Syria: France calls for a ceasefire in Idlib [fr]
Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 19 September 2019
First of all, I would like to thank Ms. Mueller for her very useful briefing. I also reiterate my appreciation for the outstanding commitment of all humanitarian personnel in Syria.
More than ever, we must focus our efforts on three areas.
1. The first, which must be an absolute priority, is the implementation of the ceasefire in Idlib.
We are very concerned about the resumption of air strikes last week, following the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire on 31 August. We will continue to closely monitor developments on the ground and to call for the strict implementation of the Sochi memorandum, one year after its signature between Turkey and Russia.
Every effort must be made to ensure an effective ceasefire in the north-west with a view to halting hostilities and to instating a nationwide ceasefire, in keeping with resolution 2254 (2015). In that regard, we support the draft resolution submitted by Germany, Belgium and Kuwait.
2. The second area of focus is respect for international humanitarian law, which is binding on all and non-negotiable.
In that connection, I would like to recall two imperatives.
i) The first is the protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel.
The fight against terrorism, which is undisputedly an essential issue, cannot be invoked to justify violations of international humanitarian law.
For that reason, we welcome the launch of an internal investigation by the Secretary-General into the attacks on de-conflicted infrastructure in the north-west and reaffirm our full support to him. I repeat that the fight against terrorism cannot under any circumstances justify the sacrifice of civilian populations, let alone children, nor does it justify indiscriminate bombing or the deliberate destruction of hospitals and schools. The crimes committed in Idlib and the rest of Syria cannot and must not go unpunished. Those who commit such acts will one day be held accountable by the courts.
ii) The second imperative is guaranteeing immediate, safe, secure, comprehensive, sustainable and unhindered humanitarian access to the entire Syrian territory for those who need it most.
For that to happen, the violence in Idlib must stop immediately. We reiterate our call on those with the means to do so to exert the necessary pressure on the regime to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Syria, in particular in the areas under its control, including the territories it reclaimed in 2018 in the south-west, eastern Ghouta and the Rukban camp. Ensuring humanitarian access also implies — and this is an essential point — that the United Nations have access to displaced persons and refugees who have returned home.
3. Thirdly, the urgency of the situation in Idlib is a cruel reminder that only an inclusive political solution can bring lasting peace and stability to Syria and enable refugees to return to their country.
We reiterate our full support for the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, Geir Pedersen, with the aim of concluding a balanced agreement on the constitutional committee, regarding both its composition and its rules of procedure. We take note of the latest encouraging developments related by the Secretary-General and call for the launch of the constitutional committee as soon as possible, under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva. The procrastination must stop.
It is important that, in parallel, the Special Envoy work on the basis of all the elements of resolution 2254 (2015), in particular on the preparation of elections and confidence-building measures. We hope that the high-level week of the General Assembly will provide an opportunity to increase mobilization in support of the political process. In the absence of any progress and without the prospect of a political settlement, France and the European Union cannot participate in the financing of reconstruction. That will fall to the regime and its allies.
We call on each and every member of the Security Council to take responsibility for putting an end to the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes in Idlib, and we invite them to vote in favour of the text presented by Germany, Belgium and Kuwait.