26 January 2016 - Middle East: The Palestinian issue continues to fuel regional tensions [fr]
Debate on the Middle East - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 26 January 2016
Allow me to reiterate the message of France with regard to the situation in the Middle East: we must not — cannot — give up. Simply put, the situation is untenable, as evidenced by the ongoing violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories. Since the beginning of the outbreak of violence, there have been at least 153 Palestinians killed, mostly perpetrators of attacks, and 25 Israelis killed. That very aggravated situation cannot last, and we reiterate our condemnation of all attacks.
It is our responsibility to take action. France remains convinced that the lack of political prospects is the root cause of the recent events, as it plays into violence, radicalization and extremism. The increase in security measures implemented by Israel and the continued punitive demolitions and settlement activities, illegal under international law, fuel tensions and mutual resentment. In that regard, the recent announcements of new settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem are extremely worrisome and raise serious doubts about Israel’s commitment to reaching a two-State solution.
The scope of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes beyond just the territory that extends from the Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley. The Palestinian issue continues to fuel regional tensions. No one in this Chamber wants Daesh to seize the Palestinian cause and distort it, in its own interests, as a compelling argument for recruitment. It is possible that Daesh could, in due course, settle in Gaza and the West Bank. We must do everything possible to make sure that does not happen.
The need for ambitious and collective mobilization by the international community grows increasingly urgent as the days go by. The temptation for some to defer the matter, to manage the conflict and to wait for favourable circumstances before talking seriously about peace is, in our view, not viable, because making the conflict take a back seat among our priorities and treating it like a frozen conflict could lead to a new outbreak. That is why the collective commitment of the Council members, the European Union and the countries in the region is essential.
That requires creating a specific and credible political horizon for a shared goal, namely, the two-State solution, which we must safeguard. In order to take steps in that direction, France remains convinced of the need for a change in approach along the lines of collective, enhanced and renewed support:
— The work undertaken during the meeting of the Quartet, which was expanded to include Arab countries and international partners during the General Assembly, must continue. That is a key element;
— The Security Council also has a role to play — a responsibilty to assume — and must fully commit itself to bringing about a solution that is acceptable to both parties.
France will remain fully mobilized on this issue, as it is thoroughly convinced that the stability of that fractured and shell-shocked region requires a fair and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
There is also urgency with regard to Syria: it is urgent to break the cycle of violence and establish a political transition. We lend our full support to the process launched in Vienna and endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2254 (2015), of 18 December 2015. It important that the inter-Syrian negotiations, which are key to achieving peace, can begin. We understand that Mr. Staffan de Mistura is doing everything possible for them to begin on 29 January. To ensure the success of those negotiations, three elements are necessary:
— First, there must be a swift and significant improvement in the humanitarian situation. There can be no credible political process without immediate improvements in the situation on the ground for Syrians. The open meeting of the Security Council early last year exposed the persistent and abject practice of using sieges as a weapon of war. I reiterate our solemn call for the immediate and effective lifting of all sieges, as well as for lasting humanitarian access to all those in need, without any restrictions, and for the stopping of attacks against civilians. The Syrian regime and its supporters must respect international humanitarian law. It is not a bargaining chip, but rather an absolute obligation.
— Secondly, the designation by the opposition of its own representatives must be respected. The opposition group that emerged at the Riyadh conference brings together for the first time a broad spectrum of non-jihadi political and military leaders who have committed to a shared goal of a united, free and democratic Syria that respects the rights of all citizens. It is up to that group to be the interlocutor with the regime during the negotiations.
The negotiation process could, however, also lead to consultations with various stakeholders, namely, those from civil society.
— Thirdly, there is a need for the discussions to focus on the political transition, in accordance with the terms agreed in the Geneva communiqué. It is not a matter of creating a pseudo-Government of national unity, rather it is one of agreeing on creating a transitional governmental body with full executive powers to afford Syria prospects for reconciliation.
Only a political solution will end the suffering and ongoing exodus of civilians and reduce the terrorist threat we face. I assure you, Mr. President, of France’s resolute commitment in that regard.