Situation in the Middle East speech by Mr. Philippe Douste-BLAZY, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the United Nations Security Council
Finally the UN Security Council is deciding to call a halt to the war in Lebanon and Israel. Finally it is putting an end to the destruction, to the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons on both sides of the border, to an economic and humanitarian situation that has grown more and more tragic with each passing day. Today the international community is assuming its responsibilities; we are assuming our responsibilities. Admittedly, the time spent in negotiations seemed, for some, to delay the moment of decision. But for France and for the entire Security Council, it was a matter of reaching a long-term comprehensive and political solution.
Since the beginning of the conflict, France has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, a lifting of the blockade on Lebanese ports and airports, and the return of displaced civilians.
After that, we must create the conditions for ending the crisis, enabling us to swiftly achieve a lasting ceasefire. The stability and equilibrium of not just Lebanon and Israel but of the entire region depend on it.
The settlement we have worked on must, as President Chirac has emphasized, respect a twin imperative: it must allow Lebanon’s sovereignty to be restored throughout her entire territory, and it must guarantee Israel’s right to security.
France has played a very active part in the search for a solution. France is linked to Lebanon by deep historical and cultural ties, but also by strong, continuous relations with the countries of the region. She is also very attached to the sovereignty and the independence of this country. It is on the strength of this imperative and its close ties with all the actors that France wants to reaffirm Israel’s right to security.
It is in this perspective too, and in this spirit, that France has worked intensively on the development of a draft resolution that takes all of these elements into account. As you will recall, on Saturday, 5 August, we submitted such a text. On the basis of that text, we then engaged in very intensive talks with our Security Council partners, and notably our American partners. Our joint efforts enabled us last Saturday to achieve a new French-American draft that most of you, I would like to emphasize, received positively.
Since then, several decisive developments have occurred that made the current result possible. The Lebanese Council of Ministers announced its intention to deploy its army in southern Lebanon, with the help of UNIFIL. France welcomed this initiative, which it considered a major event, a historic turning point for the country. The deployment of the Lebanese army is a crucial element in the restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty and authority over all of her territory. This decision, moreover, responds to a recurring request on the part of the international community that figures in numerous resolutions. It was our duty to respect this decision. It was our responsibility to acknowledge it.
Lebanon and Israel both presented us with certain requests: both have shared with us certain expectations. France has heard them. The international community has responded to them. That’s the meaning of this resolution. To us, it seems like the best guarantee of a lasting ceasefire and a long-term solution.
The most important thing, initially, is to obtain a cessation of hostilities as well as the immediate engagement of a process that would involve the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south, aided by a reinforced UNIFIL, and concomitant with the gradual, progressive withdrawal of the Israeli army south of the Blue Line.
It also appears essential to begin to resolve the question of the delineation of the border and thus the Shebaa Farms. This question is at the heart of the conflict. For the first time, this resolution is initiating a process, under the auspices of the Secretary-General, to deal with this issue. In this regard, the Security Council has duly taken note of Mr Siniora’s seven-point plan.
Finally, we wanted to establish here and now the principles and elements of a lasting ceasefire and a comprehensive political solution.
Through this resolution, the Security Council is responding to the Lebanese authorities’ request to reinforce UNIFIL by proposing to add up to 15,000 troops. This is a historic decision that I want to salute.
On this occasion, I would like to pay solemn tribute to the UN personnel in Lebanon who have shown selflessness and courage in this crisis. Sadly, some of them have paid for their devotion to the cause of peace with their lives.
I want to specify here that the mandate the Security Council is giving UNIFIL is not a mandate to impose peace. UNIFIL will assist the Lebanese government in several of its missions: deploying its army in the south, providing humanitarian aid to populations, helping displaced people return home. It will also be charged with monitoring the cessation of hostilities and then observing the parties’ respect of the permanent ceasefire and the Blue Line.
We call on all the parties to strictly respect UN personnel, materials and premises; their security must be assured in all circumstances.
Finally, France considers it essential for numerous countries to respond favourably and rapidly to the Lebanese authorities’ request by contributing to the reinforcement of UNIFIL.
France, which is already represented within UNIFIL, will examine with its European partners the possibility of providing additional support for this force.
I hope that today will be the first day of the restoration of peace and stability in the Middle East. What the Security Council is offering Lebanon today the international community must offer the Palestinian people tomorrow. The lives and hopes of millions of people, who are counting on us, depend on that. The same holds true for the future of an entire region that has suffered too much and must return to peace.
The message of the international community is clear: we must transcend a culture of hatred, defiance and rejection in favour of a culture of trust, listening and dialogue. Thank you./.