Press Conference by President of Security Council on Work Programme for October

3 October 2016

Press Conference by President of Security Council on Work Programme for October

The Security Council would focus on Africa, the Middle East and the selection of the next Secretary-General, Vitaly Churkin (Russian Federation), Council President for October, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

The Russian Federation planned to hold 20 meetings this month, including two open debates, he said.  The first, on the Middle East, would be held on 19 October, and the second, on women, peace and security, on 25 October.

The first part of month would mainly address African issues, he said, starting with a 4 October briefing on the situation in Darfur.  The Council would hear other briefings on the situations in Mali, on 6 October; the Central African Republic, on 10 October; and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 11 October.  On 17 October, it would take up the Secretary-General’s report on South Sudan, which should contain information on the regional protection force deployment, he said, adding that, while not on the calendar, discussions were also likely on Burundi.

This week, he said, the Council would meet with countries contributing troops to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and hold a debate on the situation in the country on 11 October.  A second debate, on 28 October, would focus on cooperation between the United Nations and collective treaty organizations, which would feature a briefing by the Secretary-General.  The Council planned to adopt a resolution on 6 October to extend the authorization for States to seize vessels in the Mediterranean.

The second half of the month would focus on the Middle East, he said.  The Council would hear a briefing by the Special Envoy for Syria on 17 October, and consider the humanitarian situation in that country on 26 October.  On 27 October, the Head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism would present her fourth report.

He said the quarterly open debate on the Middle East would be held on 19 October, followed on 20 October by a briefing on Yemen.  On 26 October, the Council would hear a briefing by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Court of Justice.  In addition, there was a possibility it would consider the strategic report on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), mandated by resolution 2253 (2015) and issued on 30 September.  On 14 October, five Council members — Angola, Egypt, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela — would co-host an Arria Formula meeting on Israeli settlements.  The Council would hear a briefing on Western Sahara, on 18 October.

For its part, the Russian Federation planned to present a draft resolution, announced by the Foreign Minister on 23 September, which aimed to counter terrorist and violent extremist ideology, he said.  Action by the Council was needed in order to stop such distorted narratives, as Al-Qaida, Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant and their affiliates had used information and communications technologies for recruitment, and it was time to create a robust counter campaign.

On that point, he said that while many provisions of resolution 1624 (2005), which aimed to criminalize incitement to terrorism, remained as relevant today as 11 years ago, the nature of threat had changed.  The current draft focused on countering terrorist propaganda, including acts of public justification of terrorism, as well as on the Internet and social networks used for those purposes.  Those inciting terrorism must be sanctioned and he suggested that those issues be included in discussions of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.  The draft also contained measures on international cooperation, including information exchange.  He counted on support for that initiative in the Council and among the wider United Nations membership.

Finally, on the selection of the next Secretary-General, he said the Council would hold its sixth straw poll on 5 October, and for the first time, use different coloured ballots to differentiate the votes of the permanent five members:  China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States.  There was a good chance the Council would then hold a formal vote on the matter to clarify whether it had a candidate to recommend to the General Assembly or if it “needed to start from scratch”.  The process had been time-consuming and there was a sense of constructive fatigue among Council members, which he hoped would turn into a recommendation of a good person for the Assembly to appoint as Secretary-General.

Answering correspondents’ questions regarding the situation in Syria, and specifically in eastern Aleppo, Mr. Churkin, speaking in his national capacity, said Council members were discussing a draft resolution submitted by France aimed at a cessation of hostilities.  That resolution would not work he said, because it did not target terrorists.  ISIL and Al-Nusrah were the spoilers, with the latter working with moderate groups.  He was baffled at a proposal for a new monitoring mechanism, as such a mechanism was in place already in Geneva, where only the United States and the Russian Federation were supplying information.  France was not.

Asked whether he would veto the resolution if it contained a provision to ground airplanes, he said he tried to avoid the word “veto”, but a situation where terrorists were allowed to do what they wanted was not a solution.  It was up to the French whether they would put such a provision in and they did not want a Russian veto.

He said the report on the use of chemical weapons contained a smoking gun, but there were no fingerprints.  It was impossible to prove that the Syrian Air Force used chlorine bombs.  In fact, it would be “stupid” if they did, as other types of bombs were much more effective.  He noted that one of the cases ascribed to Syria concerned a chlorine bomb intended to fall through a chimney.  That was impossible, he said.  A more plausible scenario was that somebody was trying to build a chlorine bomb in that house and it went off.

It was a matter of great concern that some terrorist groups were preparing chemical weapons and the Council should have done better.

He was not aware of plans for further discussions between United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Federation Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, and did not know the result of discussions between the two countries during the last few hours.  The nature of their differences was overdramatized.  He hoped cooperation on Syria could be resumed.

He could not accept unilateral steps such as grounding of airplanes.  Al-Nusrah had moved to Aleppo and was keeping the civilian population hostage.  He wanted as close cooperation with the United States as possible in fighting Al-Nusrah.  Had it not been for Russian involvement, black flags could now be flying over Damascus.  There were 3,500 fighters in eastern Aleppo, of which 2,000 were Al-Nusrah, based on Russian intelligence.  The rest were scattered in different groups.  ISIL was not there.  If hospitals had been bombed, it was unjustifiable.  Reports regarding the bombing of aid convoys had to be investigated.  He was very concerned about civilians and terrorists had to be thrown out of Syria.

Asked whether the Russian Federation was willing to support a woman as Secretary-General, he said he could not predict the result of the process.  It was Eastern Europe’s turn for a Secretary-General and he would prefer a woman, but the person should be the best candidate supported by the Security Council and popular in the United Nations.  Regarding rumours that he had showed interest in some high positions in the Organization, he said the Russian Federation should be properly represented in the Secretariat.  He was in favour of the rotation concept.

Asked about the situation in Yemen, he said he was aware that a United Arab Emirates ship had been sunk.  A draft presidential statement on the matter was being prepared.  The situation in Yemen was a disaster.  Two out of the five permanent Council members — the United Kingdom and the United States — were involved in that country.  The United Kingdom would ask for investigations in Syria, but it blocked investigations in Yemen to which it had sold $6 billion in weapons.  The United Nations was a cynical place, he said, a place of “whip it up or hush it up”.

Addressing a question on the matter of settlements in Palestine, he said there was ongoing activity on the issue and an Arria Formula meeting would take place on 14 October.  His country had been trying to move the process forward and had good contacts with all actors involved.

Asked a question about proceedings on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under the non-proliferation agenda, he said there had been discussions on the subject.  The situation was extremely difficult.  The cycle of action and counter action required creative thinking, but there were no specific proposals.  Action by women in that regard could be helpful.

Asked about the meeting on Burundi, he said the French delegation requested it.  The question was what kind of United Nations police deployment was acceptable for Burundi.  The situation should not be allowed to deteriorate.

In response to another question, he said Council action on Afghanistan was not envisaged in October and that the United States preferred to be as quiet as possible on the issue.

For information media. Not an official record.