Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for November

3 November 2015

Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for November

At a press conference at Headquarters today, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, whose delegation holds the presidency of the Security Council for November, said that he hoped that his efforts would be noted for being transparent, interactive and action-oriented.

Ambassador Matthew Rycroft briefed correspondents on the upcoming programme of work of the 15-member body, noting that later this week, on 5 November, Bernardino León, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) would give a final briefing on his attempts to form a Government of National Unity.

Mr. Rycroft also announced a meeting on Somalia on 9 November, chaired by Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond and attended by Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke.  The Secretary-General would brief the Council, as would the Special Representative Nicholas Kay and a representative of the African Union.  At that meeting, the Council would consider a draft resolution on strengthening the United Nations Support Office of African Union Mission in Somalia (UNSOA).

On 13 November, there would be a briefing on peacekeeping operations, focusing on the police aspects of peacekeeping, he said.  Briefers would be Hervé Ladsous, Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as the Police Commissioners from the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

He said that on 17 November, the Council would hold an open debate, in development ministers’ format, on “Security, Development and the Root Causes of Conflict”, chaired by Justine Greening, the British Secretary of State for International Development.  The Secretary-General would speak, as would Olof Skoog (Sweden), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, and representatives of civil society.

The Secretary-General would brief the Council again on 20 November, on the aspects of the peace operations review that were relevant to the Council.

In regards to “high-profile” issues to be addressed this month, he stated that Syria was a “stain on the conscience of the Security Council”.  There had been some ground for “the beginnings of optimism” with the meeting in Vienna last Friday (30 October), which began to pull together again leading members of the international community.  The Council would provide support if possible.  A key aim would be to get a genuine political process back on track under Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria.

Turning to the question of Palestine, he commended efforts of the United States and Jordan to de-escalate the crisis relating to the Holy Sites.  How to get back on track towards a meaningful political process leading to a two-State solution, however, still remained open.  Noting that there were a number of initiatives Council members had mentioned, he stressed that he would work with all members and others in pursuit of any of those that might attract the necessary consensus to become a meaningful step towards getting that process back on track.

As for Yemen — the “sometimes forgotten conflict in the media” — he said the Council supported Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in his preparatory work to bring the parties together for consultations, which he hoped would begin in November.  Other issues, including pressing issues in Africa, including South Sudan, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, would also get the Council’s attention.

Turning to working methods, he said he had just addressed the General Assembly and would do more outreach.  He was committed to briefing correspondents after every closed consultations meeting.  Most meetings would be public.  He aimed to build on the work of the Spanish presidency and others to make things more interactive through, among other things, shorter briefings and more genuine dialogue between Council members.

As for being action-oriented, he said that instead of just repeating analyses, he would seek to focus attention on products that would get to the heart of the issues, whether they be resolutions, a joint letter of the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Council on the election of the next Secretary-General, or just a press statement.

Answering correspondents’ questions on Syria, Mr. Rycroft said it was important that all of the “regional players” in the international grouping that had come together in the Vienna meeting, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, play a constructive role.  He said he hoped both countries could continue to contribute to the effective cooperation in that group in November and beyond.

As for negotiations between the Syrian parties, he said he supported Mr. de Mistura, but the parties were so far apart that currently, there was no point in restarting talks.  At the end of the Vienna talks, however, there might be an opportunity to address the transition process.

Mr. de Mistura would probably brief the Council in November, he said, but that date had not yet been set.  He would not exclude a meeting of the permanent representatives of the countries that had met in Vienna during Mr. de Mistura’s briefing.  As for a resolution on barrel bombs, he said France, Spain and the United Kingdom had circulated to some Council members a draft resolution aiming to prevent President Assad from using them.  Work on that draft must fit in with the work begun in Vienna.

Asked about his country’s position on President Assad, he said, in his national capacity, that “Assad must go.”  There had, been some progress in Vienna last week, although parties were far apart.  The precise time of Assad’s departure during the transition would be part of negotiations, but it was clear that he would have to have left after the transition.

Turning to a question about Syrian refugees in Europe, he said the scale of the challenge underlined the necessity for redoubling efforts to come to a political solution in the Vienna talks.  In his national capacity, he said his country had extended its humanitarian funding to Syria and the countries around it.

Furthermore, he said, the Council was ready to continue discussing the issue as far as its mandate allowed for.  During the open debate on 17 November on the root causes of conflict, he was sure many speakers would talk about migration as one of the factors that required the international community to make better use of its development spending to prevent conflict, given that conflict was one of the drivers of migration.

Asked about a possible mandate extension of Mr. León, he said the mandate had already been extended once this week.  Speaking in his national capacity, he said he would support another short extension if that was needed to maximize the prospects of getting agreement on the Government of National Unity.

