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UN Security Council reform – Syria – Arab Spring elections

Published on November 30, 2011
Interview given by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, to France Info

Paris, November 28, 2011


Q. – What place, what role is there for France in the UN?

THE MINISTER – France’s coherent, ambitious foreign policy today is due in large part to her status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We wouldn’t, for example, have done what we did at the time of the wars in Iraq, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, or even today regarding the Middle East peace process, if we hadn’t got our freedom of manoeuvre. There isn’t European unity on all these issues; so a European seat, at this stage, doesn’t make any sense.

So, of course, the Security Council has to be reformed because it doesn’t reflect today’s world. France has made proposals to that effect: we propose enlarging it, not making it smaller. Getting rid of permanent member positions has no chance of success; the United Kingdom is very unlikely to give up her position.

Q. – When you say France needs her freedom of manoeuvre, this means that the right of veto – which nonetheless hasn’t been used, I believe, since ’89 – remains essential.

THE MINISTER – The right of veto has deterrent value, as we know. It’s rarely used today, but it gives the current permanent members extremely significant clout.

I repeat, it has to be enlarged to include others. France, for example, supports the candidatures of Germany, Japan, Brazil and India – the so-called G4 group. We’ve made proposals to that effect, for an interim solution (…).


Q. – And Syria?

THE MINISTER – Either way, if Russia objected, given her weight – right of veto or no right of veto – we would have great difficulty mounting such an operation. I think we must take into account the facts and the situation in the international arena and act through persuasion rather than force.

Q. – Precisely, last week you denounced – regarding the situation in Syria, I quote – “a crackdown of a savagery not seen for a long time”. France and you yourself, you’re taking a lead among the countries trying to halt, to press the Syrian regime to step down; are things progressing?

THE MINISTER – Things are progressing slowly, unfortunately. As you know, last week I received the representatives of the Syrian National Council, who talked to me about the very difficult humanitarian situation. But things are progressing: the Arab League, which obviously carries considerable weight – [its members] are Syria’s neighbours – has just, two days ago, imposed a number of sanctions which, I think, are going to isolate the Syrian regime a bit more.

The Syrian regime’s days are numbered, that’s altogether obvious.

It’s totally isolated today. I admit that things are moving slowly and that, sadly, people are suffering in the flesh – for example, in cities such as Homs, which are veritable martyr cities. But France is very active and has often taken the initiative on this issue.

Q. – Has the idea of humanitarian corridors you proposed, in particular with Turkey, been rejected by the UN Secretary-General?

THE MINISTER – I’m not aware of that. What I do know is that this request comes from the Syrian National Council. It wasn’t me who had the idea – the members of the Syrian National Council asked me and then we asked our representatives at the Security Council to examine the issue. We also asked the Arab League to give it some thought. I hope this idea isn’t completely ruled out, because it’s essential. We’ve already done this, in other circumstances, and it’s the only way of alleviating the people’s suffering in the short term.


Q. – In a number of countries one associates with the Arab Spring, elections have taken place or are under way. Result: every time, conservative Islamic fundamentalists break through. What do you think about this?

THE MINISTER – I’m delighted to see free elections. How can you support the movement of all these peoples towards democracy and then take umbrage at the election result! Morocco’s election ran smoothly, just like Tunisia’s. They produced results which must be respected.

I’d like to point out that the leading party in Morocco – it’s far from having an absolute majority since it has 100 or so seats out of around 400 – was already represented in the previous Moroccan parliament. It’s a party which, I believe, has moderate views.

You can’t work on the assumption that every Islam-based party has to be denounced; I think it would be a historic mistake. On the contrary, we must talk to those who don’t cross our red lines – i.e. who respect those elections, the rule of law, human rights and women’s rights./.

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