|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for September
Forging greater ties between the United Nations and the League of Arab States to address Middle East turmoil and working closely with their new Joint Special Representative on the crisis in Syria would be among the top priorities of the Security Council in September, the Permanent Representative of Germany, whose delegation holds the Council’s rotating presidency for this month, said today.
“We want to focus specifically on the emerging role of the Arab League as a significant regional actor and contributor to conflict resolution,” Peter Wittig told correspondents at Headquarters during the regular monthly briefing on the Council’s programme of work.
Both United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his counterpart at the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby, would address the Council’s 26 September high-level meeting on the Middle East, as would Foreign Ministers and Heads of State of many of the Council’s 15 member countries, Mr. Wittig said. Lakhdar Brahimi, the new Joint Special Representative for Syria, who was expected to meet this week with Arab League officials in Cairo before travelling on to Syria, might also address the Council upon his return.
Although the 18-month-old crisis in Syria would be “very much on our mind”, it would not be among the Council’s formal agenda items, he said, noting that the Council-mandated United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) had expired last month.
In addition to Syria, Mr. Wittig said, the situation in Sudan and South Sudan would be at the forefront of attention, with consultations scheduled for 6 and 20 September on the status of the African Union timeline to resolve outstanding issues between the two nations.
The situation in Afghanistan and the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission there (UNAMA) in addressing the challenges to that country’s transition to self-government would be discussed during a debate scheduled for 20 September, he said. During an open debate on 19 September, delegates would focus on denouncing the use of children in armed conflict and on targeted measures against persistent perpetrators that forced children to bear arms and wage war alongside adults.
On the afternoon of 17 September, the Council would discuss the security situation in Africa’s Sahel region, and the Secretary-General’s proposal to impose sanctions on armed groups that had overrun northern Mali following the coup d’état that had toppled the Government in March, he said, noting agreement among Council members for comprehensive action. Earlier in the day, the Council would hold its monthly briefing, followed by consultations, on the Middle East.
Other highlights of the month, he said, included consultations to follow up situations in Yemen, Guinea-Bissau and Libya, as well as the renewal of mandates of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). On 20 September, the Chair of the 1737 Sanctions Committee would report to the Council on developments concerning sanctions against Iran.
Asked several questions about Syria, he said the situation there, particularly the refugee crisis, “could not be more concerning and dramatic”. Council members were not happy about their lack of unity on how to resolve it, and did not want their 26 September meeting on that subject to be acrimonious and contentious. “We have to find common ground in the future,” he said, calling for meaningful concerted action.
Mr. Wittig said that while the Council was united in its support for Mr. Brahimi, the new envoy was in an “exploration phase” and must be given time to use his vast experience and leverage to “find an opening” to stem the bloodshed. As for military intervention, no one in the Council was advocating that as a solution. He lauded Turkey’s humanitarian support for Syrian refugees, and said the Turkish Foreign Minister’s statement to the Council last week, which included a proposal to set up humanitarian corridors inside Syria, was “clear and speaks for itself”.
Speaking in his national capacity about whether the United Nations was doing enough to prevent genocide in Syria, particularly against Christians, Mr. Wittig said Germany had warned since the crisis’ inception about rising ethnic tensions and the failure of the Assad regime to stop the killing and implement a meaningful transition. For its part, Germany was contributing tens of millions of dollars to global humanitarian efforts to aid Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring States.
Asked about major topics other than Syria to be discussed during the General Assembly’s upcoming general debate, he cited the situations in the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, Africa’s Sahel region, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan, among others.
As to whether economic sanctions against Iran were effective or were merely causing ordinary Iranians to suffer, he said they were targeted against certain individuals and were not “hitting the population”.
Asked about the Kenyan navy’s shelling of the Somali port of Kismayo to drive out the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab, he said the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) had made headway in regaining control of territory from Al-Shabaab, but that it was too early to comment on recent skirmishes.
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