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Respect for fundamental freedoms must prevail over violence

Situation in the Middle East – Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations:

Unofficial translation

I would like to thank the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Pascoe, for his speech. I would also like to thank the Permanent Representative of Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine for their speeches. France lends its backing to the speech that the Head of EU Delegation will deliver.

Mr. President,

I would like to talk about the following points:

This Council is now focusing on a peace process that isn’t making any progress in a region that is itself experiencing a tremendous wave of popular aspirations. Tunisia and Egypt are in the process of managing the post-revolution situation and we have, together with the European Union, confirmed our full support for them on the difficult path of democratic transition. In Bahrain, we must encourage the resumption of dialogue so that the current problems can be overcome in the interest of all Bahrainis. Other situations – in Yemen, in Syria – are of concern to us and we reaffirm the need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We support the mediation efforts conducted by the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and we urge all of the Yemeni parties to immediately engage, under the auspices of this council, in a constructive dialogue capable of leading to a peaceful political transition.

In Syria, the authorities must refrain from using force against the demonstrators and immediately translate the announced reforms into reality - notably the lifting of the state of emergency - in order to respond to the people’s aspirations. The ending of the crackdown, the release of all prisoners of conscience, the respect of the right to demonstrate peacefully and the freedom of the press must be put into practice. The arrests must stop and light must be shed on the recent events. An inclusive political dialogue must be initiated in order to allow the implementation of effective reforms that respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and which will thus contribute to the stability of the country.

In Libya, we urge the international community and in particular the Tripoli regime to respect Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973. Until a genuine, verifiable and lasting ceasefire that responds to the demands of the international community is observed, the coalition will continue its action to protect the civilian population, and to ensure compliance with the no-fly zone and the arms embargo.

We commend the role played by the UN Secretary-General to ensure that dialogue and respect for fundamental freedoms prevail over violence everywhere.

Mr. President,

The aspirations of the Palestinian people for a viable and sovereign State living in peace and security alongside Israel are no less legitimate than those being expressed everywhere in the region. We must respond to them, as well as to the aspirations of the Israeli people for security and regional integrity.

France believes that there can be no alternative to a negotiated solution in order to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That’s why we’ve been arguing for several months now in favor of an endorsement by the Quartet of the parameters that we defined right here on February 18 so that, on this basis, direct negotiations between the parties on all final status issues can resume. The most recent postponement of the Quartet meeting, which we disapprove of, doesn’t help us move towards achieving this objective. The Quartet’s envoys will meet on May 5. They must endeavor to ensure that a meeting of the main actors takes place as swiftly as possible.

A lasting stalemate in the peace process could undermine the two-State solution and lead to a deterioration in the situation on the ground. France remains mobilized in order to achieve significant results before the date set by the Quartet in September 2011.

Recognition of the Palestinian State is one of the options that France is considering together with its European partners, with a view towards creating a political environment capable of relaunching the peace process. The adoption of this solution should encourage a resumption of the negotiations based on the international parameters that are well-known. In addition to reaffirming our unfailing attachment to the security of Israel, it would provide a clear political message aimed at dissuading the two parties from pursuing unilateral strategies or from presenting a fait accompli on the ground which would be detrimental to the peace efforts.

In this respect, our position on settlement activity is unwavering: settlement activity is illegal under international law; it undermines trust between the parties and constitutes a threat to the two-State solution. That’s why we have – since the last open debate – voted in favor of the draft resolution presented to this Council. We urge Israel to abandon the construction projects which are due to be considered in the near future.

We have taken note of the announcement of a speech by President Obama as well as the announcement of a diplomatic initiative by the Israeli prime minister which is due to be presented to Congress on May 24.We are not aware of the terms of these initiatives but we are obviously ready to support all efforts that could relaunch a dynamic of direct negotiation. All proposals aimed at moving the peace process forward must now be based on credible parameters that will make it possible to end the crisis of confidence between the parties. 18 years after the launch of the Oslo Process, we can no longer consider interim solutions. Measures aimed at improving the situation on the ground are welcome but they cannot constitute an end in themselves and must be linked to the prospect of a final settlement which these measures cannot replace.

If we don’t respond to the aspirations for peace expressed by the Israeli and Palestinian people, the recent escalation of violence in Gaza demonstrates that we run the risk of seeing an explosion in the situation. We condemn the Itamar killings, the firing of rockets, missiles and mortar shells against the civilian population in southern Israel. We call for the respect of international humanitarian law in support of Gilad Shalit. The firing of an anti-tank missile on an Israeli school bus signaled a new stage in the violence. We also condemn the humanitarian consequences of the Israeli military operations in response to these attacks, which left several civilians dead in the Gaza Strip. UNSCR 1860 provides the appropriate framework for the implementation of a lasting ceasefire which we are calling for.

We continue to call for the full implementation of resolution 1860, notably with respect to the need for the lifting of the blockade, and for allowing access of humanitarian supplies into the territory which must be through the existing channels established by the Israeli authorities. In Gaza as well, we must respond to the aspirations of the people through a fundamental policy change, without necessarily compromising on Israel’s legitimate security concerns. The continuation of measures aimed at easing the situation implemented since June 2010 is vital, notably the authorization of all exports of commercial goods and the liberalization of the conditions governing the movement of people. The population of Gaza also called for Palestinian unity and we want to lend our support to the efforts of President Abbas to respond to this appeal.

Mr. President,

In this extremely volatile context, we cannot forget the regional aspect of the peace process. In Lebanon, we want the parties to use the utmost restraint and to continue to cooperate within the framework of the Tripartite Commission in order to avoid any problems along the Blue Line. The formation of a new government has not yet been completed. However the Lebanese authorities must comply with all of the country’s international obligations, in particular those relating to the Special Tribunal and resolution 1701.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I would like once again to stress that the international community must not allow a deadlock that has already lasted 7 months to continue. The conclusions of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee have strengthened our conviction that the Palestinians are, more than ever, ready to establish their State and to manage it in a credible and responsible way. Allowing this deadlock to continue without responding to the aspirations prompted by the prospect of the September 2011 meeting, a prospect underlined by President Obama, could undermine the only tangible progress achieved towards creating a Palestinian State constituted by the Fayyad plan. In order to consolidate this progress, France will organize a Donors’ Conference for the Palestinian State in June. But such an initiative will only make sense if it is associated with the necessary resumption of the political process, the conditions of which I reaffirmed above.

Thank you.

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