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Press conference by Security Council President on work programme for May

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The Security Council would take advantage of a slightly lighter workload during May to take a week-long mission to the African continent, Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France, and Council President for the month, told reporters today at Headquarters.

With no renewals of significant operations slated for the month, said Mr. Araud, from 20 to 26 May the 15-member body would travel first to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and then make visits to Khartoum and Juba in Sudan, to Abyei, and to Nairobi, Kenya, where it would pursue work on the Somali issue. The mission would focus primarily on the upcoming independence of South Sudan on 9 July 2011, he stressed.

In advance of the mission, a report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Sudan would be circulated. Following the trip, the Council would hold consultations on the matter. The Council would also engage in closed consultations on the Middle East this month, he said.

For its part, France had taken the opportunity provided by its presidency to add a debate on the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Council’s agenda. “We will not be in the DRC forever”, noted Mr. Araud, adding that, alongside the Congolese authorities, the United Nations should begin the “long process” of determining what its role would be in the coming years. In that vein, a Congolese official was also scheduled take part in a dialogue with the Council in May.

With regard to the situation in Libya, the President noted that Council members had reached a kind of informal consensus on several main issues. First, everyone agreed that there were to be no preconditions to negotiations and that negotiations must follow a “sustainable and verifiable ceasefire”. Meanwhile, that ceasefire had to be linked to a political process of national dialogue. In light of those stipulations, work would continue throughout the month on the situation in Libya, with the implementation of resolution 1970 (2011) slated to be reviewed tomorrow, 4 May, and a briefing on the country’s humanitarian situation scheduled for 9 May. Responding to a correspondent’s related question, Mr. Arnaud added that the departure of Muammar al-Qadhafi was not, and had never been, a precondition to the negotiations, or to the ceasefire.

Regarding the continued NATO operation in that country, the President said that the bombing was designed to protect civilians and, therefore, would not end until a ceasefire had been reached. In another question, a correspondent asked whether Mr. Araud felt that any political solution in Libya might be possible if Mr. Al-Qadhafi did not relinquish power. The President responded that it was indeed very difficult to imagine a “peaceful, democratic Libya” if Mr. Al-Qadhafi remained in Libya. Nonetheless, he said, it was ultimately up to the Libyan people to decide the answer to that question.

Mr. Araud told correspondents that, at the present stage, no Security Council meetings were planned on the situation in Syria. Responding to a related question about the continued unrest in Bahrain, he said that no member of the Security Council had yet raised the matter, nor had the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) drawn the attention of the Council to a humanitarian crisis there. Around the world, many internal situations existed that were “not perfect in terms of human rights”, but it seemed that the Council members did not think that the situation in Bahrain threatened international peace and security.

Responding to a question on the presidential statement on the death of Osama bin Laden, the President said that the delegations had differed over the wording of the statement, but that there had been no substantive disagreements on the matter.

When one correspondent asked why the Council would not be visiting the Darfur region of Sudan during its mission, the President reiterated that the main purpose of the trip was to explore the United Nation’s role after the 9 July independence of South Sudan. The fact that the Council was not visiting Darfur did not indicate that things were “fine” there, as the correspondent had suggested. To the contrary, the process was “more or less collapsing”, and there were reports of violence on the ground. The Council would deal with those and other issues when it visited Khartoum, and when it met with Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, in Nairobi.

Speaking in his national capacity in response to a question about the implications of the recent reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Araud said that the key conditions for peace — renouncing violence and recognizing Israel — remained unchanged. Even so, the reconciliation could nonetheless mark a “step in the right direction”.

For information media • not an official record