Answering questions about the question of Palestine, he said he was committed to using every possible avenue to explore whether the time was right for any of the possible initiatives circulating in the Council, including the New Zealand draft resolution, which he considered to be a constructive and positive contribution to the debate.  There were other drafts, and in his national capacity he said he supported any of those that could bring peace in the Middle East a bit closer.

Asked about consensus regarding setting a deadline for a two-State solution agreement to be reached, he said, in his national capacity, that at some point a parameter resolution would be needed that set out what the content of an eventual settlement should look like from the perspective of the international community.  There was also need for a timetable and a mechanism for negotiations.  Those issues did not have to be combined in one resolution.  The timetable and a mechanism could be in a separate resolution and the content for a settlement in another.

The Council had recently considered the issue of protection of Palestinians, he said, and would continue to consider the issue.  Personally, he said he doubted there would be the necessary consensus for that issue to progress.  Lessons learned by the United Nations and Member States over the past 20 years, including in Bosnia, would indicate that “never again do we get ourselves in a collective position where we are saying that we are offering protection to anyone without the means at our disposal to do so”.

Discussion on the issue so far had related to a draft presidential statement put forward by France, which included a request to the Secretary-General to explore options for protection, he continued.  That draft was on hold.  The Secretary-General had been asked for a copy of the advice from the Legal Office about precedents and previous examples of protection, which he had provided to Council members.

Speaking in his national capacity on the historical role of the United Kingdom in the region, he said he preferred to look at the future instead of at the past, because the past could be a “significant burden in that part of the world”.

Addressing questions regarding the election process of the Secretary-General, he said the General Assembly had agreed on a resolution that had set out in some detail the clarity of the process and the needed transparency to get some interaction between the candidates and Assembly members.  The next step for the Council was to have another discussion and then to progress to the drafting of the joint letter of the Presidents of the Assembly and the Council inviting applications.  He had discussed the matter yesterday with the President of the Assembly.

On whether the letter would be written in November, he answered that it was not simple; there was controversy about timing, content, regional rotation, and gender equality, among others.  It was now up to the Council to start drafting the letter.  Although he could not promise the letter would be drafted during his delegation’s presidency, he promised “a good start”.  There had been a number of draft letters circulated, including suggestions from civil society.  Some Council members did not think that the time was right and expressed their preference to wait until 2016.  Thus, it would be unwise to put something through without the broad agreement among the membership.

The presidential vacuum in Lebanon was of concern to the whole of the Council, he said in response to another question.  It usually came up in the monthly debate on the Middle East.  There were links between Syria and Lebanon, if given only the Lebanese generosity in terms of taking in Syrian refugees.  In his national capacity, he said his country had increased again the amount of humanitarian funding to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to help them with the refugee crisis.

Asked why the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) was not included in the November agenda, he said the issue came up regularly in the Council and would come up when Syria, Iraq and Libya were being discussed.  In his national capacity, he said each of over the 60 members of the international coalition in Iraq was providing support in a different way.  His country was not providing “lethal support”, but was assisting militarily in Iraq and would continue to make “wide contributions” to the campaign.

Regarding a question about Mr. de Mistura’s negotiations in Yemen, he said all parties needed to implement Council resolution 2216 (2015), as well as all other relevant resolutions.  It was important that consultations began in order to get the political process back on track.  Parties had been invited to attend the meetings without preconditions and should be committed to the resolution.  Still, its implementation could be done in phases, he said, noting that implementation should not be a pre-condition.

Asked about reports from Burundi that, if a deadline for disarming was not met, there would be raids, he said, given the concern about the situation there, the Council was following the latest developments carefully.  Such an approach could be a successful example of conflict prevention, ensuring that the Council’s spotlight could shine on the situation in the right direction and at the right time before it was too late.

As for the upcoming report on sexual abuse in the Central African Republic, he said the Council was aware of ongoing allegations.  It was vital that those allegations be followed up assiduously.

In regard to whether the twentieth anniversary of the Dayton Accords would be commemorated by the Council, he said there would be a debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina on 10 November, which would be an opportunity to reflect on the last 20 years, both on the peace the Accords had brought, and on the challenges ahead to continue to encourage the country to be ready for integration into the European Union and other organizations.  A draft resolution on mandate extension for the European Union multinational stabilization force (EUFOR ALTHEA) would also be considered at that meeting.

He said in answer to another inquiry that the question of sanctions for missile tests by Iran had been remitted to the Iran Sanctions Committee.  When the Committee would report back, the Council would take up the matter again.

Asked whether the amount of presidential statements and declaration had raised the credibility issue of the Council, he said that equally if there had been a reduction in statements, some people would say that, too, undermined the Council’s credibility.  There were a lot of people who were sceptical about the work of the Council.  “I am afraid to say that we give them a lot of ground for that scepticism sometimes,” he said.  Honest attempts, he stressed, were constructive actions towards creating a unity, required for statements, which set out broadly the main lines of response from the international community.

For information media. Not an official record.