As he outlined the agenda for the coming weeks, Mr. Zhang referred to a thematic meeting on "Cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security", scheduled for 13 January, and said, "Cooperation could be propelled to a higher level". He maintained that, while the topic had been on the Council's agenda since 2003, there was room for further cooperation in such areas as exchange of information and preventive diplomacy.
This would be the first time that China chaired a meeting on the topic, he noted, adding that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other speakers would affirm the primary role of the Security Council in peace and security, but stress the advantages regional organizations have in understanding the situations in their locales. Representatives of such organizations as the African Union, the European Union, the Arab League, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization would attend.
Somalia itself would be the focus on the afternoon of 14 January, he said, followed by consultations towards an extension of the authorization for the African Union mission there, known as AMISOM, which would be put to a vote on 28 January. The resolution was expected to urge more support for the African mission.
Among other mandates that were set to expire this month was the United Nations Mission in Nepal, or UNMIN, which will be the subject of a briefing on 15 January and an extension vote on 21 January, he said. The Operation in Côte d'Ivoire, or UNOCI, would be the subject of a briefing on 21 January and of a vote on 28 January.
Among other regional "hot spots" on the agenda this month, he said the Council would hold a debate tomorrow on Afghanistan to consider the Secretary-General's latest report and the work of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The briefing would be the last given by the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Kai Eide, and Mr. Ban was expected to attend.
Noting that this year the Sudan was slated to hold a national election and a referendum in the south next year, he said that Council was anticipating the Secretary-General's report on such issues, which, along with the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), would be the focus of consultations on the 26 January.
Commenting that Kosovo remained an important item on the Council's agenda, Mr. Zhang said that it would be the subject of a debate on 22 January, following a briefing by the head of United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
The monthly meeting on the Middle East would take place in the form of an open debate on 27 January, he said, and he expected speakers to urge the parties to resume negotiations as soon as possible, towards a just and lasting peace.
Other regular briefings would include one on the United Nations Office in West Africa on 12 January, as well as a 14 January briefing and consultations on the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), which would probably be followed by a presidential statement affirming support for that organization.
Also on the agenda this month were adjustments to the bureaus of subsidiary organs of the Council, since there were five new temporary members. Chairpersons had been mostly determined, but Vice-Chairmen of four organs still needed to be decided. A complete list would be issued when that was accomplished.
Mr. Zhang pledged to work with other members of the Council to enhance the transparency of its work this month. Towards that goal, there would be briefings for non-members and outreach to the media.
Asked what should be the next steps regarding Iran's nuclear programme, Mr. Zhang said he believed that diplomatic efforts still needed some more "time and patience", adding that sanctions were not an end in themselves and this was not the right moment for such measures.
In regard to the nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, he described recent positive developments in the form of dialogue between that country and the United States. He hoped that such developments would help restart six-party talks, maintaining the Korean peninsula should be denuclearized and that the question should be solved through peaceful means.
"All parties concerned should seize the moment and meet each other halfway so the talks could start as soon as possible," he said. He declined to predict when talks would, in fact, resume, however.
Asked whether dialogue with moderate insurgents in Afghanistan should be pursued, he said that questions of that kind needed to be studied by the countries concerned, adding that there were many issues involved and they should be addressed in a holistic manner.
Finally, asked why Western Sahara and Cyprus were also absent from the Council's programme of work in January, he said that the Council was certainly seized with those issues; they were just not scheduled for consideration in the current month.
* *** *
For information media - not an official record