Press Conference on End of Germany’s Security Council Tenure

14 December 2012

Press Conference on End of Germany’s Security Council Tenure

14 December 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on End of Germany’s Security Council Tenure

The value of early and sustained action by the Security Council was dramatically affirmed during Germany’s tenure, which was dominated by momentous change in the Arab world, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said at a press conference today.

“We shouldn’t wait until the death toll becomes unbearable before engagement,” Peter Wittig emphasized as Germany’s two-year term drew to a close.  Conveying some of the lessons learned from his experience on the Council, he recalled the course of events in Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, saying:  “We have an obligation to prevent crises from deteriorating into major threats.”

He said the so-called Arab Spring had brought the Council back into “the limelight of international diplomacy”, adding that Germany had it very seriously from the start.  The events also showed the importance of strong involvement by regional actors, such as the League of Arab States and the Gulf Cooperation Council.  Germany had advocated more interaction between the Security Council and the Arab League, and had managed to secure agreement on a presidential statement upgrading coordination between the two.

There had indeed been frustration over Syria, as the Council failed to find unity when it still “had a chance to prevent a disaster that was unfolding before our very eyes”, he said in response to questions.  However, it was important to look ahead now that there was some movement on forging a unified opposition that could represent the Syrian people and work with Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi on initiating a transition process.

In response to other questions on Syria, he said it was “a clear-cut case” that responsibility for the tragedy fell on President Bashar al-Assad, who could have changed course and would have to be held accountable.  Mr. Wittig affirmed that international military intervention had never been considered in his presence.

He went on to point out that numerous other situations had kept the Council busy during his country’s tenure, noting that Germany had taken the lead on the “Afghanistan file” and had helped to build the foundation of the “decade of transformation” spelled out at the Bonn Conference, alongside a stronger, more forward-looking orientation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in the field.

On measures against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Monitoring Committee of which Germany was the Chair, he said his country had led a serious re-examination of the policy in order to ensure greater respect for and implementation of the sanctions imposed.  Germany had advocated that they respond to the changing nature of the terrorist threat, bearing in mind that the sanctions were intended to be preventative rather than punitive.

He went on to recall that a landmark decision in that regard had separated the Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions regimes, giving the Government of Afghanistan a stronger role and more room to pursue reconciliation.  Another important decision had strengthened the role of the ombudsperson, engendering a clear, transparent listing and de-listing process that could be a model for other sanctions regimes.  In response to questions on that issue, however, he said cases brought before the ombudsperson could not be publicly discussed.

Affirming that the promotion of human rights was central to Germany’s foreign policy, he said he was pleased to have helped bring about, in cooperation with civil society, a resolution addressing armed groups that persistently endangered the rights of children or attacked schools and hospitals.  He also expressed satisfaction with having helped put climate security on the Security Council map through a presidential statement issued during Germany’s presidency.  That was “not a small achievement, considering the context in which we’re operating”, he added.

As a confirmed European multilateralist trying to add value to the Council’s work, Germany would remain an important contributor to international peace and security beyond its term of Council membership, he pledged.  To related questions, he said that his country’s financial support for the United Nations had not wavered during the global financial downturn.

Responding to other questions, Mr. Wittig noted that the Council had quickly come together in condemnation of the recent missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, adding that he had advocated a resolution imposing additional restrictions on that country, to make it clear that the international community would not tolerate such violations of international law.  However, Germany was hesitant to predict an outcome at the present time.

As for Palestinians pursuing international justice through upgraded status at the United Nations, he stressed the priority of ensuring the resumption of negotiations towards a two-State solution.  On Mali, he said there was consensus in the Council on the urgent need to act, and for a strong political track, including negotiations with the north, alongside a viable military option, which, even if not employed at an early stage, could underpin a political solution.  There was a strong awareness of the situation’s wide-ranging implications, including potential “contamination” of the whole region by terrorist-affiliated groups.

Regarding Security Council reform, he noted that it had not been discussed in the Council itself but in the General Assembly.  While Germany was considered a driver on the issue of structural reform that would adapt the organ to current international realities, he noted, it was pragmatic at the same time, and advocated for the different camps to move from their entrenched positions.  Like it or not, the veto was part of the United Nations Charter.  “It’s a reality and we will not contest that,” he stressed.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.