Russian Federation takes presidency of the Security Council for September

In September, the Security Council would focus on a range of issues, from the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the political climate in Lebanon to the broad settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation said today at a Headquarters press conference.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin, whose delegation holds the September presidency, said the Council would hold six open meetings, including one ministerial-level debate.  Already, it had been briefed by the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL), who had requested a meeting.

Sharing press elements from that briefing, he said the Council would continue to closely monitor developments in support of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.  It had expressed support for the Government and reiterated the need for Parliament to meet and elect a President as soon as possible in order to end constitutional instability.  It looked forward to the high-level meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon, to be held in the coming weeks.

Just this morning, he added, the Council had adopted a resolution on Liberia.

He noted a meeting planned for 8 September with troop-contributing countries on the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), as well as consultations on the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia.  On 9 September, it would renew the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), following which it would hear a “routine” briefing on chemical weapons in Syria.

Another priority, he said, would be to finalize the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), aimed at identifying those involved in chemical weapons use in Syria, pursuant to resolution 2235 (2015).  On 10 September, it would discuss the situation in Liberia, and five days later, renew the UNMIL mandate.

On 16 September, it would discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria, he said, and on 17 September, hold its quarterly debate on Afghanistan, during which the political and security situation would be examined, as well as the problem of illegal drug export.  The same day, the Council would hold consultations on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan, as well as on Abyei and the Syrian Golan.

The settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering the terrorist threat in the region would be the subject of an open debate on 30 September, he said.  The meeting would be chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Secretary-General would brief.  The aim would be to comprehensively analyse the origins of regional conflicts, as acute crises created the conditions for the rise and spread of terrorism and interreligious discord.

In that context, he added, the Russian President had proposed the formation of a “united front” against terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS).  He anticipated a presidential statement on the topic.  And as 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of resolution 1624 (2005) on combatting terrorism, the Council on 14 September would hold a thematic discussion on various aspects of that text, which would be open for participation by the broader membership.

Describing a “procedural revolution”, he said the Russian presidency started the month with a breakfast for Council members, with the understanding that delegates could then forego the traditional bilateral consultations with the president to discuss the work programme.  The breakfast had been so productive, he said, that no requests for consultations had been made, the first time that delegates’ “spontaneous unity” had made such talks unnecessary.

Taking a question on the global migrant situation, Mr. Churkin said the Council was discussing a draft resolution to address one aspect of the problem — the situation in the Mediterranean.  Months ago, the European Union had requested the Council’s support but awaited a national Government to emerge in Libya before specifying how the Council could help.  That had not happened and the Union was now considering a more limited Council role, discussing the “high seas” on the Mediterranean, rather than Libyan territorial waters.

Asked about the Middle East, he said the Foreign Minister had been developing the idea for a comprehensive analysis of the situation, as a piecemeal approach did not allow for an examination of interlinkages.  “In our view, this would be a great opportunity to do that” and build on the Russian President’s proposal for an international front against ISIS/ISIL, he said.

On whether the Middle East Quartet should be dissolved, he said the group provided the international foundation to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, along with Council resolutions.  To dissolve it would only weaken the base.  It must be strengthened to involve the Arab League and key countries, such as Egypt.  No other solution would benefit both sides.  He did not envision anytime this month a resolution that outlined a deadline and parameters for resolving the conflict, he added.

As to why the Council had not offered its response to the creation of the OPCW Joint Implementation Mechanism within the requisite five-day window, he said it was most important that it worked efficiently.  The Secretariat had sent a letter to the Council outlining its elements.  “We need to put on paper those clarifications they gave us so that everyone has the same understanding of what the mechanism would do,” he said.  The Secretary-General had spoken of voluntary contributions, and there were concerns that those funds not be used in a way that would make the mechanism “depart from impartiality”.

Asked about his country’s working relationship with the United States on that issue, he said the delegations had worked professionally on resolution 2235 (2015).  The United States’ first ideas about the mechanism were completely different than what had been agreed.  At that time, a veto was inevitable.  However, the United States had taken part in the “tedious” discussion process and both sides had achieved understanding of what should be reflected.  After three months, a text was produced.

At some point, he added, a resolution could be required to extend the Mechanism’s mandate to Iraq.  The first step was to discuss the issue with that Government.  He did not expect an outcome to any negotiations on Syria in the coming months.  He also had no information on reports of a United States decision to reinstate the use of drones against ISIS/ISIL leaders, or on reports that his own country would send fighter jets to the area.

On the Iran nuclear issue, he said it was everyone’s hope that as the deal moved into effect, the six parties would be able to work together again — and in different combinations — in various international situations.  He hoped Iran could be integrated into discussions on the Syrian situation; however, not everyone had accepted that idea yet.

To questions about the Russian President’s upcoming visit to New York, he said the President would speak on the first day of the General Assembly general debate and planned to meet with the Secretary-General.  As to whether it was plausible that the United States would join a “united front” against ISIS/ISIL, Mr. Churkin pointed out that the Russian Federation would not join any front that operated outside the Council’s authorization.  The United States had “bombed” Syria without such approval, he said.

Asked for the Russian position on Council reform, he said he did not see in the near future an historic compromise being reached on the issue of admitting new permanent members.  The Russian Federation did not support the French proposal on limiting veto use, as it was not a “workable scheme”; mass atrocity situations would be determined by the 15 Council members or the Secretary-General.  “This is a political world,” and allowing the General Assembly to weigh in would only infringe on the Council’s purview.

Further, he questioned what would happen if a resolution was tabled to bomb a country, or if a country wanted to attack terrorists.  “You can’t say every resolution proposed is a good one that would resolve a problem and not be used for political purposes.”  It was not just his country that understood the importance of the veto, which allowed the Council to produce balanced decisions and the minority opinion to be reflected in the Council’s work.

To other questions, he said the Council would continue to monitor the situation in South Sudan.  He foresaw no meetings on the situation in Ukraine. There had been some positive developments, and in the last day, there had been virtually no shelling in the east.  On other hand, little progress had been made in implementing the political aspects of the 12 February Minsk agreement.  Paragraph 11 contained a footnote describing the special status of territories in the east and Ukraine had done nothing about that, which only complicated matters.