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Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on participation in the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan

06.07.2011 - Speech

On 6 July 2011 Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave the following speech to the German Bundestag concerning the participation of German armed forces in the UN-led peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS):

--verbatim report of proceedings --

Mr President, fellow members: only rarely does the world have the chance to witness the birth of a new country. On 9 July – that is, at the end of this week – South Sudan will declare its independence.

With South Sudan’s declaration of independence comes the end of the United Nations-led peacekeeping mission in Sudan, UNMIS. This also brings an end to the German Bundestag mandate for our participation in the mission.

South Sudan is facing huge challenges. Many of you have been there. I’m sure you share the impressions that I gathered during my visit to Juba two weeks ago. The state administrative framework and the economic and social infrastructure are still under construction in South Sudan. South Sudan has asked the international community for additional support and for a continued United Nations presence on its territory.

The United Nations Security Council is currently drafting a mandate for a new peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, UNMISS. This time it’s with two “s”s – for South Sudan. This means we’re not going to extend the old mandate, but rather propose a new mandate for your approval.

Germany bears a special responsibility – in part because the admission of South Sudan to the United Nations will be decided during the German presidency of the United Nations Security Council. Germany therefore has a strong interest in a stable South Sudan and in conflict-free relations between Juba and Khartoum. This is also a reason for the German Government to seek to participate in the new mission from the outset.

Up to 50 German soldiers should be able to be deployed. The resolution by the United Nations Security Council will provide a basis in international law for their deployment. The draft resolution is currently in the hands of our foreign policy experts. We discussed it in a committee meeting this morning. As of today, our idea of the United Nations mandate is concrete enough that we can submit to you, the members of this House, a sufficiently concrete application for a mandate. That is to say, we are not applying for preliminary authorization; I would like to expressly draw your attention to this once more.

I discussed this process in writing this past week with the parliamentary group chairs of the parties represented in the Bundestag. Today in the Cabinet meeting we decided as a Federal Government that the application has become concrete enough and consolidated enough that the key tenets of a mandate, as it is to be adopted, are now clear. This in turn means that we’re ready for a decision, this morning in the Cabinet and then presumably on Friday here in this House, the German Bundestag. We are asking for your approval, as it is important to us that we hold fully to the requirement of parliamentary approval. The Bundeswehr is a parliamentary army that can only act with parliament’s consent. And so the Bundestag will – I’m certain of this – do right by this special responsibility. Even if it’s a relatively small mission, such resolutions must never become routine. In any case, that’s the position of the Federal Government, which we are presenting here in the German Bundestag.

The mandate should be valid only for a limited period. This mandate is conditional on the Security Council actually adopting a UN mandate for South Sudan, and on a corresponding resolution which does not go beyond the content of the present draft. I would like to take this opportunity to once more explicitly assure you of this.

I cannot tell you exactly when the decision will be made in the United Nations Security Council. Yesterday negotiations went on until late at night our time. We are, however, convinced that the fundamental tenets are now clear enough for us to take that step. In any event the vast majority of responses from the parliamentary groups have shown both agreement with the process and willingness to provide material support for the mandate. This shows overwhelming unity in this House.

We are thus asking for support for this mandate. Because all of us here are of course very sensitive – I want to say this for myself personally, I served as an MP in the parliamentary opposition group for many years, and it was always important to us that the rights of parliament never be even so much as relativized – I would like to say explicitly at this point that as an additional assurance for the German Bundestag, we are taking the unusual step of applying for a mandate valid only until the end of September this year, so that the Bundestag can engage with the matter anew after the summer break. If, counter to our expectations, the negotiation situation changes fundamentally in the coming days, I will of course pull the emergency brake. Then there will be no deployment. Of this, too, I want to explicitly reassure you here: this is not about a preliminary authorization, but rather about consulting about and deciding on the mandate in an orderly manner. Each MP here will be fulfilling his or her parliamentary responsibility in approving the mandate.

The core mandate of the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan is to help build up governmental and institutional structures, further support peaceful development and help protect civilians. In this mission, our Bundeswehr soldiers will primarily be exercising staff and observer roles. However, I want to say this: yes, the mandate is small and manageable as far as our contribution is concerned. But – and it says this in the text of the mandate, though we do not assume that it will be necessary – the use of force is also legitimate under this mandate. That is to say, in the event that the aim of the mandate is endangered by the violence of others, violence can be used. We need to be clear about this here. We don’t expect it to happen, and of course we don’t want it to happen. But everyone needs to know this, because even though only a small number of soldiers are involved, we bear a responsibility for every single soldier. That’s why we deliberate over each individual mandate carefully.

Ladies and gentlemen, having laid out for you the parliamentary procedures, I would now like to conclude with a personal remark.I think that a lot of questions remain unresolved between North and South Sudan.Consider the issue of border demarcation, the matter of access to sources of energy, the distribution of profits, or our deliberations on the humanitarian situation in Darfur. There are many questions that remain to be asked by you, my dear colleagues, just as we are also asking them. We’re working on answering these questions.

I’d like to add one more thing: please don’t forget how far we’ve come.Only nine months ago we all doubted whether a referendum would occur at all, whether the results of the referendum would be accepted, whether independence was possible and whether the referendum could be carried out in a relatively non-violent manner. All of these things happened. Nothing has been decided definitively; the situation remains very fragile.But I believe that the United Nations mission has been successful. It has helped bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict ever nearer.

And so I believe that the German Bundestag should fulfil its responsibility and approve this mandate. In the name of the Federal Government, I ask for your approval.

Thank you very much.

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