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French envoy calls on UN to scrap veto in cases of atrocity

Photo: AFP

France’s UN envoy called Monday for the veto rights of the five permanent members of the Security Council to be suspended when mass atrocities are involved such as in the Syrian civil war, an initiative France hopes could prove to be a game-changer.


The proposal, which was first laid out by French President François Hollande in September, would see the five permanent Security Council members adopt a code of conduct under which they agree not to use their vetoes to block resolutions in cases of mass atrocity.

The clause would only operate in the case of mass atrocities and would not be binding if a country's "vital national interests" were at stake.

If adopted, it would bring a radical change for Syria, more than three years into the country’s devastating civil war.

Charged with the maintenance of international peace and security, the Security Council is the only UN body with any real power.

All 193 United Nations member states are obligated to comply with council decisions.

The council has 15 members, each with one vote.

The US, UK, Russia, China and France all have permanent seats.


There are five permanent members of the Security Council:  France, Britain, the United States, China and Russia. Since the beginning of the conflict, Moscow and Beijing have vetoed three Western-backed UNSC resolutions. If this proposal were adopted, France, the UK and the US would be able to sidestep Russia and China in acting on Syria.

France’s UN ambassador, Gérard Araud, says he is confident that the reform is a fair solution to years of fruitless wrangling over Syria.

“For the founders of the United Nations, the veto right was not supposed to allow a situation like the one we have seen in Syria. It’s a way of really enforcing the charter of the UN,” he told FRANCE 24 on Monday.

But Araud admitted that Russia and China are unlikely to support the reform.

“It’s very unlikely [in] the short-term that Russia and China would accept it,” he said. “But if we have the UK and the US on board, I think it could impose a very strong moral pressure on Russia and China. And beyond the five permanent members you have the wider membership of the UN, so even if Russia and China don’t sign it, they will be obliged to take it into account.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will organise a meeting to push for the reform on the sidelines of the 69th UN General Assembly in September.

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