The situation in the Middle East : the deadly cycle must cease [fr]
The situation in the Middle East
Statement by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, Chargée d’Affaires a.i.
Security Council - 23 August 2018
First of all, we would like to thank the Director of Operations and Advocacy of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. John Ging, for his briefing, which once again highlighted the grave humanitarian situation in Syria and the risk of further deterioration if the regime launches a large-scale offensive in Idlib. It should be recalled that violence begets violence and that deadly cycle must cease. In that regard, I would like to make four points.
First, France is very concerned about the signs of a large-scale military offensive in Idlib. Such military action continues to undermine hopes for an end to the crisis and could spark another humanitarian tragedy in northern Syria, coupled with a migrant crisis in Turkey. The protection of civilians and infrastructure must be guaranteed, as the lives of 2.2 million people are at stake. Such violence would also exacerbate threats to regional security as it would cause jihadist combatants, including those in the Idlib region, to disperse. The increased bombings of recent weeks must cease immediately. Together, we must dissuade the Syrian regime from carrying out its strategy of crushing opposition and, in particular, using chemical weapons. That is the message France, along with its American and British partners, conveyed last week. In that regard, maintaining dialogue is essential and President Emmanuel Macron is in close contact with President Erdoğan and President Putin on that issue. We call on the guarantors of the Idlib de-escalation area to maintain the ceasefire and to fully respect and ensure respect for humanitarian law.
Secondly, more broadly, full, immediate and unhindered access must be guaranteed throughout Syria. Humanitarian workers must have safe access to all those in need, including in eastern Ghouta and Quneitra. France deplores the fact that no genuine progress has been achieved in that area, including in priority zones where control has changed hands. Only 11 per cent of convoy needs identified by the United Nations have been covered in July and August, which is insufficient and unacceptable. We recall that assistance provided by the cross-border convoys authorized by resolution 2393 (2017) is crucial. The assistance provided via Turkey is vital and no alternative exists for providing daily assistance to approximately 2 million people in north-western Syria. We also call for increased aid through Al-Yarubiyeh, between Iraq and Syria.
Thirdly, with regard to the return of refugees, at present conditions for their safe, dignified and voluntary return regrettably do not exist. If they should decide to return to Syria, their safety cannot be guaranteed. Since January, there have been nearly 1 million additional internally displaced persons. Those who return are vulnerable to expropriation, abuses, forced recruitment and even persecution by the regime. Law No. 10 makes the displacement of people irreversible and is part of a demographic engineering strategy. It is a major hindrance to the return of refugees and displaced people. Like our European Union partners collectively, we request a repeal of the law, reparations and in-depth work on the restitution of property and conscription.
Fourthly and lastly, I recall that the humanitarian situation will enjoy no long-term improvement without credible and irreversible progress in a United Nations-led political process. To date, the Syrian regime has demonstrated no willingness to negotiate a political transition. Without a political transition, in line with resolution 2254 (2015), national reconciliation will not take place and the majority of refugees will not return. We also recall very explicitly that without a genuine political transition, the States members and institutions of the European Union will not fund reconstruction.
In conclusion, we are at a crossroads on the path to a serious process that will lead to an inclusive political solution. France is working to bring together the parties to the conflict. The announcement by Mr. Staffan de Mistura on the formation of a constitutional committee is an opportunity we must take to ensure progress towards a political solution. France will continue its efforts to protect Syrian civilians and to ensure that the political process leads to genuine constitutional change and free, transparent and inclusive elections.