Official speeches and statements - April 29, 2020
1. Lebanon - Conversation between Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Hassan Diab, Prime Minister of Lebanon - Communiqué issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - April 28, 2020)
During this first conversation, the Minister took stock of the medical support provided by France to Lebanon in the context of the health crisis.
He recalled that, on the basis of the work begun by the Lebanese authorities, concrete and credible measures must be taken swiftly to address the Lebanese people’s expectations and restore confidence in Lebanon’s economy. He emphasized that, on this basis, France stands ready to support Lebanon and the Lebanese Government in economic, political and social reforms in response to the crisis the country is experiencing, in the interest of all Lebanese people.
I first thank Special Envoy Pedersen for his briefing.
Firstly, let me echo his call for an immediate, complete and lasting nationwide ceasefire in Syria. It is an absolute priority in the context of COVID-19.
France is deeply concerned about the growing instability everywhere in Syria.
The situation in the North West is of particular concern and we will continue to monitor its evolution closely. Even though the ceasefire is overall holding for now, the shelling continues and the military build-up on each side is particularly worrying. It is essential that the regime and its allies do not restart an offensive.
Terrorist groups continue to be a serious threat for the international security. This is the case in the North-East, where the significant threat of Daesh justifies our careful attention. Terrorist groups have also recently gained a foothold in regime-controlled areas. Nevertheless, the fight against terrorism cannot justify blatant violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.
The deterioration of the security situation in the South West in the past few months is also worrying. This clearly shows that going back to the regime’s predation and security stranglehold cannot bring stability, neither in the short term nor in the long term.
In this context, it is urgent to implement the calls of the Secretary-General and his Envoy for a complete nationwide ceasefire, in line with UNSC resolution 2254.
It is of utmost importance that this call be implemented to enable the response to COVID-19 throughout Syria. We call on all parties to commit genuinely to this objective. In this regard, we recall that the Syrian regime has not responded to this appeal. The spread of the pandemic will further worsen the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, particularly in Idlib and in the North East, and must be prevented. We will go back to that this afternoon.
The United Nations must be at the forefront of the efforts to secure a nationwide ceasefire. It is in their mandate, as defined by resolution 2254. Most importantly, it is the only way to guarantee a lasting and verifiable ceasefire that will not be a mere tactical pause, and to create the conditions for the renewal of a credible political process.
Secondly, there is an urgent need to overcome the current political deadlock and to relaunch a broader peace process.
We have taken note of the agreement reached by the parties on the agenda of the constitutional committee last month. However, the regime continues to block the work of the constitutional committee by trying to backtrack on this agreement and by refusing to allow any VTC meeting of the constitutional committee. On the contrary, the opposition has constantly showed flexibility and openness. This has been going on for too long. We cannot continue letting the regime undermining the credibility of the UN and this Council.
In this context, we call on Geir Pedersen to make it clear to the Security Council when he deems he is no longer able to continue his efforts on the constitutional committee.
This is why it is key to launch in parallel a broader political process based on all elements of UNSC resolution 2254. The Special Envoy has our full support in this regard.
There is an urgent need to secure progress on the detainee file, especially in the context of the COVID spread. France fully supports the SG and his Special Envoy’s call to large scale releases of detainees and abductees, and allow access to all detention facilities. Let me recall that over a thousand hundred persons ended up in jail or in security branches of the regime. We urge the Syrian regime to allow the release of the most vulnerable and of political prisoners that have not been granted presidential amnesty. Now is the time to move beyond the "one to one" approach and to enhance the role of the UN.
As elections are looming, we need to reaffirm the standards and conditions for a transparent, free and fair ballot, in line with UNSC resolution 2254. It should take place in a safe country, under UN supervision and with the participation of all Syrians, including from the diaspora. Absent those conditions, any election in Syria would again have no value.
Moreover, let me reaffirm that without a credible political process firmly under way, France and the EU will not fund the reconstruction in Syria.
Time passes, but the crimes of the Syrian regime cannot be forgotten and cannot remain unpunished. The Board of Inquiry set up by the SG as well as the Investigation and Identification Team of the OPCW have clearly pointed at the responsibility of the Syrian regime in attacks against deconflicted medical infrastructures and use of chemical weapons. As confirmed by the trials that have started in Germany against senior members of the Assad regime and current proceedings in France, war crimes and crimes against humanity won’t go unpunished.
France will continue to firmly support all efforts to collect and preserve evidence and fight impunity, including through the IIIM.
I thank you Mr. President.