THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen,
I’ve just had a meeting with several representatives of Syrian civil society – women resistance fighters from different communities in Syria – and I’d like to thank them for agreeing to meet me. I wanted above all to listen to them, so that they could share with me what they’ve witnessed, what they know about the Syrian street and the current situation in that country. I’d like to pay tribute to their courage and that of the Syrian people as a whole, who are continuing to fight a regime that is conducting as brutal and bloody a crackdown as ever.
I explained what France has been trying to do for several months to stop this tragedy – so far, sadly, without success – and I took good note of their expectations. I told them we’re ready to continue supporting them, particularly to enable the Syrian opposition to coordinate and organize itself and convey its messages.
What stage are we at today?
Just before the meeting, I had an opportunity to talk to Mr Kofi Annan.
We believe the situation on the ground is unacceptable. The Damascus regime isn’t respecting the commitments it made. The crackdown is continuing, and the women I spoke to confirmed to me that the number of deaths is constantly rising and that the few observers deployed on the ground can’t fulfil their mission.
According to certain reports, which we haven’t totally verified, there are even cases where activists who met the United Nations observers have then been executed by the regime. So the situation is extremely worrying. This can’t go on indefinitely. That’s why I told Kofi Annan that we’d like, we ask, we demand that observers in sufficient numbers – at least 300 –provided with the necessary equipment, with freedom to come and go wherever they wish on Syrian territory, be deployed very quickly, within the next fortnight.
A fortnight after UNSCR 2043 came into force, Kofi Annan is due to present a report to the Security Council; I think it will be on 5 May; for us, that moment will be the moment of truth. Either this mediation works or it doesn’t work. And if it doesn’t work, we can’t let the regime in place – which isn’t respecting any of the six commitments it made under Kofi Annan’s plan – carry on defying us.
So we must then move to another stage – which we’ve already started discussing with our partners – under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, to take a new step towards halting this tragedy which is still being perpetuated in Syria.
I assured the women I spoke to of France’s support and our wish to continue working with them to show them our solidarity. I’m also thinking about the humanitarian dimension of aid, which is absolutely necessary. Several months ago I floated the idea of humanitarian corridors; I see it’s been picked up here and there without materializing. We’re going to continue working on it, possibly in the framework of this new resolution I mentioned just now. We’re well aware that, as things stand, a resolution under Chapter VII would come up against a veto from one or another permanent member of the Security Council, but that’s a further reason to continue doing our work of explaining and consulting with our partners.
Q. – The Syrians have given themselves a right of veto on the nationality of any observers who would be deployed in Syria. Was that planned? What are your comments on it? On the same point, is France going to offer to send some of the observers? Finally, can we regard the Annan plan as already dead? Thank you.
THE MINISTER – On this point, my answer will be no. It’s been seriously compromised; things aren’t going well; I’ve just said so. Damascus isn’t respecting the commitments it made on the six-point Annan plan, including the first of them, namely an effective ceasefire.
We think this mediation should still be given a chance, on condition, I repeat, that an adequate observer force is deployed quickly. And I’ll say this to Mr Ban Ki-moon, to whom I hope to speak by phone in the coming hours: that the United Nations Secretary-General should be in a position to deploy a sufficient number of observers, not in three months’ time but within a fortnight. UNSCR 2043 mentions the figure of 300, who must have the necessary equipment and the ability to come and go with complete freedom, without being prisoners of the current regime. So we’re still giving negotiation a chance.
As regards the Syrian government refusing observers from particular countries, it’s obviously unacceptable. The contingents that will go to Syria aren’t national ones, they’re blue helmets, i.e. observers under the United Nations’ responsibility. It isn’t a matter of the Syrian regime choosing among the options the United Nations makes available. As far as France is concerned, she will respond to what the Secretary-General asks. That’s what I can tell you on that side of things, and if it becomes clear, by the deadline I mentioned, that the mission is a fiasco, we’ll have to act accordingly and I’ve indicated the possible ways forward that we’re working on.
Q. – You talked about the possibility of a resolution under Chapter VII – the conditions are a bit more favourable. Would Russia be more willing to vote for it?
THE MINISTER – Russia agreed to the resolution which serves as a basis for Kofi Annan’s mission; she agreed to an observer mission being set up; I’ve expressed my thoughts on this mission; I’ve said there’s still an opportunity to check whether it can operate. I hope our Russian partners will, like us, take stock of this observer mission; they can’t fail to note that it’s the regime which is blocking the implementation of Kofi Annan’s plan, and so we’re going to continue discussions with our Russian partners, in the hope that their position will evolve in the light of what’s happening on the ground, which is, I believe, today quite indisputable.
People can’t go on saying that the regime is the victim of terrorist attacks and is defending itself against terrorist attacks – it flies in the face of the facts and common sense. It’s the regime which is cracking down on movements which are trying to defend themselves however they can.
Q. – Are there really military officials from the Syrian opposition in Paris – can you confirm this? And there have been reports today of a Syrian transitional government set up in Paris; is this correct?
THE MINISTER – I haven’t got any information allowing me to answer your question. (…)./.