue for the stability of the Middle East. The future of the Middle East and the credibility of the Security Council are at stake.