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Syria – Statements by Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at his joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart (September 18, 2013)

Q. – The Russians are calling the inspectors’ report on the chemical weapons into question; they are also calling the invocation of Chapter VII into question. Do you think that we can achieve a resolution by the end of the week and, if not, what would be your next step?

THE MINISTER – Regarding the UN report, I have to say that I’m very surprised by the Russian attitude that you mention. If what I read is correct, they are calling the inspectors and their objectivity into question, not the report. But I don’t think that anyone can call into question the objectivity of those who have been appointed by the UN.

I’ve carefully examined this report. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – who is an objective man – says, this is an overwhelming report that fully confirms what we said, based on the information provided by our secret services.

Let me remind you that, regarding the Iraqi affair, the French secret services said that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Based on the report by the French secret services, Jacques Chirac, President of France at the time, decided not to intervene in Iraq. This same objectivity, this same clarity demonstrated by the French secret services is evident again today. What the UN inspectors wrote in black and white fully confirms this.

We’re being objective when we say that this is a chemical massacre. We’re being objective when we say that sarin gas was used – and when you read the report, it is indeed overwhelming. Sarin gas was put into the warheads of the delivery systems, at a volume of 50 to 60 litres per delivery system. An extremely high level of technical skill is required to make the necessary combinations. There are Cyrillic characters displayed on the warheads – we didn’t make that up. Saying that isn’t being subjective; it’s simply stating the facts.

I think that the reality is that this report, which isn’t being seriously challenged, quite simply shows that the regime had and still has a significant arsenal of chemical weapons and that it has used it.

Moreover, we have to be positive. While our Russian friends were disputing the existence of a chemical arsenal just a few weeks ago, they have now acknowledged it and have even made a very positive proposal for it to be destroyed. I therefore take note of the positive proposal and disregard the rest.

Q. – Are you still expecting a draft resolution very soon, by the end of the week, as you said at the beginning?

THE MINISTER – Regarding the draft resolution, there was what we’ll call a Russian-American agreement in Geneva on the elimination of chemical weapons. As we said, this is a positive agreement, since chemical weapons – as José Manuel said – have been banned since 1925, given how dangerous they are. The fact that there’s an agreement to eliminate these chemical weapons is something very positive, something that the Spanish, the French and many other countries have wanted for a very long time.

The agreement is a positive step, but for now, it’s just a piece of paper. This commitment must be translated into law and into deeds. First into law – the organization responsible for the chemical weapons ban must issue a ruling and the UN Security Council, which is the planet’s leading legal body, must do so as well.

Given that this agreement was initiated by the Americans and the Russians, no one will understand how there could be provisions preventing its implementation. It must therefore be implemented.

Diplomats are discussing the form of implementation, the corresponding article… This is a legitimate discussion, but what’s crucial is for the agreement reached last week to be translated into law and reality as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it means that Bashar al-Assad and perhaps others will be able to continue using chemical weapons, even though we’ve said they have to be eliminated.

I personally hope we can trust in the common sense, integrity and consistency of those who negotiated this agreement, so that it will be implemented.

Q. – Is the P3 unanimous on the need to invoke Chapter VII in the draft resolution that will be proposed, or at least that’s now being studied by the Russians and the Chinese? Or is there room to manoeuvre, doing what the Russians ask by leaving out Chapter VII and returning to the Security Council if the Syrians violate the agreement?

THE MINISTER – Your question is about the so-called P3. The P3 consists of three permanent members of the Security Council: the United States, Britain and France. They jointly developed a text. The P5 met to discuss this text, as often occurs, and of course, the members who initiated the resolution share the same approach. Discussions are taking place, as they always do.

As far as these three members are concerned, all three support an agreement that was reached last week that does indeed make it possible to eliminate chemical weapons.

Let me repeat: everybody was told that it was very positive that chemical weapons had long been banned. But there was one country with a huge stockpile that used them and caused considerable harm (1,500 dead), and given our firm stance, that country now agrees not only to acknowledge that it has a chemical stockpile but to eliminate it. Bravo for the good intentions, but only provided they’re implemented, of course.

All the discussions that took place within the Security Council, and discussions that might take place at that international body, are aimed at enforcing this agreement. Frankly, nobody will understand if the implementation of the agreement signed last week is prevented. I therefore trust nations to demonstrate consistency in this regard.


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