|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for June
The Security Council would tackle a wide range of topics in June through public meetings, open debates, and open and closed briefings, as well as resolutions, the organ’s President for the month said during a Headquarters press conference today.
Briefing on the Council’s June work programme, Vitaly Churkin (Russian Federation) noted that the month traditionally carried a heavy workload, and said the Council would hold 11 public meetings, including an open debate on peacekeeping trends, and debates on Afghanistan and on the work of the international tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. There would also be 8 open briefings, 3 closed briefings and 13 consultations.
He said that he also expected the Council to adopt at least six resolutions extending the mandates of the Group of Experts on Iran sanctions as well as those of the peacekeeping operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and the Golan. There would also be two resolutions before the Council, renewing and adjusting the sanctions regime imposed on Al-Qaida and the Taliban.
The Council would also conduct a monthly meeting on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, with a focus on the Middle East peace process, he continued. In addition, it would address the situations in Yemen, where terrorist threats were escalating, and in the Syrian Golan, where the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was under pressure from increasing military activity by the Syrian opposition. Tomorrow, the Council would hear the regular report by the Joint Coordinator of the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations (OPCW-UN). It would discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation in Libya on 9 June, and the humanitarian situation in Syria at the end of the month.
Turning to Africa, he said a discussion would be held on the “worrisome” humanitarian situation in Somalia, the latest developments in the South Sudan civil war and the negotiations between that country and Sudan. The Council would address the situations in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic and the Sahel region.
He went on to emphasize that a “very important discussion” would be held on Afghanistan, noting that the country was holding a second round of presidential elections and preparing for the final withdrawal of foreign forces. Many acute problems were emerging in the Afghan security sector and in efforts to combat drug trafficking. The Council would also turn its attention to the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the referral of Sudan to the International Criminal Court, the work of the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, and the activities of the sanctions committees dealing with Iran and Liberia.
“As you know, yesterday we had consultations on the very serious humanitarian situation in the south and east of Ukraine,” he said, noting that the Russian Federation had submitted a brief, non-politicized draft resolution on the matter. The text focused on stopping the violence, allowing humanitarian assistance and free movement for the civilian population.
An open thematic discussion on new trends in United Nations peacekeeping would also be convened, he said. The Secretary-General would speak, and armed peacekeeping, new technology and inter-mission cooperation would be discussed. Besides its official work programme, the Council would hold its traditional meeting with the Peace and Security Council of the African Union on 6 June. Although the agenda was not finalized, cooperation between the two bodies in addressing crises on the continent would be discussed.
Responding to a series of questions about Ukraine, he said that his delegation would continue to work on a draft resolution before the Council, as it could play a major role in stopping the increasing violence and prevent the political situation from deteriorating. The initial discussion in the Council had not been encouraging because some members seemed to believe that the situation could be settled by force and were supporting Kyiv’s “punitive operation” in eastern Ukraine.
Calling that a “grave mistake”, he said the Council should seek peaceful solutions to any crisis, and voiced hope that the text would be adopted. It called for a ceasefire, for the opening of humanitarian corridors and for allowing civilians to leave. The past 24 hours had seen an escalation of force by Kyiv, which was an “erroneous” approach to the problems in eastern Ukraine. Slovyansk was under siege by the Ukrainian military and its population was being prevented from leaving the area, he said.
Asked whether his country’s Foreign Minister planned to visit New York, he said the visit, although welcome, was not planned at the present time. As for United States President Barack Obama’s visit to Poland, he said that if that visit was intended to “build up muscles and jump-start activities”, that would be detrimental to matters overall. Policy was what mattered.
When asked about the investigation into events in Odessa and the United Nations response, he said that after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s 19 May letter to the Secretary-General, an international investigation could not be put together. However, the Russian Federation had been assured that the matter was being examined very carefully. There were several investigations under way in Ukraine as well as complaints about attempts to derail them. However, there were clear signs that the massacre had not happened without approval and direction from Kyiv.
Asked about the Ukrainian delegation’s initial reaction to the draft resolution, he said they were interested in supporting the text, they could have called the Russian delegation and that would have made matters easier in the Council. He said that it had been hoped that the inauguration of the new President of Ukraine would lead to an improved situation, but it had not. If his Government’s military actions continued, it would be a very bad start to his presidency. The Security Council could play a role in stopping the violence and promoting political dialogue, but it was split and therefore not playing such a role.
Asked how the Council could find a practical solution to the situation in Syria, he said he was waiting for the Secretary-General to appoint a successor to Lakhdar Brahimi, even though some of his Western colleagues did not see a need for such an appointment. They believed a political settlement was not possible and that something must change in order for it to be worthwhile. That was a fundamentally wrong approach, he emphasized. Someone must test the waters and encourage the parties to shift their positions. As for imposing an arms embargo, he asked how the flow of weapons to opposition groups would be stopped.
