|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT
Having assumed the rotating presidency of the Security Council on 1 January, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this morning that his tenure would aim to strengthen the Council’s authority and effectiveness.
Having conducted what he characterized as possibly “one of the shortest” informal meetings of the Security Council this morning, Vitaly Churkin said that the Council had adopted its programme of work for the month by consensus.
He also pointed out that, as the first President of the year, he had the special responsibility of organizing the first meeting of the Council that would include the new Secretary-General. Next Monday, 8 January, the Council would hold a debate on the subject of threats to international peace and security, with the participation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. That subject had been discussed at the 2005 Summit and would provide the Council with a great opportunity not only to look back at the past year and a half, but also at the future. He hoped the Council would adopt a presidential statement at that meeting.
The Council would continue to monitor closely the situation in the Middle East, especially in the light of the developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Palestinian territories. A traditional briefing on that issue was scheduled for 25 January, to be followed by closed consultations.
As usual, the Council would devote much attention to the problems of Africa, he continued. On 9 January, there would be a briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo by High Representative Javier Solana, who would be talking about the European Union contribution to the operation of the United Nations Mission in that country. On the same day, the Council would consider the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces in that country. The Council planned to consider the report of the Secretary-General on Chad-Sudan on 10 January; on the situation in the Central African Republic on 15 January; and on the cross-border issues in Central Africa on 17 January. By 31 January, the Council would have to take a decision on the extension of the mandate of the mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Consultations on that issue would take place on 16 January, to be preceded by a private meeting with troop contributors.
On 10 January, the Council would review the situation in Somalia, he said. On that day, it would also consider a report on the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS). It might, in addition, subject to the developments on the ground, take up the situation in Darfur and the Sudan as a whole.
It was expected that the Council would take up the Secretary-General’s proposals on Nepal, probably on 11 January, and would continue to keep the situation in Haiti under review. On 24 January, the Council would hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s progress report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia. A briefing by the 1718 Committee –- non-proliferation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea -– was scheduled for 11 January. The Council, furthermore, would consider the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s work programme for the next six months.
Asked if such a short work programme was unusual for the Security Council, he said that it was not his intention to do something “extraordinary or revolutionary”. The Council would continue business as usual. He started the year with a hope and expectation that things would be “more normal” in 2007 than last year, which had been difficult for the Council, the United Nations and the world. In fact, opening the Council’s first informal meeting this morning, he had wished its members a quieter and more conflict-free year. Also, the Council had kept Fridays open and, should the situation warrant, there was also always the possibility of a Saturday meeting.
Responding to several questions about the Council’s interaction with the new Secretary-General, he emphasized the need to ensure that there was “the right chemistry” between the new Secretary-General and the Security Council from the outset. During yesterday’s meeting with Mr. Ban, both participants had reiterated their intention to work very closely and cooperatively on the many challenges ahead. With the good will “very much there”, he hoped that the Council would be able to proceed “without missing a beat”, with the new Secretary-General.
Asked if the Russian Federation intended to push for any particular issues during its presidency, he said that his country did not regard its presidency from a selfish point of view. He was there to serve the Security Council and he had produced the programme of work on the basis of conversations with all Council members.
To a question about the Russian Federation’s past “conflict” with the United States on whether Belarus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar fit into the concept of threats to international peace and security, Mr. Churkin, responding in his national capacity, said that he did not know what conflict the correspondent was talking about. The Council was a Charter institution and he believed that Member States should “stick to the role of the Council” prescribed by that document. During the meeting on threats to international peace and security, Member States would get an opportunity to express their views on what challenges the Council should be dealing with as a matter of priority.
Regarding Myanmar, he said that the issue was not in the Council’s work programme, but mentioned as a footnote. While some informal exchanges on the matter had taken place, nothing official had come his way as President of the Council. In his national capacity, he added that, along with some other Council members, Russia had voted against the inclusion of that issue in the agenda of the Security Council. The Russian Federation did not believe the situation in Myanmar posed a threat to international peace and security. Certain matters, including human rights, needed to be addressed in the proper fora.
The Council was as effective as the world allowed it to be, he said in response to a question about the Council’s effectiveness. In an imperfect world, one could not expect to have a perfect United Nations and a perfect Security Council. However, it was the intention of his presidency to be as effective as possible and his country was uniquely well-positioned to play a crucial role in that regard. He believed that there were grounds to say that, internationally, his country was playing a role of “bridge-builder”. Speaking in his national capacity, he said that sometimes he heard complaints that “ Russia is against this, or Russia is against that”. However, it was important to analyze what Russia was for. Looking back at the past year, one could see that, in many cases, Russia had been crucial in achieving consensus on some of the key issues before the Council.
To several questions regarding the Council’s sanctions against Iran, he said that, in his national capacity, he believed that success could be achieved if the international community worked collectively. There had been a unanimous decision of the Security Council on Iran and he hoped that the measures applied would lead to a politically negotiated outcome of the nuclear issue. He did not think that unilateral actions outside of collective measures would be very successful in resolving the issue. As for Iran’s defiant statements, experience showed that, in some cases, after some initial harsh exchanges, compromise emerged. He hoped that would happen in this case.
Replying to a question regarding the next steps in the Sudan, and particularly Darfur, he said that the Council would follow the situation there very closely. If need be, it would conduct special meetings on the matter. Speaking in his personal capacity, he added that there had been some encouraging developments in Darfur, including some important and encouraging communications between Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Sudanese authorities. He hoped the situation there would gradually normalize and the implementation of the three peacekeeping stages would proceed.
On Somalia, he said that the Council would follow the situation closely and expressed hope that various conflicting factions in that country would come to a peaceful resolution of their differences. Should there be a need to meet on the situation in Somalia, the Council would be prepared to take it up.
Asked about the items that were not on the Council’s programme of work –- the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Kosovo and Iran sanctions –- he said that nobody had suggested that the LRA be included in the work programme. As for Kosovo, he said that Martti Ahtisaari was expected to present his status proposal to the sides after 21 January elections. He believed that an opportunity must be given to the parties to continue their dialogue, because it would be extremely dangerous to try to impose a solution with which at least one of the parties did not agree. Regarding Iran, he added that the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was due by 23 February –- after the end of his presidency.
A correspondent asked what outcome Mr. Churkin expected from the meeting on Abkhazia, Georgia, on 24 January. He replied that, last October, the Council had unanimously adopted an important resolution on the matter. The next review of the mandate of the United Nations monitoring presence there would be coming up in April, so he viewed the discussion scheduled in January as “another regular thing”. The representative of the Secretary-General would be briefing the Council about the situation and he hoped that his report would be positive and encouraging.
In his national capacity, he confirmed that the Russian Federation was not entirely happy with the way the authorities of Georgia had been implementing the Council’s resolution so far, but he hoped that they would address the issue positively.
Regarding the efforts to expand the membership of the Security Council, he said that the matter would be pursued vigorously. His national position was very clear -- he would like to see a high degree of unanimity on the matter and did not want a divisive battle on reform of the Security Council. The prerogatives of the permanent members should be preserved, but the Russian Federation accepted the need to enlarge the Council and take in some members on a more permanent basis.