28 February 2017 - Syria: it is up to the Security Council to act [fr]
Syria/ Chemical Weapons - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - before the vote - Security Council - 28 February 2017
For months now, France, the United Kingdom and the United States have sought to unite the Security Council in response to the heinous crimes committed in Syria involving the repeated, corroborated use of chemical weapons against civilians over several years. These criminal acts continue today, as we speak. We must put an end to them.
The stakes involved are extremely serious, above and beyond the situation in Syria. More than a century ago, the world learned with dismay of the horrors of chemical warfare when chlorine gas was first used against civilians on 15 April 1915 in Ypres, Belgium. The international community decided at that time that it was duty-bound to ensure that such atrocities never recur.
The current retrogression is therefore especially terrible. What we once thought impossible is now an imminent danger; what we had once thought to be in the past is happening right now before our very eyes. Prohibited weapons have been used several times in the Syrian conflict, despite that fact that 192 States are committed, through their ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, to never using such weapons again and to destroying their existing stockpiles.
I call on all present to fully grasp the extent of our responsibility today. We face not only the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; we face the repeated, methodical and barbarous use of weapons of mass destruction — in this case, chemical weapons — against civilians. On the scale of threats to international peace and security, we have hit 10. That is why France believes that weakness and inaction are not and cannot be an option. It is why, I recall, that the members of the Security Council, together and unanimously, in September 2013 resolutely decided that “in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter”.
Today we have reached this moment of truth, when it is no longer a matter of evading or looking away. Many instances of the use of chemical weapons have been confirmed and continue to be reported — very accurately, professionally and methodically. The responsibility of the Syrian regime was established in three of such cases without any ambiguity at all. The Joint Investigative Mechanism has also demonstrated the responsibility of the Da’esh terrorist organization in a case of chemical attack. It is now up to the Security Council, as guardian of our system of collective security, to act and not just talk. It has the duty and the responsibility to do so, as it has committed itself to do. This is a necessity consistent with the establishment of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, on which the Council has reiterated its confidence.
The continuation of the work of the Mechanism, decided unanimously with the adoption of resolution 2319 (2016) last November, has been indispensable.But that cannot delay or supplant a vital action on our part to sanction those who have flouted the prohibition: an action drawing the necessary conclusions from established determinations by a Mechanism that we unanimously renewed, and an action, finally, to send a warning and a message of firmness against those who would consider breaking the taboo in the future. By putting off acting on the demand for justice to which we have collectively committed, abdicating our responsibility, would send an irresponsible signal of impunity, which we must avoid.
My country, which has long been engaged in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cannot accept that. The international situation in which we find ourselves calls for our immediate and firm reaction. It is up to us to protect the chemical non-proliferation regime, and with it all non-proliferation regimes. That is a treasure we possess, for which we are responsible and of which we are the guardians.
We come late to this today. That is why France, together with its British and American partners, wanted to engage in good faith in a negotiation to bring together all the members of the Council around to the appropriate response.
The result of our efforts has produced a balanced proposal aimed at punishing all the actors involved that is based on targeted measures.
1/ First, the draft resolution, which provides for the adoption of measures under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, identifies a violation of resolution 2118 (2013) and condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
2/ Secondly, it reaffirms the Council’s conviction that those responsible for the
use of chemical weapons must be prosecuted.
3/ Thirdly, it reiterates the need for the Syrian regime to comply with all its international obligations.
4/ Fourthly, it reaffirms all measures taken against Da’esh and the terrorist groups listed by the Council.
5/ Fifthly, it reiterates the measures specific to the sanctions regime. It establishes a sanctions committee, supported by a panel of experts.
It establishes the appropriate criteria for listing entities and individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons, in connection with which it includes a list of entities and individuals.
And it establishes an embargo on sensitive chemicals and on weapons and materials that could be used to import dangerous chemical substances, as well as on helicopters.
An inability to act, as I said, would constitute a blameworthy move backward for the Council. Beyond our political divisions, we have in the past been able to mobilize in unison on non-proliferation issues. If today we are not able to discuss and agree on issues of such gravity, if we are not able to echo the collective consciousness of humankind, we will have failed in our responsibilities. Our credibility is at stake.
In the noisy clamour of our world, there are moments of truth when we can no longer dodge our responsibilities. This vote is that moment of truth, when our fundamental basic values, the law and our security are at stake.
Values: who would not prosecute those who have killed innocent women and children in cold blood, in the most atrocious and reprehensible of conditions? That would be a negation of our entire civilization.
The law: the Council has been unanimous in saying that we must prosecute those responsible for those murdered with chemical weapons. What are we waiting for in implementing laws that we ourselves have contributed to putting in place?
Lastly, our security: if we close our eyes to the use of chemical weapons against civilians, what legitimacy will we have tomorrow to condemn nuclear terrorism or apocalyptic attacks using bacteriological agents? Who would be responsible before history?
At stake today are not tactical interests; at stake are the very fundamental values of our security. The world is watching and waiting on us. Let us rise to our responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations. Let us rise to ensure the power of the law in the service of the values of the United Nations and the interests of present and future generations. If for dubious reasons we do not succeed today, know that France will never give up.