In March, the French presidency of the Security Council would focus on a broad range of issues, from peace and security on the African continent to efforts to bring about a political solution to the crisis in Syria, the Permanent Representative of the country said this afternoon.
The 15-member body was scheduled to undertake a five-day mission to Africa, making stops in the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Burundi, Ambassador François Delattre told correspondents at the monthly briefing on the Council’s programme of work. The mission would be the 15-member body’s first visit to the Central African Republic since the beginning of the crisis there, and would demonstrate its support for both the country’s transitional authorities and the United Nations multidimensional peacekeeping operation, he said.
In Addis Ababa, the Council would meet with the African Union, one of its key partners for the maintenance of peace and security throughout the continent, he went on. Among priorities to be discussed there were the atrocities brought about by the Boko Haram group, based in Nigeria. Finally, in Burundi, the Council would reiterate its support for the good conduct of elections, which are scheduled to take place later this year.
Another priority for the Council would be the renewal of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the Organization’s largest peacekeeping operation. The Mission’s mandate included the protection of civilians in a conflict that had already claimed some 5 million lives, he said. The Council had made several proposals to strengthen MONUSCO, including the drawdown of troops and increasing mobility. Those important technical considerations would be addressed during a briefing by Special Representative Martin Kobler on 19 March, he said.
On 25 March, an open debate on children in armed conflict, with the participation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, would focus on dialogue and on ways to put pressure on non-State actors. “What we seek to accomplish is to gather out-of-the box proposals from all United Nations Members States”, and to bring those perspectives together in a non-paper, he said.
The Council would also host the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, for the first time during her tenure. The 9 March meeting was an important opportunity to reiterate Council support for cooperation with the Union and other regional organizations.
Mr. Delattre stressed that major crises — including in Yemen, Libya and Syria — would continue to garner attention throughout the month. On 4 March, the Council would hear from Bernardino León, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission there (UNSMIL). In that regard, he said, the Council would opt for a “technical rollover” of a few weeks, providing more time for the mediation currently under way and for a clearer picture to form before taking further decisions.
Responding to a question from a correspondent about that rollover, Mr. Delattre said that the Council’s first priority in Libya was to support a government of national unity, which would act as a lever for the international community in its fight against terrorism. The Council fully endorsed Mr. León’s efforts in that respect.
To a question about the crisis in Syria, he said that, on 26 March, the Council would hear a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos. On the political side, France remained sceptical as to the good will of the Syrian regime. “We are convinced that there can be no solution in Syria with Bashar al Assad,” he said. The top priority was to preserve Syria’s unity and respect all of the country’s diverse communities.
He said France hoped to bring together the moderate opposition parties in order to build a political future for Syria. While he supported all efforts of Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria — including the proposed “freeze” in Aleppo — he was concerned that not all parties to the conflict, namely the Syrian regime, would cooperate. “Only a political solution can provide an exit for the Syrian crisis,” he said, stressing the need to work on twin tracks in Syria: encouraging and strengthening the moderate opposition and bringing together Syria’s international and regional partners.
Replying to a question about ways to assist Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram, Mr. Delattre said that the Security Council’s African partners were in the process of planning a regional force operation, which the Council would fully support. It would be up to an African member of the Council to draft a text endorsing that operation, he said, adding that such an endorsement would give legal force, and provide resources to, the operation.
Asked about Council resolution 2206 (2015) on South Sudan, adopted this morning, and whether there was a timeline for “putting names” on the sanctions listed in that resolution, Mr. Delattre responded that the resolution “sends a strong message to the world and those involved in this tragic conflict”. The resolution could serve as a “lever” in the negotiations currently being led by the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), he added.
Regarding recent developments in Ukraine, he said that, in its resolution 2202 (2015) — adopted two weeks ago — the Council had strongly backed the recent agreements negotiated in Minsk. Another forward step had been taken last Friday, when the Council met with moderators from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). While the ceasefire was generally holding and there was now a “progressive de-escalation” in eastern Ukraine, he said the international community remained wary. The next stage, which was now beginning, would be the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the conflict zone, he said.