Press Conference by Security Council President on Work Programme for August
With “military logic winning the day” in Syria’s 16-month-old conflict and the Security Council deadlocked over how to address it, the 15-member body would likely cancel the United Nations observer mission to that country and seek consensus on a new resolution focused on humanitarian aid for the 3 million Syrians in need of emergency relief, the representative of France, which hold’s the Council’s rotating presidency for this month, said this afternoon.
“Some countries have drawn the conclusion that it’s over, that the Council is impotent on Syria. We would like to at least prove in the humanitarian arena, which is becoming more and more serious, that the Council can act,” Gérard Araud told correspondents at Headquarters during the regular monthly Council agenda briefing.
Mr. Araud also stated his hope that the Secretary-General would appoint a successor to Kofi Annan, who earlier in the day announced he would step down as the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria at the end of the month.
Mr. Araud predicted the Council would not reach agreement at its 16 August scheduled meeting on extending the mandate of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). “The divisions in the Council are very deep. I think it’s irreconcilable in political terms,” he said, adding that “I think the mission will disappear on 19 August.”
With the safety of UNSMIS troops at risk, France was poised to vote to close the mission if the situation on the ground did not improve, he told journalists.
The French Foreign Minister was holding ministerial consultations in Europe on how to probe the Syrian authorities about access to aid agencies, he said. At present, only the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was allowed to respond to the crisis, but it was overwhelmed by the population’s vast needs. The Council would hold its own ministerial meeting in New York on the matter at month’s end.
This afternoon, he noted, the Council would chart progress in implementing UNSMIS’ mandate, before meeting on 9 August to discuss the role and situation facing countries contributing troops to the mission.
In addition to Syria, he said the situation in Sudan and South Sudan would be very much at the forefront of attention, with consultations scheduled on 9 and 16 August. Clearly, neither side had made progress in implementing the conditions set by Council resolution 2046 (2012) — which demanded they immediately cease all hostilities, withdraw forces, activate previously agreed security mechanisms, and resume negotiations or face sanctions. While sanctions were not necessary at this time, the Council must continue to exert pressure on the parties involved.
On 28 August, the Council would hold consultations on whether to extend the transitional governing arrangements in Somalia, due to expire on 20 August, he said. A briefing followed by consultations would be held on 8 August to discuss follow up to resolution 2056 (2012), by which the Council demanded rebel groups in northern Mali immediately cease hostilities and indicated its willingness to consider deploying a stabilization force there, as called for by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Regarding situations in the Middle East, he said that consultations on 23 August on renewing the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), set to expire on 31 August, should pose “no specific problems” for the Council to extend that force on 30 August. The monthly briefing on the Palestinian question would be held on 22 August, followed by consultations.
During a debate on Kosovo on 21 August, Council members would be introduced to Serbia’s new Minister for Foreign Affairs, he said. Additionally, the Council would hold consultations on 7 August on the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), and on 21 August, its “1718 Committee”, which oversees relevant sanctions measures concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, would meet.
Asked several questions about Syria, he predicted the Russian Federation and China would continue obstructing Council action, including to address Syria’s humanitarian situation.
“I can already write down the objections that will be raised by the two countries,” he said. The upcoming ministerial meeting would aim to avoid any new confrontations, particularly with the Russian Federation, which had attempted previously to divert attention away from the crisis to other issues.
While Mr. Annan’s resignation was not surprising, considering the lack of an effective political process, and a successor should be appointed, since there was “nothing more dangerous than a total political vacuum”. Meantime, efforts were under way to help the Syrian opposition form a united platform for political dialogue.
For its part, France was providing political support and communications equipment to Syria’s opposition, and it was working with other countries to ensure that the rights of Syrian minorities were protected.
Asked if the resolution on Syria, to be tabled in the General Assembly, had changed since the announcement of Mr. Annan’s resignation, he said he had not seen the text since then, but he trusted a large majority of the Assembly would be present to vote on it on Friday morning.
Regarding the Council’s press statement released earlier in the day on the Democratic Republic of the Congo that “outside countries” must cease support immediately to the 23 March Movement (M23), Mr. Araud said the use of that language was the result of a delicate compromise among Council members over which countries to cite.
Asked about the Council’s selection of chairs, experts and monitoring groups, particularly the chair of the group who had claimed that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) were not a threat to that country, he said the conclusions of the group of experts in question were relatively balanced. The FDLR was an armed group that had committed atrocities, which must be addressed. In general, the United Nations was doing its best to recruit suitable experts, and it was the Council’s duty to address any errors in judgement.
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