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Arab Spring/United Nations Security Council

Published on March 14, 2012
Press briefing given by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, to French-speaking journalists (excerpts)

New York, March 12, 2012

(…)

Q. – You talk about a three-point plan. It provides for a political transition, but the opposition is divided. How do you intend going about things?

THE MINISTER – It isn’t a three-point plan; there are three elements we’d like to see in any Security Council resolution. We’d like to help the opposition get organized and come together. We’ve already recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate interlocutor. It’s also up to the opposition to come to a decision. If it doesn’t unite, it won’t achieve its objectives. It’s a hard-and-fast rule when you’re in such a historic situation. If you can’t overcome divisions and create genuine unity in adversity, you can’t hope to win. I’m appealing to the opposition to come together and be as inclusive as possible. Progress has been made: representatives of the Alawite and Christian communities have been included in the Syrian National Council.

Progress is still to be made. We can’t solve every problem on people’s behalf. It’s first of all up to the Syrians themselves and the Syrian opposition to know whether it’s able to federate or not. (…)

Q. – One gets the impression that a rift is emerging within the Western camp. Meanwhile, the Russians are negotiating directly with the Arab League… Are cracks appearing in the [united] front?

THE MINISTER – I don’t think so, and I noted this morning that Hillary Clinton, William Hague, Guido Westerwelle, Paulo Portas and I shared similar views. That said, France’s position is, admittedly, especially clear.

Q. – You’ve just had lunch with Russian minister Sergei Lavrov. Do you have reasons to be hopeful?

THE MINISTER – Here in New York, we’ve got to be optimistic in these circumstances. I want to have reasons to be hopeful, but I’m really having to work at it. I think that what’s clear is that Mr Lavrov – and he said so this morning – recognizes that the regime bears heavy responsibility for the way this tragedy has developed. I believe he talked about “huge responsibility”. What’s also clear is that his meeting with the Arab League has led him to talk about a political solution supported by the United Nations Secretary-General’s special envoy, in the framework of what the Arab League and the United Nations [General] Assembly proposed. Is this an opening? We’ll see how things materialize when a resolution has to be finalized. There’s perhaps some slight movement. (…)

Q. – What is currently blocking an agreement, blocking action from the Security Council on Syria?

THE MINISTER – Two things. We still have disagreement on two points; this may diminish but it hasn’t yet done so completely.
The first point is that the French government can’t accept a regime that took the initiative of this savage crackdown being put on exactly the same level as the opposition. Let’s not forget that at the outset, there were peaceful demonstrations for freedom and democracy to which the regime responded only by force. Today there are people fighting, it’s true – some of them with weapons – quite simply because they’re protecting themselves. We’re very keen to ensure that, in the draft resolution, there’s first of all a move by the Syrian authorities to suspend the violence, and immediately afterwards, of course, the cessation of all violence on Syrian territory.

The second thing is extremely important: namely, that we can’t make do with a ceasefire and access to humanitarian aid. Those are absolutely crucial and urgent, but we must also start a political process – otherwise the great surge of public aspiration to freedom and democracy will be ignored and defied, and we couldn’t accept that.

Those are the two points on which we must make further progress in order to finalize a Security Council resolution. I think it would be reasonable to wait for Kofi Annan to make an initial progress report on the mission entrusted to him before going further. (…)

Q. – It was the umpteenth meeting on Syria at the Security Council; in the final analysis, hasn’t the Security Council proven its irrelevance on Syria?

THE MINISTER – I’ve already had the opportunity to say that the Security Council’s silence is something of an outrage and a moral stain on the United Nations. That’s no reason to give up. So let’s carry on. (…)./.

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