3 September 2008


3 September 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Presenting the Security Council’s programme of work for September at a Headquarters press conference today, the Council President for the month, Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso, drew attention to a high-level meeting scheduled for 23 September on mediation and settlement of disputes.

Due to take place at the level of Heads of State during the afternoon of the opening of the General Assembly’s general debate, the Security Council meeting, open only to Council members, was a “very significant event”, which would take place under the aegis of the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore. 

Time constraints, owing in part to the bilateral talks among Heads of State, had led the Council to limit high-level participation to its members only, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.  “This is regrettable,” he said, “because a debate as important as this on a subject as significant -– mediation as a means for the settlement of conflict –- is very important and, of course, it is a subject that would be, is, of interest to all Member countries.” 

Experts had been invited to address the meeting, and they would outline their viewpoints and exchange experience, he said, adding that correspondents would be kept informed of who was expected to attend.

Turning to other items on the work programme, he highlighted a private meeting on 9 September on Liberia, on a possible reduction of both the military and police components of the United Nations Mission (UNMIL).  The Sudan Sanctions Committee was also on the work programme, for 11 September.  Afghanistan was on the agenda, specifically the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which would expire in October.  A decision to extend it would be adopted during the month.

Concerning the Middle East, Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Peace Process, would brief on the political, humanitarian and security situation in the region on 18 September.  The next day, the Council would convene a private meeting with troop-contributing countries to the mission in Chad and the Central African Republic.  Consultations were also expected that day on the quarterly report.  European Union High Representative Javier Solana would brief on 24 September on the activities of the European Union Force (EUFOR) mission in Chad and in the north-western part of the Central African Republic.  The Council also expected to renew MINURCAT’s mandate that day.

Asked whether it would be difficult to preside over the Council absent recent consensus on the situation in Georgia, the Ambassador said that each time one presided over the Council there were vexing and complex questions.  The issue of Georgia was highly relevant.  It was not planned for on the programme, as space had been made for the negotiations under way between the Russian Federation and the European Union. 

He added his hope that agreement could be reached on that level, so that the Council would not have to return to that question, “which is indeed a highly troubling one and one that is extremely difficult for the members of the Council”.  Burkina Faso was quite comfortable if that question did come up, however, and it would shoulder its responsibilities and attempt to work towards reconciliation.

The Council had no objection to a briefing by Quartet members for the Middle East, he replied to another question.  That briefing would be highly useful to the Council members.  The only difficulty that had arisen was finding a time slot, as the workload was “very heavy” in the coming period.  But, a way would be found to accommodate a Quartet briefing.

There was agreement that a briefing on Myanmar would also be useful, following the visit to the region by Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari. 

As for how the Council would deal with the question of Western Sahara, he said he did not think there would be a delay in considering it.  As General Assembly debates commenced, he thought the item would be back as a high priority in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).  A concerted effort was under way to see how the issue could be tackled in the coming months.

Zimbabwe was not on the schedule, but the Council would like a briefing by United Nations Envoy Haile Menkerios upon his return from the region on what lay ahead, he said to another query.  South African mediation efforts were ongoing in an attempt to advance some areas.  The footnote in the Council’s schedule, “peace and security in Africa”, concerned mainly Djibouti and Eritrea, he added.

To a series of questions concerning the high-level debate on mediation and conflict settlement, he reminded correspondents that there were various formats for Council meetings.  The selection of that particular format did not in any way undermine the importance of mediation as a means of resolving conflicts; it was purely a function of time that the Council had felt obliged to open the debate to members only.  A presidential statement was planned for the outcome of the discussion, he added.

To another question, he said the Russian Federation had asked the Council in August, under the Belgian presidency, to hear from the representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  The Council had taken due note of that request and had accepted the principle of such a meeting, but so far it was not known in what format or modality such a meeting would take place.  The issue was not taken up in the draft work programme, and the Russian delegation had not voiced any objection; everyone was awaiting direct contacts between the European Union and the Russian Federation on 8 September.

Asked if the Council would respond to reports that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces had conducted an air strike inside Pakistan, killing civilians, he said the Council closely followed the news and confirmed all credible information before crafting any kind of response. 

The Council had no plans to take up the issue of non-proliferation, he replied to another question, adding that the Council members were quite aware of the dangerousness of that phenomenon. 

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