Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris, April 26, 2013)

Syria – Chemical weapons

Do you have any additional information?

There was a certain level of media excitement, especially yesterday. Our position on this issue has been constant for many weeks now.

We already had similar discussions in December when the first warning about the use of chemical weapons was circulating. At that time we took these reports very seriously and tried to verify them. We weren’t able to complete our verifications which would have provided us with irrefutable evidence of the use of chemical weapons.

The debate has now been reopened in terms that are quite similar.

It should be borne in mind that at the beginning the Syrian army made accusations regarding the use of chemical weapons by the opposition.

At the Security Council, notably at the request of the French and the British, and because we had suspicions and there were indications about the use of such weapons, the matter was referred to the UN Secretary-General so that an investigation could be launched. Why? In order to move from the indication stage to the documented, irrefutable and verified proof stage and if appropriate to be able to move from the evidence stage to the accountability stage.

Now, when you read the statements made by everyone, no one goes so far as to talk about irrefutable evidence.

In order to obtain irrefutable evidence, the OPCW team put together at the request of the UN Secretary-General must be able to carry out an investigation in Syria. This team is ready to be deployed and it must be deployed without delay, without conditions and without exceptions, to quote Mr. Ban Ki-moon. This will involve investigating both the accusations made by the regime against the opposition and vice versa. The mission must be able to go everywhere that it deems necessary.

No one will dispute the independence of such an investigation. No one will dispute the competence of the OPCW team. No one will dispute the urgent need to deploy the mission. It is therefore all the more surprising that the Syrian regime is now refusing to allow this mission which it itself had requested to be deployed.

How would France respond to the use of chemical weapons?

Let’s not fuel the media frenzy by responding to these types of questions which are for the moment hypothetical. And let’s not foster the idea that’s gaining ground that we allegedly now have irrefutable evidence.

Today, I repeat, we lack irrefutable evidence. We now expect the Syrian regime to do what it itself requested, namely to allow the deployment of the OPCW team. And then let’s allow the OPCW to complete its work. Let’s allow it to go where it believes it needs to go, which assumes that it will be able to have access to the entire Syrian territory.

I would like to add that the verification procedures are based on very specific protocols, requiring extensive examinations. We have to be able to cross check the witness statements.  It’s truly an investigation, a fact-finding mission, a mission to establish proof.  Our response will be based on the conclusions.

Will the Syrians continue to refuse and if things don’t move forward, what do we do?

Let’s not make any mistakes. Pressure shouldn’t be exerted on the French, the British or the Americans but on the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime should be taken at its word: it’s the regime that demanded that the investigation be launched. This demand was conveyed in full by the Security Council, which would put the Syrian regime in a very difficult situation if it refused to cooperate.

We have to be inflexible on this matter in view of the gravity of the accusations and the demand unanimously expressed by the international community that Syria must agree to the investigation. It’s up to the Syrian regime to meet the clearly expressed expectations of the international community. We should not allow it any possible way out because this is a matter of the utmost seriousness.