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Press conference by Security Council President on work programme for January

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The Security Council would hold five briefings, 11 closed consultations and three formal debates in January, covering the Middle East, justice and the rule of law, and cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, according to the programme of work outlined by Council President Baso Sangqu (South Africa) at Headquarters today.

Highlighting key events on the programme at a press conference on South Africa’s January presidency, he said the Council would kick off its substantive work tomorrow, 5 January, with consultations on South Sudan and a briefing on the situation on the ground. Citing the conflict in the youngest United Nations Member State, he said the President of South Sudan was engaged in finding a solution, but peace had yet to be achieved. The Security Council would, therefore, examine if and how it could respond.

On 10 January, the Council would hear a briefing on Syria by the Department of Political Affairs, Mr. Sangqu said, recalling that the Arab League had deployed a team of monitors to assess the situation on the ground. The Council was expected to receive that report by the time it met to discuss the matter, he added. Another briefing, on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), would be delivered the following morning, 11 January, most likely by Ibrahim Gambari, Special Representative of the Security-General. That afternoon, the Council would hold a “basically public meeting” on Somalia, with experts providing an update on the enhancement of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), he said, adding that an exchange of views was expected between Council members and an AMISOM delegation.

Mr. Sangqu said that on 12 January, President Jacob Zuma would preside over a debate on enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union. “We have to elevate the engagement in this debate,” he said, stressing its critical importance. “When there is more synergy, more cooperation, the better for the resolution of the conflicts on the continent.” The two organizations should forge ahead in their partnership, even in the face of setbacks, he emphasized, noting that the Council was expected to adopt a related draft resolution. Indeed, cooperation should be undertaken in the context of “turning a new leaf” after a very difficult 2011.

Turning to other scheduled debates, he said the Council hoped to adopt a presidential statement on justice and the rule of law, and to hold a “lively” dialogue on the Middle East, given the latest developments in that region. A briefing on Libya would be delivered on 25 January, when Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, was expected to share his assessment of that country’s transition process. Also planned, among other things, were consultations on Yemen, as well as consultations and a briefing on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Additionally, the Council would hear from a Department of Political Affairs team that had been dispatched to investigate the proliferation of arms in Africa’s Sahel region.

Mr. Sangqu said he hoped January would set the stage for the rest of the year as a time to “solidify and entrench” Security Council unity while dealing effectively with the issues before it. “We wish that 2012 will be a year of peace and security around the world,” he added.

Responding to questions in his national capacity, he first clarified his statement that 2011 had been “a very difficult year” by pointing out that, as a Council member, South Africa had had to deal with phenomena “that were not there” when it had first attempted to join the Council, including the Arab Spring uprisings and the ensuing situation in Libya, on which the Council had made the difficult decision to take action.

South Africa had participated in those actions to ensure that lives were protected, he continued, stressing, however, that it was now clear that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) airstrikes authorized by the Council had not been “that precise”. There must be across-the-board investigations of human rights abuses in Libya by anyone involved in the conflict there, including NATO, he stressed, adding: “Impunity cannot be selective.” The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was beginning investigations on the ground, he said, adding that he expected the International Criminal Court to conduct investigations in any cases of gross human rights violations. For its part, South Africa would work with Libya in rebuilding and confronting other remaining challenges.

In response to several questions on the “stand-off” within the Council on the matter of intervention in Syria, he acknowledged that a related draft resolution was indeed on the table. However, he said he did not know when a second round of negotiations on it would take place, or whether it would wait for the Arab League’s monitors to complete their assessment, though all parties could agree that “the initiative of the Arab League must be supported”.

Asked about the Council’s “sidelining” of the African Union, he underscored the importance of the upcoming debate on cooperation between the United Nations and the regional body, saying it would aim to establish a common vision and objectives. “There is no way that the United Nations will be able to resolve conflicts on the [African] continent without the African Union,” he emphasized, pointing out also that “we cannot do it alone”. While the United Nations bore primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, its Charter provided a role for regional organizations, he said, underscoring his country’s strong position that the African Union’s views “must be taken on board” in matters involving the African continent.

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