When asked if his delegation would withdraw the draft on Ukraine, or whether he would make a deal with other Council members on a Chapter VII resolution on aid access in Syria instead, he stressed that there could be no connection between the two matters. The Russian delegation had its own text on humanitarian aid, which the Security Council should encourage. “We’re having discussions and we’ll have a product.”
Concerning his views on thousands of Libyans reportedly returning home from Syria, he said that was a dangerous new phenomenon, particularly in the context of armed interventions, such as the one that had occurred in Libya. The conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East offered plenty to worry about, he said, underlining that the war on terrorism was not over.
Asked if his country would join the countries that had sent envoys to Libya, he said the matter was one for the United Nations. The Organization had a Mission there, the head of which would be reporting to the Council on the situation. He also noted that a United Nations official had confided to him that life was now worse than it had been under Qadhafi. Although the Russian Federation supported international justice, the question of Libya not cooperating with the International Criminal Court illuminated the need for a review of the process.
When asked about similarities between the situations in Syria and Ukraine, notably on the humanitarian corridors, he emphasized that each situation was completely different, as was the history of each country. The Russian Federation was prepared to support everything that could realistically be done in Syria. Although the Geneva meeting had not been a success, he added, his country was now contemplating a smaller group of countries with “direct impact” on the parties. Saudi Arabia had agreed to join and the group was looking forward to pragmatic strategies for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Questioned about some members of the Syrian Government having indicated that a military victory was possible, he emphasized that a political settlement was possible and time should not be wasted. Regarding the draft resolution submitted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg calling specifically for authorization to deliver humanitarian aid at four border crossings, he said the text had not been formally introduced, adding that he was “amazed” at the level of available information about the text.
In discussing Chapter VII, he said it was “about imposition, not cooperation”. Were Turkey, Iraq and Jordan obligated to open their borders for humanitarian supplies and to give up the sovereignty of their borders? he asked. When pressed about Ukraine’s sovereignty, he said the Russian Federation was a staunch defender of international law, including self-determination.
Turning to the Syria’s upcoming elections, he said that, because of the need for a political settlement, “we have to take things in stride and have to continue working”. Mr. Brahimi had been concerned about the elections, but had not regarded them as an obstacle to the political effort.
Asked whether the Russian Federation’s position on Syria and Iran was hardening because of Western opposition on Ukraine, he stressed that there was no correlation.
Responding to question about Security Council reform that would give Africa two permanent seats with the right of veto, he said the continent was well represented with three seats at any given time. However, “we want everybody to be happy,” and if a given formula won the support of the majority of Member States, the Russian Federation would support it as well. He said the dynamics and good will between his own and other delegations were very good, and that, although they did not always agree, they all worked very closely together.
He reiterated that the African Union meeting was not on the Council’s work programme because it was not an official meeting. A stakeout would be held on 6 June at 1 p.m., he added.
Asked about the use of drones, he said that his delegation’s position was to see how they worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and then apply in other situations. The matter would be discussed during the open debate on peacekeeping.
To a query about France’s initiative to deprive the “P5” of veto power in cases of atrocity crimes, he stressed that he did not agree with anything that tampered with veto power. It might be attractive to the public, but would the United States and the United Kingdome be interested if their invasion of Iraq came under scrutiny? “A lot of ‘P5’ members were not enthusiastic about the proposal,” he added.
When questioned about his country’s “bold” positions on every international issue except that of an independent Palestinian State, he pointed out that he had participated in the relevant monthly meetings. He added that he had asked his colleagues from the United States why they were involved every year, “monopolizing” the conversation and establishing deadlines that inevitably fell through. They must take responsibility for that. He expressed support for the new Palestinian Government
Asked about the talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, he said that he hoped to see the adoption of a resolution lifting all sanctions imposed on Iran and that programme. The talks had been going well, but were not without problems, and Russian diplomats were working “extremely hard”.
As for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, he said the Council would focus on the next stage during its meeting on 26 June. There were many concerns about the withdrawal, he said, adding that he was critical of their work so far. They had been unable to fulfil their mandate and were leaving the country in considerable military turmoil.
Responding to questions about the Syrian conflict spilling over into the Golan, he said UNDOF had not been established to address such activity as was now occurring in that area and its mandate needed to be strengthened.
In response to a question about testing and launching by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that if that country did so, the Security Council would react.
He went on to say that he had no information that Moscow had given Pakistan attack helicopters. As for peacekeeping and the United Nations having the world’s biggest army, traditional troop- and police-contributing countries might be concerned that they were getting more than they had signed up for, and things must be sorted out practically.
In conclusion, he responded to a description of the Council as “structurally flawed”, by saying that he thought it was effective.
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