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Official speeches and statements - September 17, 2020

Published on September 17, 2020

1. Belarus - Reply by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris - September 15, 2020)

I’m very pleased to have the honor of answering your first question put to the Government, and let me take the opportunity as such to welcome those who have joined or are returning to these benches today.

France’s response, as promoted by the President and Jean-Yves Le Drian, is a coordinated European response based on three kinds of action. Firstly, totally unambiguous, unfailing support from day one for the Belarusian people, who have been mobilizing for over a month now. Secondly, action to impose sanctions - also very clear and swift - against the repression. And, finally, support for national political dialogue.

If I can quickly come back to these few elements; before anything else, I want to say - let me stress this - that we’ve supported this popular and political mobilization in Belarus since August, because every weekend now thousands of people are risking their lives on the streets of Minsk to defend their freedom. These are our values and we’re duty-bound to be at their side.

But this isn’t just about words. The European Union collectively decided to provide financial support, including to Belarus’s civil society associations and opposition. Let me remind you that several European Union countries are taking in members of the Belarusian opposition and I had the opportunity myself, on the Government’s behalf, to talk to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who leads the opposition, to signal our support explicitly.

Of course, even more importantly we’re conducting a coordinated policy of sanctions at European level too. France has been defending this from day one: these sanctions have been decided, designated, as we say, and will be applied in the very next few days to target those responsible for this repression and oppression.

And then what I’d call European values. The pressure the Europeans are exerting must also be reflected in and lead to national political dialogue, and this is why - as has been mentioned - we support OSCE mediation. It’s on the basis of these three actions that a united Europe is mobilizing in support of democracy in Belarus.

2. United Nations - Syria/Humanitarian situation - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations at the Security Council (New York - September 16, 2020)

[Translation from French]

Mr. President,

I thank Mr. Lowcock for his presentation.

His conclusions are indisputable: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, particularly in the regime-held areas, but also in the North-West and North-East. We cannot rely on the Syrian regime’s official figures, which are well below reality. The rate of contamination of medical and humanitarian personnel is alarming. And while testing capacities are gradually being strengthened, they remain largely insufficient.

The indirect impacts of this pandemic are also very worrying: food insecurity is worsening day by day, further increasing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable populations.

In this context, every effort must be made to put in place an immediate, lasting and verifiable cessation of hostilities at the national level and a humanitarian pause, in accordance with resolutions 2532 and 2254 and the appeal of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy. The continued air strikes in the Idlib region are a worrisome signal, as is the significant instability in the South-West and North-East.

We cannot repeat it often enough: the protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, as well as civilian infrastructure, must be a top priority.

Rising humanitarian and medical needs make it more essential than ever to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all those in need. We call on all parties, in particular the Syrian regime, to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. The shortcomings in the delivery of medical aid in the North-East in particular are alarming. We regret the lack of consensus in this Council to reopen the al-Yaroubiyah crossing point, as well as the closure of the Bab al-Salam crossing point, which has resulted in a dramatic lengthening of the routes of humanitarian convoys.

The politicization and instrumentalization of humanitarian aid in Syria is unacceptable. The European Union and its Member States, which represent 70% of the commitments made at the Brussels IV conference, will continue to ensure full respect for the guarantees of impartiality and transparency in the delivery of aid, and the implementation of the document "principles and parameters" in Syria.

Finally, until a credible political process consistent with resolution 2254 is firmly under way, France and the European Union will not finance reconstruction. Our positions on the lifting of sanctions and normalization also remain unchanged. The instrumentalization of the sanctions issue to mask the responsibility of the Syrian regime in this humanitarian tragedy is not fooling anyone. I would like to recall that European sanctions are targeted: they are aimed at individuals and entities that participate in the repression and profit from the fallout of the conflict. They include strong measures to safeguard the delivery of humanitarian and medical aid. We must stop instrumentalizing the issue of sanctions. Thank you.

3. United Nations - United Nations mission in South Sudan - Statement by Ms. Nathalie Broadhurst, deputy permanent representative of France to the United Nations at the Security Council (New York - September 16, 2020)

[Translation from French]

Thank you Mr. President,

I too would like to thank the Special representative Mr. David Shearer, Mr. Marc Lowcock and Ms. Nyachangkuoth Rambang Tai for their insightful briefings.

I would like to emphasise three points in particular: the indispensable furtherance of an inclusive peace process, the continuous increase in intercommunal violence and the response which must imperatively be given to humanitarian needs in South Sudan.

France calls on the Transitional Government to continue its efforts decisively to implement the Revitalised Agreement. The agreement on the allocation of gubernatorial and state positions of the 17th of June and the appointment of almost all of them are important steps forward. These steps must be followed by the appointment of the governor of the Upper Nile and by the constitution of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly. France recalls that the full participation of women and youth must, in this regard, be effective and significant.

Concrete progress must be made as well on the other chapters of the transition, particularly on the reform of the security sector and the fight against impunity through the establishment of a hybrid court, but also on full respect for Human rights and fundamental freedoms for all citizens. Without justice and good governance there can be no lasting peace.

Furthermore, continued fighting between signatory and non-signatory groups of the peace agreement in violation of their commitment to respect the ceasefire represents a grave threat on the peace process.

Secondly, the increase in intercommunal violence, particularly in Jongleï, is a subject of major concern. The vicious circle between violence and impunity fuels Human rights violations, in particular those targeting women and children. The increase in sexual and gender based violence is unacceptable and must be met with a firm legislative and judiciary response. We welcome the adoption last February of the action plan on children affected by armed conflict and call for its full implementation. France calls furthermore on the authorities of South Sudan to observe a moratorium on the application of the death penalty with a view to its definitive abolition. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, France underlines the necessity for all actors in South Sudan to fully implement the ceasefire demanded by Security Council resolution 2532.

In this context, the action of UNMISS remains indispensable to ensure the protection of civilians located in protection sites but also of those outside of them. I would like to recall that UNMISS must be able to move freely in order to be able to implement its mandate. A full respect of the status-of-forces agreement provisions must, in this regard, be ensured.

As you recalled Mr. Lowcock, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains dramatic and is only worsening. Over 1.6 million people have been forced to flee within their own country and nearly 2.2 million have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Hunger affects 6 million people in South Sudan. It is therefore urgent that all parties facilitate, in accordance with international humanitarian law, the swift, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Moreover, the murders of humanitarian workers in Jongleï, Central Equatoria and Lakes are intolerable and must be investigated in order to fight relentlessly against the impunity of such acts. I commend the responsiveness of UNMISS which announced the establishment of temporary bases in the county of Lobonok in response to renewed armed attacks against civilians and humanitarian convoys. The protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, must be an absolute priority.

Finally, I would like to recall the full support of France for the entire UNMISS personnel as well as for humanitarian and medical actors present in South Sudan. Their courage and determination contribute, day after day, to peace.

Thank you.

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