AS SECURITY COUNCIL REVIEWS ITS WORK FOR MONTH OF AUGUST, SEVERAL SPEAKERS DEPLORE ‘INACTION’ ON MID-EAST

31 August 2001
SC/7135

AS SECURITY COUNCIL REVIEWS ITS WORK FOR MONTH OF AUGUST, SEVERAL SPEAKERS DEPLORE ‘INACTION’ ON MID-EAST

31/08/2001
Press ReleaseSC/7135

Security Council

4363rd Meeting (AM)

AS SECURITY COUNCIL REVIEWS ITS WORK FOR MONTH OF AUGUST,

SEVERAL SPEAKERS DEPLORE ‘INACTION’ ON MID-EAST

The Security Council today held its second “wrap-up” meeting to discuss its work over the past month under the Presidency of Colombia.  The first public wrap-up meeting was convened in June, on the initiative of the Council Presidency for that month, the delegation of Bangladesh.

Several Council members praised the clarity and focus of the Colombian Presidency, with particular emphasis on the adoption of two significant texts -– a resolution on the Council’s role in the prevention of armed conflict, and a Presidential statement on the small arms issue.  Many also emphasized the two-day debate on the situation in the Middle East, but regretted the absence of specific Council action on the “worsening situation” there. 

The month -- presided over by both the Foreign Minister of Colombia, Guillermo Fernandez de Soto, and the Permanent Representative, Alfonso Valdivieso -- began with a public debate on small arms in the wake of the General Assembly special session on the subject in July.  At that meeting, Secretary-General Kofi Annan reminded the Council that the illicit small arms trade was conspicuous for its lack of a framework of binding norms and standards.  Foreign Minister Fernandez de Soto, who chaired that debate, said the goal was to deepen Council understanding of the issue by broadening the discussion to include non-members. 

On 20 and 21 August, the Council held its two-day debate on the situation in the Middle East, which focused primarily on implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee (known informally as the Mitchell Report).  That report, issued on 21 May, called for a number of actions, including an immediate ceasefire, a renunciation of terrorism and the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Speakers in the Council debate urged action before the situation became unmanageable.

Also during the month, the Council held public meetings on the latest developments in Sierra Leone, the signing of the Framework Agreement in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the continued fighting in Liberia, and terrorist attacks in Angola.  It also heard an open briefing on the situation in Kosovo as United Nations Mission personnel and residents of the province prepared for general elections in November.  Several speakers welcomed the recent informal consultations on Afghanistan, aimed at evolving a comprehensive approach to the situation there.

Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister of Colombia

Mr. de Soto said the purpose of the monthly summary, or wrap-up, was to help link the actions of the incoming and outgoing Council Presidencies.  It was not an

occasion to summarize national views.  Rather, the wrap-up session was an

opportunity to review the Council’s work for the month and to examine it for such elements as consistency and transparency.  Further, it enabled Council members to consider the broader dimensions of their deliberations, such as the regional implications of individual proposals.  A report presented to the Council on regional approaches to conflict management in Africa was an example of this broader perspective.

The report was an outcome document of a meeting that Colombia had hosted as President of the Council for the month of August.  The meeting had been co-hosted by the International Peace Academy to facilitate informal discussion of the advantages and potential pitfalls of the United Nations system in approaching conflicts in Africa from a regional perspective, with an emphasis on West Africa and the Great Lakes region.  The outcome report of that meeting included a summary of the presentations.  It also highlighted politically relevant issues that were raised in the discussion and which would shape the Council’s future work.

General Comments

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said that the wrap-up meeting, as a monthly institution, could be a very useful addition to the Council’s work.  He highlighted what he called the useful discussions at the Princeton Club earlier in the month, on regional approaches to conflicts in Africa.  It had been an eye-opener to take the same group of people to a different and less formal location than the Council chamber.  Everyone was more candid.  If solutions were going to be found to many of the key difficult items on the agenda, the regional dimension must be factored in.

WANG YINGFAN (China) said he highly appreciated the role played by the Colombian Presidency in the adoption of a presidential Statement on small arms. Africa was a highlight of the Council’s work in August.  Apart from consultations on some of the hot spots in the region, members had also held a valuable exchange with the International Peace Academy on a regional approach.  Hopefully, the positive outcome of that meeting would be implemented. 

He hailed the open debate on the Palestinian and Israeli violence as timely and necessary.  Entrusted with the maintenance of international peace and security, the Council should take prompt measures in response to that worsening situation.  Over the last couple of months, much time had been spent drafting the resolution on the prevention of armed conflict.  Meanwhile, the Council should not stand idly by with respect to the situation in the Middle East.  Regrettably, the Council had been unable to take action on the situation following the open debate on that conflict.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) commended the Colombian Presidency for obtaining results through a clear and rational approach -- although, of course, the Council had been unable to achieve success on all of the issues, as noted by the Chinese representative.  He particularly appreciated the well thought-out agendas on specific issues, as that approach avoided duplication with the debates of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other United Nations bodies.  Indeed, the August Presidency had drawn a clear line between the competency of the Council and the other bodies.

An example of that was the statement just adopted on small arms.  It would have seemed impossible not to repeat the language of the outcome document of the General Assembly special session, but what was adopted today was specific and shed new light on the problem.

WEGGER STROMMEN (Norway) said informal working sessions, such as that on regional approaches to conflict management in Africa, led to open-minded and comprehensive exchanges.  That was also true for interactions between the Council and other entities, such as Special Rapporteurs.  The month’s thematic issue on small arms had been of pivotal importance worldwide for security, humanitarian and development conditions.  However, in order to make an effective political point, the Council’s statements should be more condensed and focused than at present.  On all issues, the Council must act in a results-oriented fashion, responding quickly and speaking with a unified voice.

CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said meetings like the one at the Princeton Club would be more beneficial if Council members were accompanied by their experts, and if a report were issued immediately afterwards.  The Friends Groups issue, raised by Singapore, had received support but the Council had not yet taken it up.  Also, the Council had requested briefing notes but the Secretariat had provided only summary notes.

On the issue of continuity between Presidencies, he said each succeeding Presidency seemed intent on leaving its own stamp.  Longer-range elements that presented unifying themes -- such as those that came up in planning peacekeeping operations -- should be encouraged.  The veto was undemocratic and stymied serious consideration of issues.  The threat of that veto was behind the Council’s failure to act this month on a question concerning the Middle East.  The Council should refuse to consider any item if a Member threatened a veto before the issue was discussed.  Finally, the Council should set aside time to discuss the issues brought up in wrap-up sessions.

SEKOU KASSÉ (Mali) representative said the Council must improve its relationships with other organs and with partners, including regional groups.  It should encourage regular meetings with those entities and also encourage candid exchanges.

VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) commended the Council for continuing to pursue transparency and for rationalizing the conduct of its work.  Brainstorming sessions -- such as that on regional approaches to conflict management in Africa and the follow-up session on small arms -- were vital to the Council’s work.  He called on the Council to improve its ability to act in fulfilment of its Charter obligations, which it failed to do on the serious issue of the Middle East.  The Council must better coordinate its work with other bodies.  The open wrap-up sessions were welcome.

GERARD CORR (Ireland) also characterized the wrap-up sessions.  He said the Council had produced three important outcomes this month after its consideration of a regional approach to conflict management in Africa, of small arms, and of the need for clarity in the Council’s work.  He called for the Secretariat to present more written materials prior to meetings, summarizing issues in detailed briefing notes to facilitate the Council’s work.  All items need not be addressed every month but should be raised only when new elements emerged, he added.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said he supported the Council’s movement towards transparency.  Noting that the Middle East remained an open issue, he suggested that the Council hold open meetings with non-Council participants when there was no need for formality.  The relationship between the Council and troop-contributing countries should be enhanced, and resolution 1353 should be implemented to help in situations such as Timor.  Also, experiences like the meeting at the Princeton Club should be pursued, as should relationships with regional groups.  The Groups of Friends idea should continue to be considered.

RUHUL AMIN (Bangladesh) recalled that the Council had two aims in the monthly wrap-ups:  first, to assess its work and second, to improve the continuity of its work.  He called for a proactive role for the Council and said the adoption of resolution 1366 yesterday had been a landmark event, in that the Council had committed itself to a preventive measure.  Attention must now be paid to implementing it.  Encounters between the Council and the academic world, such as that at the Princeton Club, would improve the Council’s work.  The Council must also follow up its own work and ensure implementation of its decisions.  The Council’s working group on working methods should report regularly to the Council.

OTHAMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) said the Council’s meetings should aim for openness toward non-members, since many others besides Council members were involved in situations such as conflict prevention and peacekeeping.  Considering the views of outsiders might help the Council reconsider its work in areas where it was lethargic, as in the Middle East situation, where the Council had shown itself unable to act.

JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) agreed it was unfortunate the Council had been unable to produce an outcome document on the Middle East, but it had nevertheless held a number of important meetings this month.  He called on the Council to encourage the expression of new ideas and initiatives for improving its handling of challenging issues.    

CAMERON HUME (United States) noted the Council’s constant dilemma over the organization of its work.  The benefits of the meeting at the Princeton Club –-somewhere far removed from the United Nations -– had been variously described as "brainstorming, soul-searching, open and frank".  He added that his delegation was grateful for what had been organized on regional peacekeeping challenges in Africa. 

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) praised the Colombian delegation for its competent, professional and inspired Presidency.  One lesson had been the continued attention to time management by the Colombian team.  Any requests of the working group on procedural issues should be clear.  Hopefully, the French Presidency next month would play a facilitating role by clarifying who had to do what, where and when.  The wrap-up sessions were useful, but he would caution against excessively pessimistic assessments of the record during that process of self-examination.  Drawing the proper conclusions from such sessions meant bearing in mind what the Council had achieved as well as what it had not.

He appreciated the important outcome of consultations on Afghanistan, and looked forward to receiving input from the Secretary-General in October on a comprehensive approach to the situation there.  With respect to transparency and the aim of bringing delegations deeper into the work of the Council, Groups of Friends members had a responsibility to behave correctly, responsibly and openly with respect to Council members. 

Mr. FERNANDEZ DE SOTO (Colombia), speaking in his national capacity, thanked Council members for their constructive contributions and positive attitude.  He also thanked the Secretariat team for its continued support and professionalism.  The Council had taken an important step in its consideration of the small arms question.  Following the open debate on 2 August, it had adopted a Presidential statement containing the views of both members and non-members of the Council, which would set the course for the future positions to be taken by the Council on that topic.

Hopefully, he said, the Princeton Club meeting would reinforce the Council’s action and that of other United Nations bodies with respect to the conflicts in Africa.  Also, a first step had been taken towards a comprehensive approach to the situation in Afghanistan.  During informal consultations on 29 August, a rich and closely focused discussion was held, bearing on the elements for a comprehensive approach to be described in a non-paper by the Secretariat in October. 

Finally, he said he was satisfied at yesterday’s interesting discussion of the report by the Ambassadors of Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, and Colombia concerning dialogue with the open-ended group on the reform of the Security Council.  The open wrap-up session was undoubtedly a contribution towards that goal.  He wished the French delegation well in guiding the Council's work in September.

The meeting began at 10:50 a.m. and was adjourned at 12:31 p.m.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.