|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Security Council President for Month of March
The Russian Federation’s March presidency of the Security Council had seen the 15-member organ take up a “very rich” programme of work, Permanent Representative Vitaly I. Churkin said today, highlighting the adoption of six resolutions, the issuance of eight press statements and discussions on diverse security situations around the world, from Mali and South Sudan to the Middle East and Kosovo.
At a Headquarters press conference about the Council’s recent “milestones”, Mr. Churkin said the cornerstone of the Russian presidency had been the debate on Afghanistan, which had shown that the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan was at the heart of international attention. Resolution 2096 (2013), on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), underscored the coordination role played by the United Nations in stabilizing the country.
The adoption of resolution 2094 (2013), on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, had sent a message about the inviolability of resolutions, he said, emphasizing that solutions could only be found through diplomacy. The resolution reiterated the need to resume the six-party talks, he added. Resolution 2093 (2013), on Somalia, reconfigured the United Nations presence and eased sanctions imposed on that country, with a view to strengthening security-sector reform, he said, adding that resolution 2095 (2013), on Libya, underscored the importance of compliance with sanctions regimes.
Noting that the bulk of the Council’s focus was on Africa, he said the Council would adopt a resolution in the afternoon that would reconfigure the United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in order to counter destructive forces in the eastern part of that county. On Mali, he said the Council had held its first discussion on the relevant report of the Secretary-General, and planned for future activities. It had also held its biweekly discussion on Sudan and South Sudan, with efforts to push the two countries towards compromise having borne fruit. An interactive dialogue the previous day with Thabo Mbeki, Chair of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), had highlighted progress made vis-à-vis the implementation and timelines of recently signed agreements. The results of an inquiry into the downing of a helicopter in South Sudan which killed its Russian crew would be important for assessing the mission in that country.
As for the Middle East, he underscored the importance of resuming negotiations, noting that the current stalemate was “inadmissible”, as that tenuous status could erupt at any moment. There was also concern about the situation in Lebanon, where the Prime Minister had resigned, and in Cairo, he said, recalling that the Council had condemned terrorist attacks on a mosque in Damascus which had caused 40 deaths. (See Press Release SC/10953)
Asked about the Secretary-General’s inquiry into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, Mr. Churkin said the investigation would be carried out as quickly as possible. Syria had provided all the technical information required and investigators would focus on the situation brought to the Secretary-General’s attention by the Syrian Government.
As for the next steps relating to “the two Sudans”, he characterized the situation in South Sudan as “rather dramatic” and “quite unsettling”. It had been decided in Juba to separate the fighters in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States, he said, describing that decision as “crucially important” because Khartoum had rejected negotiations with them. If the fighters were part of South Sudan, they could not negotiate about Sudan, he pointed out. If Juba was politically and practically disassociated from Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, that opened an opportunity for a political discussion between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N). The two sides had agreed to resume oil production and transport through Sudan, which was encouraging, because for first time after their separation, the parties had started carrying out their commitments, “a qualitatively new situation”.
Responding to a related question, he recalled that the Council had prepared a press statement to show support for Mr. Mbeki, but afterwards, the United States and the United Kingdom had said that the statement had “missed many things”. Those countries had proposed their own text and negotiations on it had proceeded, but they had kept adding new elements. The Russian Federation had wanted the press statement to say that sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union— including on agriculture — were unjustifiable. “Of course, that did not happen,” he noted. While the Russian Federation assumed that negotiations between Khartoum and Juba must be encouraged, the United States could not break with its “policy of regime change” towards Khartoum, he said. The different approaches made it “painful” to negotiate those issues in the Council, he added.
Asked about future cooperation in Syria between the United Nations and regional organizations, he said the Geneva communiqué underlined the need to establish contacts between the Syrian Government and opposition, and to create a transitional dialogue. However, there was now a group of people whose legitimacy had been established from outside the country, he said, pointing out that there had been no election and Syrians had not heard of those people. Additionally, the League of Arab States had undercut the efforts of Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, an unfortunate new development that had damaged the League’s standing. It was becoming a more negative force rather than a positive one, he said.
To a related question, he said Mr. Brahimi had tried to distance himself from the Arab League in the beginning as it had an “uneven” track record at best. Rather than support his efforts, the League had chosen to work in the opposite direction and he hoped the United Nations would give Mr. Brahimi the support he deserved.
As for the Security Council, there was increasing chaos among those members working against the Syrian Government, Mr. Churkin continued. The United States and others believed that dialogue between the Government and opposition, on the basis of the Geneva communiqué, was the only way forward. However, the head of the opposition “transitional government” did not want to do that. The Russian Federation’s policy had been consistent: dialogue between the Government and opposition, he said, adding that the Syrians had put forward their negotiators while their partners had not. Many people were paying lip service to a political settlement but pursuing a military track.
The Russian delegation would oppose any moves for the Syrian opposition to take up the country’s seat at the United Nations, Mr. Churkin emphasized, warning that such a development would undercut the Organization’s standing as an intergovernmental body. “You don’t seat opposition groups that have not gone through a process of legitimization,” he stressed. “Most of the countries are smart enough to understand that they themselves might be the target of such manipulation in the future.”
In response to a question about Mali and the change in the status of the African support forces, he said the situation required “serious discussions” and careful study. Normally when peacekeeping missions deployed, there was cooperation and contact with the authorities. However, it was difficult to ascertain the position of the Malian authorities, as it was not clear what they wanted or what plans they had in place. Also, it was not obvious that a political process would happen, he pointed out, noting also that the African force also had not established itself.
Asked how he would characterize the atmosphere in the Council, he said there had been better moments. The situation “fluctuates with the problems we confront”. Generally, it was not a bad atmosphere at all, he said, adding that there were disagreements, especially about Syria and South Sudan. Overall, however, they did not affect the Council.
* *** *