Speech given by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin in Cairo
THE FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER SPEECH
(Cairo, 12th of April 2003)
Ladies and gentlemen,
Naturally, the international community bears a responsibility for backing this demand, while respecting each individual's identity. France here means to remain true to itself, strong in its ideals and convictions, rich with its experience and long-time ties with this region of the Middle East, with Asia and with Africa. We have reflected on the lessons from our past and gauged the complexity that action must constantly cope with.
If we are to progress, we must then find the path to peace and stability in the region. In the Middle East and beyond, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fuels every kind of tension. It troubles our societies everywhere. No country can ignore this crisis, born out of the reciprocal rejection of two peoples during forty years and maintained by the failure of the various peace processes, which no country can ignore. The deadlock exacerbates the feelings of anger and injustice, frustration and despair. It intensifies the suffering and serves finally as an excuse for international terrorism.
Since the Intifada resumed in September 2000, the gulf has widened. In the reoccupied Palestinian Territories, the crackdown has been harsh, and the impoverishment tragic. Indiscriminate terrorism has seriously shaken the partisans of peace in Israel. Yet, on either side, civil society continues, despite the deprivation and fear, to place hope in the future.
There has never been such unanimous agreement concerning the broad lines of a settlement. Security Council Resolution 1397, reasserting Resolutions 242 and 338, lays down the principle of two States living side by side in security. In Beirut in March 2002, the Arab world, at the instigation of Saudi Prince Abdallah, solemnly pledged to normalise its relations with Israel once the occupation ceased, thus following the path opened by Egypt with the 1978 Camp David accords.
Israel, like all lawful sovereign States, has a right to security and recognition by its neighbours. It knows that France will never countenance a threat to or a questioning of it's existence, recognised by the United Nations on behalf of the international community following the Nazi abomination. The Palestinians, too, have a right to a sovereign, viable and democratic State. France was among the first to claim this for them twenty years ago. The Palestinians, victims of what their collective memory recalls as the Nakba, the disaster, have become a homeless people.
Let us shed our false illusions — on the one hand, that of a victory through the Intifada and terrorism; on the other, that of a victory through military might. What does the future hold for the Palestinians? Can anyone believe that, after having endured so much, they will simply give up? They will remain in the land that is theirs. What does the future hold for the Israelis? Without peace, will the State of Israel ever obtain the legitimate security of which it dreams?
Peace now is an imperative. International law must be applied. We wish to settle this conflict together, with an insistence on justice and responsibility. It is essential therefore to provide each camp with all the needed guarantees, taking into consideration the fears and concerns, in order to build a common future for all the region's inhabitants.
Europe, the United Nations, the United States and Russia have joined together in the Quartet, whose road map sets out the main stages in the process. Let us step by step make the necessary choices together.
Stage one: prepare the bases of an agreement. The Quartet's road map must be rapidly communicated to both parties and published. Now that Abu Mazen has been named Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli cabinet has been installed, the conditions are ripe. The road map must be implemented by all sides without delay, the goal being a Palestinian State by 2005.
Stage two: stop the spiral of violence. Israelis and Palestinians must publicly reassert their choice of negotiation and peace, beginning with a joint truce declaration. This calming gesture will rekindle hope in all those who live in fear each day. France would, with other partners, be ready to participate by a presence on the ground.
Why could not the two peoples directly express their will by mandating their governments to make peace within the prospect of a two-State coexistence? Why not lend an ear to the voters, who in a referendum could confirm the choice for peace and restore hope to the collective consciousness?
Stage three: ensure the conditions for peace. The Palestine public services should be in a position to assume their responsibilities. In this task, they should benefit from the international community's backing, if necessary. In exploring the possibilities for efficient technical support, France would like thought to be given, open-mindedly and without prejudice, to an international presence that would take up position with the consent of the parties without encroaching on their sovereign responsibilities.
Stage four: opening the paths to peace. France proposes hosting in Paris, after stage one of the Quartet's road map, an international conference for defining the framework needed for concluding, with the backing of the international community, an honourable peace.
Stage five: proclamation of the Palestinian State. It would correspond to the end of phase two of the Quartet's road map. Our wish is that at this stage the Palestinian State, within provisional borders, should become a reality. We are ready to draw all the diplomatic consequences should implementation of the Quartet's plan lag behind schedule.
These steps signpost the itinerary set out by the Quartet and its road map. We feel it is necessary to confirm the choice of will by concrete acts, for the hopes raised must not be dashed once again. Each partner must display its unflinching determination.
Let us not delude ourselves. The search for a solution requires mobilisation on everyone's part.
On the Israeli side, it is clear for all to see: security can be achieved only through peace, but peace will require tough concessions to be made. But despite the tragic events, the person on the other side must be accepted. Let us heed Amos Oz: What we have done is sad and bitter, as sad and bitter as what our enemies have done to us.
On the Palestinian side, renunciation of violence, which offers no way out, is more necessary than ever. The Palestinian Authority must be able to speak in the name of its people.
Lastly, all the Arab countries must accept Israel as one of the region's States; they must fully recognise this neighbour country by affording it guarantees of security and building normal peaceful relations with it.
We believe in the vision of a Middle East at peace. It is essential to security and, without security, no future is possible. It is the expectation of all your peoples. The world stands in need of a Middle East capable of making itself heard on the international stage and lending its hand in meeting the great common challenge of the future.
Peace must be comprehensive, embracing Syria and the Lebanon as well. Is the Israeli presence on the Golan Heights still justified for security reasons? The matter of water and Lake Tiberiade should be the subject of a fair agreement consonant with the practices recognised under international law in this field. Lebanon, for its part, will recover its full independence and complete sovereignty within the framework of a comprehensive peace.
While not forgetting those who have suffered and died, let us put a stop to the violence which ravages human lives and perpetuates the thirst for revenge. Israeli and Palestinian children should be able to return to school without fear of being cut down along the way. Their parents should be able to go to work free from terror. The economy should pick up again. Men and women should be able to journey and travel freely. Human and cultural relations should be resumed between these neighbouring countries that have shared so much pain. We must dissipate the fear and anxiety that have suffocated the two populations for many long months.
To rebuild and restore trust: that is the great challenge for the Middle East. The region's internal struggles over the past century were the expression, first and foremost, of a general mistrust as regards the neighbouring countries' intentions. Lack of trust is what hampered peace efforts in the Western Sahara, Iraq and Iran, and still blocks a settlement of the Israelo-Palestinian conflict.