The role of UNDOF is crucial [fr]
Statement by Mrs Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 27 March 2019
I, too, wish to thank Rosemary DiCarlo and Jean-Pierre Lacroix for their enlightening briefings. I thank in particular Mr. Lacroix for the information he provided on his mission to the region.
At the outset, I wish to reiterate France’s full support for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which is carrying out a difficult mission in a deteriorating and volatile security context and in a country, Syria, that has been devastated by a war whose atrocities France has consistently denounced.
I shall focus on three main points.
First, France’s position on the American decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is clear. All of the 28 States members of the European Union (EU) clearly stated today that their joint position is unchanged. The EU, in line with international law and resolutions 242 (1967) and 497 (1981), does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territory of the Golan. That statement reflects the one we made along with our European partners in the Council yesterday.
France does not recognize the Israeli annexation of 1981, which was recognized as null and void by several Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 497 (1981), adopted unanimously. Under resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the Golan is and remains an occupied territory. The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan runs contrary to international law, in particular the obligation of States not to recognize an illegal situation.
Any attempt to move away from international law and the Council’s resolutions and to replace them with unilateral decisions is doomed to failure. Not only will this approach not lead to peace in the region, in Syria or between Israel or Palestine, but it will also significantly weaken the order based on international law, which all of us here support.
As we indicated yesterday regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: any unilateral initiative that contravenes international law and the resolutions of the Council is doomed to failure. The Council must ensure respect for these fundamental principles, which underpin international peace and security. To that end, I regret that the American decision undermines our collective action.
Secondly, in a tense context, at a time when the threat of regional escalation is high, the role of UNDOF is crucial. The deteriorating security situation makes its role in ensuring respect for the ceasefire both more difficult and more necessary than ever for regional stability. The report of the Secretary-General (S/2019/248) notes that there have been several worrisome developments in that respect. First, there has been firing from both sides of the ceasefire line since the Syrian regime retook control of the southern part of the country last summer. The exchanges of fire, rockets and missiles of 29 November, 20 January and 11 February are of particular concern in this respect.
Military activities are continuing, in violation of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement, in the areas of separation and limitation. This continues to pose the threat of an escalation between Israel and Syria, in particular through the increased, unauthorized presence of the Syrian armed forces in the area of separation. The report notes also that there were several crossings of the ceasefire line, also in violation of the Disengagement Agreement.
In addition, reports of the presence and activity of pro-Iranian armed groups, including Hizbullah, in the area of separation and beyond are of concern. They raise fears of increased instability in the area. The situation in the Golan must be prevented from fueling further conflicts. In that particularly difficult context, I commend UNDOF’s efforts to gradually redeploy to the east of the ceasefire line. We therefore reiterate our support for the Secretary-General’s request to provide UNDOF with the appropriate technological means to carry out its mission. It is also important that UNDOF be appropriately staffed. The parties, who have consistently reaffirmed their commitment to UNDOF, must allow the deployment of the equipment necessary for ensuring the security of the Force and the personnel needed to carry out its mandate. I reiterate the commitment of France to ensuring the Force’s freedom of movement and the safety of its personnel. Movement restrictions imposed on UNDOF on both sides of the area of separation prevent it from fulfilling its mandate. The security situation poses a direct threat to its personnel, which is why the plan to redeploy UNDOF to the east of the ceasefire line must consider that risk of increased exposure.
Thirdly, it is the responsibility of the Council, first of all, to avoid that recent developments lead to uncertainty about the future of UNDOF. Council members must therefore unambiguously reiterate their commitment to its mandate. We call on the parties to respect all their commitments under the Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian Forces of 1974 and — I repeat — to allow the deployment of the required equipment and personnel. It would be useful for countries exercising influence over the parties to call on them to do so. In addition, the role of the Force in maintaining the ceasefire and preventing an escalation of tensions must be upheld and strengthened. That is the goal of the Force Commander’s liaison efforts between the two parties. In that regard, in consideration of the latest developments in the situation in the Golan, we could collectively consider ways to strengthen the role that UNDOF plays in deconfliction as a liaison between the two parties.In conclusion, I reaffirm that France’s commitment to fostering the return of lasting peace in Syria and the region, based on international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions, will not waver.