25 September 2016 - Syria: The Security Council is today at a moment of truth [fr]
Syria - Emergency meeting of the Security Council - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 25 September 2016
France, alongside the United States and the United Kingdom, asked for this emergency meeting to be convened because the information we have received from Aleppo marks a new height in the military escalation and a further descent into the abyss that characterize the tragedy in Syria. This information, corroborated by the statement made just now by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura — whom, on behalf of France, I thank for his involvement — attests to a level of violence that has certainly never been attained in five years of a conflict that, I recall, is the greatest humanitarian tragedy since the Second World War.
Folllowing the unspeakable attack on a humanitarian convoy last Monday, on Thursday the regime — with the support of its backers — launched a major air offensive the clear objective of which is to bring Aleppo to its knees as soon as possible. The streets of Aleppo are no longer anything but a heap of ruins. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, hundreds of victims — including many children — have have been massacred in three days by the regime’s bombs. As we speak, 275,000 civilians remain prisoners in the city and live in terror of indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian regime and its active supporters.
We are horrified by this new military gambit of the Syrian regime, which has persisted for months in trying to take Aleppo with the help of its supporters. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, the regime indiscriminately bombs homes, maternity clinics, hospitals, schools, refugee camps and neighbourhoods held by the moderate opposition. While the international community has sought for months to secure a truce, the Al-Assad regime has tirelessly violated international humanitarian law, the resolutions of the Security Council and the most basic principles of humanity.
In many ways, Aleppo is to Syria what Sarajevo was to Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Guernica to the Spanish Civil War — a symbolic city, a crossroads city, a martyred city. Aleppo, a symbolic city several thousand years old that has been declared a World Heritage site; a crossroads city, where so many countless cultures have met and mingled, has today become a martyred city. That symbol of civilization is under a siege that can only be called medieval. This is retrogressive and, frankly, shameful.
The information at our disposal indicates the systematic use of a new type of incendiary weapon and high-tech ammunition and subammunition that puncture bunkers and cause the collapse of an entire building in one impact. The use of such weapons against civilians should not surprise us, unfortunately, in the hands of a regime that has for many years bombarded its population with chlorine gas, phosphorus and explosive barrels. As the Secretary-General recalled yesterday, the indiscriminate and systematic use of such weapons in residential neighbourhoods constitutes a war crime — yes, a war crime — nd such a crime cannot go unpunished.
If we do nothing to prevent the total destruction of Aleppo, this week will be recalled as the moment when diplomacy failed and barbarity and brutality triumphed. The Council and the International Syria Support Group have met this week to seek an agreement on the cessation of hostilities and immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian aid. These discussions have not, for now, been unsuccessful. The military escalation now under way threatens the fragile hope for a truce in which we could still believe only a week ago. Russia imagines that it can restore the trust of its partners by negotiating a cessation of hostilities with one hand while supporting the regime that is bombarding Aleppo with the other.
Today, saving Aleppo must be our priority. A few weeks ago, Russia and the United States were able to agree to an operational plan for establishing a cessation of hostilities and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid. France supported the agreement, as it had supported all Vienna process initiatives to alleviate the suffering of civilians. The immediate implementation of that agreement, beginning with Aleppo, is our only hope and must therefore be our priority. France also calls for the establishment of a robust mechanism to monitor the cessation of hostilitiess, which alone can restore the necessary confidence and ensure the consolidation of the truce, first in Aleppo and then throughout the country. Through its Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, my country has made detailed proposals to that end.
If there is one zone where the cessation of hostilities must be implemented on a priority basis, it is Aleppo. If there is one zone that the regime’s aircraft must immediately be forbidden to overfly, it is Aleppo. If there is one zone where the people are urgently in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, it is Aleppo.
The Security Council is today at a moment of truth. It must rise to the immense responsibility that is incumbent upon it, and thus upon each of its members and all of us. We expect Russia in particular to give proof of its genuine readiness to stop supporting the military option and to truly seek a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict with all the means and leverage at its disposal. If we wish to end the tragedy in Aleppo and Syria, we must ultimately put all our cards on the table, call things by their rightful names, and find a way to unite around a collective approach. That is the only possible option, howsoever difficult it may be, to break the current deadlock and restore the political dynamic that is the only way to stop the Syrian conflict.