3 December 2013
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for December

The Security Council’s priorities for December focused on the complex situations in the Central African Republic and Syria, as well as on peace and security in Africa’s volatile Sahel region, the Permanent Representative of France, Gérard Araud, said today at a Headquarters press conference as he assumed the 15-nation body’s presidency.

On 5 December, the Council would adopt a resolution on the situation in the Central African Republic, which France had presented based on the Secretary-General's report.  “We need to act urgently,” he said, noting that the text would give the African-led International Support Mission in that country, known as MISCA, a mandate to protect civilians.  By other terms, the text would outline the creation of a voluntary trust fund; authorize French forces to support MISCA; request the Secretary-General to report in three months on whether to transform the United Nations presence into a peacekeeping operation; and establish both an arms embargo and a sanctions regime.

In response to several questions on the text — including on concerns expressed by the United States about the creation of a peacekeeping force — he said language had been found that would allow the United Nations Secretariat to prepare for a peacekeeping operation, prior to an express commitment being made to establish that force.  “We found the right balance between our need to give the legal foundation to the Secretariat to prepare a peacekeeping operation [without] giving the impression that a mission had already been decided,” he said.

There were around 400 French forces on the ground in the Central African Republic whose goal was to secure the capital, Bangui, and its surrounding roadways to ensure humanitarian access, he continued.  Several cities had become “large refugee camps” and it was unclear whether the African forces would be able to secure territory from the “bandits and thugs” who were wreaking havoc there.  If those forces succeeded, there would be no need to create a peacekeeping operation.

Turning to Syria, he said the Council today had heard a briefing by Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who described the progress as “extremely limited”.  Council members had agreed on the seriousness of the humanitarian situation and on the need to implement the related presidential statement.

On the chemical weapons front, he said Sigrid Kaag (Netherlands), Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations, would submit a report on 4 December, as outlined in Security Council resolution 2118 (2013).

“There are many uncertainties regarding the way in which the disposal will take place," he said in response to questions, raising the possibility that chemical weapons found in Syria could be destroyed aboard a United States naval ship.  On 17 December, OPCW would clarify means by which to transport the weapons, or their parts, across and out of Syria.  The report by Åke Sellström, Head of the Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, was expected in mid-December.

To questions regarding activities on the political front, he said that he expected the Geneva II meeting to take place on 22 January, with the Syrian National Coalition forming the backbone of an “umbrella” opposition delegation.  France, the Russian Federation, the United States and Saudi Arabia were working to organize such a coalition.  It was now up to the Syrian Government to express its willingness to implement the Geneva I declaration, aiming at a political transition.  “These are the obstacles we have to overcome," he stated.

When asked about whether the Council would adopt a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria, he said France could support such a text.  Neither Luxembourg nor Australia had put one forward and he did not know whether the Arab Group would propose one.

On other matters with which the Council was seized, he noted that a meeting was planned on drug trafficking in Sahel and West Africa for 18 December, with briefings by the Secretary-General, Heads of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA).  To related questions, he said that on 12 December the Council would hear a briefing by the Secretary-General on his visit to Africa’s Sahel region.  The President of the World Bank, the Chair of the African Union Commission and representatives of the European Union would also make presentations.

On 13 December, he said, the Council would hold an informal meeting on the protection of journalists, possibly resulting in a press statement on the topic.  Other public meetings would focus on the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as on Libya, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

In response to questions on Mali, he said that thesituation remained “tricky”.  There were millions of square kilometres of desert in the country, and while armed groups had been weakened by the French forces, they had not been eliminated.  There was also the problem of the Tuareg, who were believed by populations in the south to be responsible for the crumbling of the country.  The matter was “extremely delicate” and would take time to resolve.  He called for both a judicial and administrative inquiry into violent protests that had erupted at the airport.

In addition, he said the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was taking the typical amount of time to deploy, noting that it was often difficult to recruit contributing countries.  Both presidential and legislative elections had taken place in a peaceful security climate, he pointed out, observing that the situation on the ground would determine when French forces would leave.

Responding to a question on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he described the United Nations use of drones as an experiment.  “Our battalions are still back in 1945," whereas current technologies allowed for using fewer soldiers on the ground, he said.  Some countries, including France, were arguing for the United Nations to modernize its methods.

As for the prospects of taking up recent Iranian nuclear developments, he said that the Council had handled the issue through sanctions resolutions, adding that it would return to the issue when there was agreement among the six negotiators and Iran.  According to arrangements in place, there would be no new sanctions for the next six months.

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For information media • not an official record