Jean-Yves Le Drian: "The sea must not be a place of conflict between States" [fr]




(Translation from French)

New York, 9th August 2021

Mr. President,
Distinguished Heads of State,
Madam Chief of Staff of the Secretary General of the United Nations,
Madam Director of the UNODC,
Dear colleagues,

I would first like to thank the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, for allowing us to discuss today, in this meeting of the Security Council, the important issue of maritime security. I also wish India a good and fruitful presidency of the Security Council.

The sea, our common good, is unfortunately subject to predation, crime and increasing pollution that affect its ecosystem and the millions of people who depend on it.

Even more worrying is the will of some States to make the maritime domain a scene of strategic competition, in the same way as space and the cyber domain, and this will is growing day by day.

Maritime security is a major test for multilateralism and calls for increased mobilization of the international community, and I would like to stress three points in this context.

First, I would like to remind you that the security of maritime spaces depends above all on the respect of international law.

The sea must not be a place of conflict between States. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea sets the legal framework for all activities carried out in the oceans and seas. And no State should derogate from it.

And France remains fully committed to the freedom of navigation in compliance with its international obligations. "Freedom of navigation" does not mean "free action" or "impunity". Without the respect of common standards, the seas would become a theater of permanent confrontation.

We are therefore firmly committed to reducing tensions and risks in the Persian Gulf, through the maritime surveillance mission in the Strait of Hormuz led by eight European countries. And in this regard, we have strongly condemned, along with our European and G7 partners, the attack that targeted the Mercer Street on July 29, resulting in the death of two crew members. The Security Council has had the opportunity to raise this issue at its meeting on Friday 6 August. The international community must be extremely vigilant and continue its efforts to ensure that freedom of navigation is respected in the region. And I remind you that the Europeans have been making significant efforts in this regard for nearly two years to strengthen surveillance and maritime security in the Gulf.

We also remain very attentive to the situation in all areas where the law of the sea and freedom of navigation are being challenged, as it is the case in the South China Sea, the Black Sea or the Eastern Mediterranean.

Secondly, the seas are the scene of new threats that we must face together, through cooperation.

As has been said, we must counter piracy, terrorist acts at sea, organized crime, drug trafficking and wildlife trafficking that has an impact on environmental crime. The international community must implement the necessary means to fight against these attacks and criminal activities, both in waters under the jurisdiction of States and on the high seas.

France is committed to various regional forums to help its partners in this respect. I am thinking in particular of France’s membership in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Since May 20 and for one year, France has been chairing the Indian Ocean Commission, a key player in maritime safety and security in the region.

France is also becoming more involved in the Pacific. As a maritime and island state in the region, our country intends to contribute, within the framework of its Indo-Pacific strategy, which it has just adopted on a national basis. It wants to continue to promote an inclusive space, based on law and multilateralism.

The Indo-Pacific is a priority for France and the European Union. This is why we have supported, and obtained, the development of a European Union strategy for the Indo-Pacific. And this issue will be one of the priorities of the French Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2022.

We are also pleased that pilot operations have been carried out in the Gulf of Guinea, with a capacity building component for third parties. And among the exemplary regional cooperation, I would like to highlight the Yaoundé Architecture and the actions carried out with the support of the G7++, the "Group of Friends of the Gulf of Guinea". And in this region, France has, for more than thirty years, played its full part in the fight against piracy with the Corymbe mission.

We are also engaged in this fight against threats at sea within the framework of the European Union, with Operation IRINI in the Mediterranean and Operation ATALANTE, which has significantly reduced acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

And the work carried out by the United Nations in this regard is obviously essential. I welcome the mobilization of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, which oversees the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Crime, known as the "Palermo Convention". I particularly welcome the joint work between the UNODC and the European Union to develop a Global Programme on Maritime Crime and a Container Control Programme.

Finally, I would like to emphasize the environmental dimension, in connection with the security dimension.

We must indeed protect the sea and the oceans from the damage they suffer.

The ocean is our common good. We all have, individually and collectively, the responsibility to protect it and to use it in a sustainable manner. Promoting the development of a sustainable blue economy, protecting coral reefs, supporting marine biodiversity including by fighting against overfishing and combating marine pollution, these are the challenges we have to face.

Ensuring maritime security also means regulating traffic in order to limit the pollution of marine areas. And this is the meaning of the Conference of the Parties to the Barcelona Convention in which the European Union and the twenty-one Mediterranean coastal states have committed to making the Mediterranean a low sulphur oxide emission zone from ships.

However, the protection of maritime areas cannot be achieved by local actors alone. The international community has a central role to play, particularly in the context of the negotiations underway at the United Nations for the protection of biodiversity on the high seas.

Mr. President, I would like to thank India once again for allowing the Security Council to play its role on all maritime issues. And rest assured that France will remain strongly committed, along with its partners, to strengthening maritime security and defending the common goods that constitute our maritime spaces. Thank you for your attention.

Dernière modification : 10/08/2021

Top of the page