2 March 2012
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for March

 


Challenges and opportunities in North Africa and the Middle East and the situations in Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan would be highlighted at the Security Council in March, the permanent representative of the United Kingdom, which holds the body’s rotating presidency for the month, told correspondents this afternoon.


In addition to the monthly briefing on the Middle East taking place on the 27th of the month, British Foreign Secretary William Hague was slated to chair a special debate on recent events in the region and North Africa scheduled for 12 March, Mark Lyall Grant said in a Headquarters briefing on the 15-member body’s March programme of work.  Ministers from three of the region’s countries were invited in addition to a high official from Morocco, which currently holds an elected seat.


Also on that region, he said that Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos was expected to brief in consultations on the afternoon of Tuesday the 6th on the situations in the Sahel and Syria, which she had been attempting to visit.  It was hoped that she would have been granted access to Syria before that date and the timing of the consultations would be adjusted, if necessary.


In addition, on the next day, 7March, the Foreign Minister of Libya would be present at the Council introduction of the Secretary-General’s report ahead of the 12 March vote on the mandate renewal of the United Nations Assistance Mission in that country, known as UNSMIL.


An open debate on Somalia on the 5th would chaired by the British Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs, Henry Bellingham.  Consultations on Haiti on the 6th would follow up on the Council’s recent mission there, discussing lessons-learned and the future of the Stabilization Mission there known as MINUSTAH, the Secretary-General’s report on which would be discussed in an 8 March debate. 


On the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Council planned to hold a debate on the 20th at which Ján Kubiš would make his first Council appearance since his arrival on the ground as Special Representative of the Secretary-General, ahead of the vote on renewal of the Mission’s mandate, planned for 22 March.


Other highlights of the month, he said, included an “Aria formula” meeting on the 8th to mark International Women’s Day that planned to include heads of women’s groups and focus on mediation and post-conflict reconstruction.  An informal, innovative event, entitled “From Activism to Accountability” and focusing on peaceful protest, was slated to include the British Foreign Secretary, as well as guests from North Africa. 


On the 15th, he said, there would be consultations on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  Consultations on working methods on the 19th would focus on the Portguese/United Kingdom paper on increasing the efficiency of Council work, periodicity of mandate renewals and making best use of financing. 


The new Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, would brief the body during the month, he said, and the six-month overview briefing on peacekeeping operations scheduled for the 26th would focus on moving from peacekeeping to peace-building.


A briefing and consultations on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Sierra Leone would discuss, among other issues, the “leadership gap” following the departure of the previous Executive Representative, whom he said was put in a difficult position by the Government. 


In reply to questions, he said that the Council was looking for the Secretary-General to replace the Representative in Sierra Leone, and part of the complexities involved was the change from peacekeeping to a normal country presence for the United Nations.  The Council had been having related discussions about host country consent in Chapter VI and VII missions, which was frequently a tricky issue. 


Responding to questions on Syria, he said that Kofi Annan’s joint envoy mandate for the United Nations and the Arab League was from the General Assembly and not the Council, but he was sure the Council would want to keep informed on his activities.  He did not hear any controversy about Mr. Annan’s role being the exclusive conduit for “stimulating and managing the political process” for those two organizations. 


He was not in a position to predict how and when the Council would act next on Syria, he said, except to note an agreement that the body needed “to speak soon and speak with one voice”.  He added that informal consultations on texts continued and that anything done in the Council would be complementary to Mr. Annan’s work.  In regard to Al-Qaida involvement in Syria, he said individual members had raised the issue and he spoke in his national capacity of fears that, if repression continued, peaceful protest would turn more and more into violent opposition, although he believed Al-Qaida’s role had been rejected by most opposition groups.


On other issues, he said that there had been good discussions with Thabo Mbeki on Sudan and South Sudan and the Council was working on a presidential statement reflecting on the dire events in the region and the desire for Council unity on the issue.  He said immediate action on Iran was now taking place in Vienna with the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  He reiterated his country’s support for a “dual track” strategy to ensure the country relinquished ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons. 


Asked about how to increase transparency on sanctions regimes, he maintained, in his national capacity, that Panel of Experts reports should be published on a regular basis.  He also reiterated the British position on Security Council reform, which favoured a moderate expansion of permanent members.  On a possible Council members’ mission to the occupied Palestinian territories this year, he said that a Colombian proposal on such, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, had not been accepted.


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For information media • not an official record