2 April 2008


2 April 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by Security Council president on work programme for april

The South African Government had decided to dedicate the second South African Presidency of the Security Council to strengthening the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union and other regional organizations, Dumisani Kumalo, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Briefing on the Council’s work programme for April, he said that in order to focus on strengthening those relations, two major events had been scheduled.  On 16 April, an “historic” meeting would take place between the 15 ambassadors in the Security Council and the 15 in the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.  On 17 April, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa would chair an open debate on the relationship between the African Union and other regional organizations and the United Nations, to be attended by several Heads of State.  The debate would focus on the conflicts in Africa.

He said a report on Western Sahara was expected and he wished to move that agenda item along.  There would also be an open debate on small arms, as they were among the major causes of death in Africa.  Other issues on the programme included:  the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which the Council would address on 21 April; and Iraq.  Hopefully, something could also be done about Somalia.  Myanmar might come up in the format of a presidential statement, and there might also be a briefing on Cyprus due to the situation unfolding there.

Answering questions about the 17 April debate, the Council President said the centrepiece would be the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union, and between the Security Council and the regional body’s Peace and Security Council.  Invitations had been sent to the 15 Heads of States comprising the current Council membership -- Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy and the Vice-President of Panama had confirmed their attendance -- and the 15 Heads of States forming the African Union Peace and Security Council, of whom El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, would attend.  Invitations had also been sent to the Heads of State of African countries on the Council’s agenda, including the Sudan and Somalia.  President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed of Somalia and President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire had confirmed that they would participate, while President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir of the Sudan might attend and President Idriss Deby of Chad had not yet replied.

The Council spent a lot of time on African issues, but did very little in concrete ways, he continued, noting that the second South African Presidency would try to remedy that situation.  It was hoped that the debate would end with the adoption of a resolution addressing the question of resources for the African Union when it carried out the work of the Security Council, as in Somalia, Darfur and other places.  Having African Heads of State present and holding the discussion at the highest possible level was another way of making action on Africa more concrete.

Responding to several questions about Somalia, Mr. Kumalo said the issue was now a footnote in the work programme because no date for action had been set.  The United Kingdom, the lead country on the issue, was consulting about a draft resolution.  As President, South Africa -- which had always been very vocal about Somalia -- would do its work because the international community seemed to apply a double standard when that country came up.

He said the Council had received several letters from human rights organizations on Somalia, including one from Human Rights Watch recommending the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in the country.  The plan was to try to change the “business as usual” mentality regarding Somalia, starting with the implementation of recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report, such as moving the United Nations Political Office on Somalia back to the country.  Consideration could be given to putting protecting food transports on the high seas under the United Nations flag.  There had been a broad range of recommendations, of which a security force of the “coalition of the willing” was one.  In consultations, however, no suggestion had been heard in that regard.  The main thing was to do something instead of sitting back in resignation.

It had also been proposed that a Council mission visit Somalia, Darfur, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire, he said.  However, security people had proposed that, instead of going to Somalia, the mission should go to Kenya, a proposal with which the Presidency disagreed.  If the Secretary-General could go to Iraq, the Council could go to Mogadishu, and it would send the wrong message to the Somali people if the Council mission landed in Kenya.

As for rumours that Security Council ambassadors would send “diplomats” instead of going themselves, the Council President said:  “You can bet I’ll be there,” adding that he hoped reporters would be brave enough to come along to Mogadishu.

Asked about Myanmar, he said no draft presidential statement had been circulated, but the United States delegation was putting together elements for a text, though it was not certain that it would focus on the elections there or if there would be a Council mandate for monitoring those elections.

In that connection, and with respect to the situation in Zimbabwe, he said some countries were good at holding elections and others were not.  Some were fast, and some slow.  One had to wait and see how the Zimbabwe situation developed.  The issue had not been raised in the Council, but South Africa had been asked by other countries in the region to play a facilitating role there.

He declined to respond, either as Council President or in his national capacity, to a question about reports that China had provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with new information on Iran’s nuclear programme, noting that some Council members had intelligence assets that others did not have.  Iran was not expected to come up in April.

The Middle East would be addressed in a briefing, followed by consultations and there would be no open debate, he said.  Consultations were continuing, as in the past, with respect to the holding of a regular open debate on the Middle East situation.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.