Ministerial meeting on Syria
THE MINISTER – The states represented in Paris today share the same determination to provide a solution to the Syria tragedy: for all of us, it’s about ending a 13-month-long bloodbath that has led to more than 11,000 deaths and tens of thousands of imprisonments, has created hundreds of thousands of refugees and is destabilizing the region, as my Jordanian and Turkish counterparts emphasized today. It’s about enabling the Syrian people to build a democratic future that respects their diversity.
Our meeting builds on the efforts of the Arab League and the Friends of the Syrian People Group. I’d like to add that, in the coming weeks, France will organize the plenary meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People Group, as decided first in Tunis and then confirmed in Istanbul. Our meeting today comes at a crucial time in the Syria crisis. Less than a week ago, the Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 2042. Yesterday, the United Nations Secretary-General made proposals for its implementation. And this very day, the Security Council heard the presentation by M. Guehenno, Mr Annan’s deputy.
1. Our unanimous observation is both simple and worrying: we fully support Kofi Annan’s mission, but we note that it’s going through a critical phase as a result of Damascus’s refusal to implement its commitments.
After a few hours of a little hope, it quickly became apparent that the Syrian regime wasn’t fulfilling its obligations – first and foremost, to stop the violence. Homs and Idlib are again paying the highest price, with fresh heavy weapons fire and an ever higher number of victims.
The states meeting in Paris this evening are demanding from the Syrian authorities an immediate end to the armed violence in all its forms, as they promised. It’s up to everyone – in particular the Security Council member states – to exert pressure in order for these violations of UNSCR 2042 to cease. We also want to welcome the opposition’s responsible attitude towards the implementation of the Annan plan. We’re continuing to work in perfect harmony with the representatives of the opposition to ensure they unite, organize themselves and include in their ranks all strands of opinion, all communities and all minorities.
2. We lend our full support to the Special Envoy’s efforts. The Annan plan is a chance for peace: we mustn’t miss it. He must have the means to accomplish his mission, and that’s a key point for us.
The Security Council will have to adopt a new resolution establishing the observer mission. This must be given a mandate and the necessary means to achieve its goals. France will swiftly propose a draft resolution, along with her Security Council partners.
What does “a credible mission” mean? The United Nations Secretary-General has answered this question. In order to fully comply with its mandate, this force will have to be large, be deployed as soon as possible and cover all the areas affected by the events. The Syrian authorities have the primary responsibility to allow the conditions to be created on the ground to make this deployment possible, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. We shall ensure this force has total freedom of movement, without prior notice, throughout the country. Its freedom of action will have to be guaranteed without its interlocutors being threatened with reprisals.
Its security will have to be guaranteed, without the Syrian authorities using this requirement as grounds to hinder the mission’s freedom of movement. Finally, the observers will have to be provided with all the necessary means to carry out their mandate, in particular all the modern equipment required to ensure efficient monitoring.
3. In addition to ending the violence and the crackdown, the Action Plan defined by Mr Annan is designed to facilitate transition to a democratic system in Syria. We recall that the plan contains six points. As the Annan Plan also provides for, the Syrian people must be able to demonstrate completely freely: no obstacle to this fundamental right is acceptable. The Syrian opposition has a key role to play in this political transition. With this in mind, we support the efforts launched by the Syrian National Council to bring together all opposition strands of opinion.
4. The states meeting this evening in Paris express their strong concern in the face of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and the impact of this in the neighbouring countries. We commit to providing humanitarian assistance in all its forms to the Syrian people through all possible mechanisms, starting with those of the United Nations.
Finally, we’re very worried about the timetable. Each day brings the deaths of dozens more Syrian civilians. There’s no more time to prevaricate: it’s time to act. The Annan mission carries a final hope, although fragile. We undertake to do our utmost to ensure it succeeds. If it does not, we’re determined to ensure the Security Council and the international community study other options to overcome this tragedy.
Those are the points we agreed on, which I’ve passed on to you on behalf of all my colleagues. We’re ready to answer a few questions.
Q. – Will there be a NATO conference or meeting on Syria, as Mrs Clinton has intimated? You’ve talked about the possibility of arming the Syrian opposition and people so they can defend themselves. Are you going to carry that through? Are you going to do as you say?
THE MINISTER – On the first point, there was a meeting at NATO today, as you know, and the subject wasn’t raised. I’ll simply say that if a NATO member country were attacked, then of course the issue could be raised. But today it isn’t on the agenda of NATO’s work.
Q. – According to an agency report, the head of the Free Syrian Army’s military council has just called for a military intervention in Syria without the UN’s endorsement. You’ve often been asked this, but the situation is changing, the list of victims is growing longer and things are becoming more urgent. Would you be prepared, if circumstances demanded, to review the position you’ve always taken so far, namely of not conducting a military intervention in Syria?
THE MINISTER – I think I was very clear in explaining our work. The priority today is the effective implementation of the Annan plan, which for us is the last chance for peace and the last chance to prevent a civil war in Syria.
To ensure the plan is implemented, a robust and credible observer mission must be deployed on the ground as soon as possible. I concluded by saying that, if the plan failed, it would then be time to consider other options; that’s not the case today. (…)
Q. – Someone’s missing here: a representative of Russia. As long as Russia supports the Bashar al-Assad regime to this extent, do you honestly believe that you can exert pressure on the regime and that it may take decisions you want, in line with what you believe?
THE MINISTER – Yes, I think so. I invited Russia to take part in this meeting, and we’re constantly in touch with Russia. I had the opportunity to meet Sergei Lavrov in Washington last week. Several of my colleagues here have been in contact with the Russians over the past few days.
Russia’s position has indisputably changed. She supported the last Security Council resolution. As I’ve told you, she’s in favour of deploying an observer mission on the ground. She didn’t wish to be involved in this meeting because its format doesn’t suit her, but that’s her absolute right.
I think we’re going to be able to make things change, and there have already been significant changes on Russia’s part.
Q. – Have you discussed possible aid and commitments for Syria with the Arab ministers present?
THE MINISTER – Of course. First of all, humanitarian aid, and all the participants in this conference have pledged to increase or deploy humanitarian aid as soon as easier access can be gained: I’m not going to mention them all, but Germany, Canada and many others of course are thinking along these lines. France has already set up a humanitarian fund of €2 million, and we’re ready to step up our efforts, of course.
So there’s complete agreement on the effort we must make, because the humanitarian situation is unacceptable.
There’s also the problem of the refugees in Turkey and Jordan. Our Turkish and Jordanian colleagues can also count on the support of our group and the international community.
Q. – Hillary Clinton has just called for a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII, regarding in particular an embargo on arms sales, travel bans and other financial sanctions against the regime aimed at forcing it to comply with the Annan plan. Do you believe the draft resolution you’re working on would also fall within the framework of Chapter VII, requiring all necessary means to be used to ensure the Annan plan is respected?
THE MINISTER – Mrs Clinton fully approved the conclusions of the meeting we’ve just had and the draft statement I submitted to all our partners. As I’ve told you, it’s about working in two phases: the first phase is the resolution enabling the observer mission to be deployed; if this were to fail, then another resolution would have to be prepared at the Security Council in the spirit Mrs Clinton has just indicated. (…)./.