Addressing the humanitarian situations in Syria and Yemen, as well as ongoing violence in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, would be among the top priorities of the Security Council in December, the Permanent Representative of the United States, President of the 15-member body for the month, said today at a Headquarters press conference.
Covering the highlights, United States Ambassador Samantha Power said the situation in Syria would be a critical part of the Council’s work, starting tomorrow when it would hear an update on progress by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, which had become operational in September.
On 21 December, the Council would address humanitarian needs in Syria, she said, as it worked to renew the authorizations contained in resolution 2191 (2014). The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs would brief on challenges facing the United Nations humanitarian community.
She said that the Council on 22 December would hold a briefing on Yemen, which would focus on the growing humanitarian catastrophe. Last week, the Under-Secretary-General for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had highlighted worsening conditions in Taiz, where Houthis were obstructing aid for some 200,000 people. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights would brief the Council, as would the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.
On 17 December, the Council would hold its 18-month review of the Al-Qaida sanctions programme, she said, noting that over the last year and a half, the sanctions regime had focused on the terrorist threat, especially from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS). The Council was working on a draft that would streamline efforts to combat financing of that group and outline new steps to make sanctions more effective. It was considering holding a briefing on the matter, and she would share more information on what could be a “landmark” session.
Turning to Africa, she said that 15 December would mark two years since the start of conflict in South Sudan, where unimaginable atrocities had set the nation back more than a generation. While an agreement was in place to lead to peace, parties had not met deadlines, fighting continued and the humanitarian situation had worsened. The Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan would update on security planning in Juba and the Mission’s ability to support the August 2015 peace agreement. The meeting would coincide with the Council’s consideration of the mandate renewal, which must take place before 15 December.
Finally, she said, the Central African Republic was working to pull itself out of a cycle of violence, the latest round of which had been seen today when a Muslim man was killed near the “PK5” area near Bangui. Echoing the Pope’s call “to say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence”, she noted that the country would hold a constitutional referendum on 13 December and legislative elections on 27 December. In the Council, the acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General would brief on the situation, the first since the latest “spasm” of violence in September. She looked forward to sending signals that the international community stood with people of the Central African Republic.
Elsewhere in the region, she said Council members had expressed an interest in traveling to Burundi to show their growing concern about violence and regional instability.
More broadly, she said the Council would be briefed on the situation in the Central Africa, especially the impact of Boko Haram attacks in the Lake Chad Basin. The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara would provide a briefing on the situation there. A debate on 9 December would cover progress by the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the Former Yugoslavia, she said. On 15 December, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court would brief on the situation in Darfur. The Council would also hold its monthly briefings on the situation in the Middle East, including on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), whose mandate she expected the Council to extend by six months.
Ms. Power also left the door open for the Council to respond to emergencies and crises “as they developed”.
Taking questions, she said the Council had late last week received a Russian draft resolution on the International Criminal Court. In parallel, it also had held a discussion on the Al-Qaida/ISIL regime and the United States would determine if there were areas of overlap. Much of the Russian ISIL effort focused on financing and the need to halt the ability of ISIL to access funds. “We have a shared objective there,” she said, and “from there, hope springs eternal”.
Asked about the United States position on a climate change agreement, she said her Government had sought the most ambitious agreement possible that would have unprecedented global reach, to ensure that all countries that were “part of the climate change problem” were also part of the solution. National plans, if implemented, would have an important effect on curbing emissions and temperature increase.
Therefore, she said, transparency and verification measures must hold countries to account. Already, there was a bottom-up arrangement whereby countries were devising national plans and the United States had encouraged them to be as ambitious as possible. In that context, she said India had come up with an “important” national action plan that few would have expected a year ago. The United States and India had emphasized the importance of India lifting its people out of poverty, a goal that “was not incompatible” with an ambitious climate agreement. After her recent visit, Indian officials were aware of that and there was growing public interest in fate of the Paris Climate Change talks.
On whether the Russian Federation-Turkey standoff would impact the Syria negotiations, she referred the query to the Governments concerned, noting that the United States President had outlined Turkey’s right to defend its airspace and stressed to both countries the importance of de-escalation. Through the Vienna process, the Secretary of State was working to ensure that momentum was maintained. The United States was still in talks with all Vienna stakeholders about “the next ministerial bite at the apple”.
Despite differences on the fate of the Syrian President, she noted that at the last Vienna meeting, a diverse group of countries had agreed to work towards a political solution and elections within 18 months. There was also consensus on the need to fight ISIL. She hoped to see more concentration of Russian air power on ISIL rather than on groups that were critical to any future transition. There was unprecedented momentum around the diplomatic and political track. That each Vienna meeting had secured an agreement that the previous one had not was important. “We need the Russian Federation and Iran to shift their objectives on a political transition,” she said.
In that context, she said the Council had put in place a normative framework on the financing of ISIL. “Real world” practice must catch up to that legal framework, which was what the Council would examine during a review of the Al-Qaida/ISIL interface and of the conflicting reporting streams within the United Nations. If someone was involved in obtaining oil from ISIL, for example, there must be accountability, intelligence, information-sharing and willingness among all Council members to make sanctions designations. Given how many transactions were taking place, it was imperative to see more people held accountable.
To other questions, she said the United States partnership with the Peshmerga and Kurdish authorities in Iraq had been fruitful. The United States had to work with Council members on whether the Kurdistan regional government could be invited to any meetings, as the body was committed to a sovereign Iraq. “We want to make sure we always send the right signals,” she said.
She said a Council trip to Burundi was as yet unscheduled. Given that the East African Community had a designated mediation role, it would be imperative to have a broader African component to any trip, she said, raising the possibility of a stop in Ethiopia or visits to Burundi by people in the region or subregion. In that context, the Rwandan President could set an example for leaders who appeared to be tempted to see themselves as indispensable to their countries’ future. She expected him to step down at the end of his term in 2017.
Asked whether it was too late to organize a peacekeeping force in Burundi, she said “we are not in a Rwanda situation”. The Council had focused for a year and a half on preventing mass atrocities in Burundi. It had set in motion four sanctions designations — two for people in the Government who had organized the violence and two against people who had taken up violence against the Government. Preventive diplomacy was critical.
To a question on the use of Sudanese troops in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, she said the manner in which Sudan had employed force had consistently ignored or violated international humanitarian law, whether in South Sudan, Kordofan or Blue Nile states, through its indiscriminate use of war weapons or disregard for human life. The coalition must ensure that what they did in Yemen complied with international humanitarian law.
On whether the Council would take up the report on sexual abuse in the Central African Republic, if it came out, she said the spate of allegations was disturbing. If the Council did not consider the report this month, the United States would support its consideration soon.
There was also a possibility of scheduling a meeting on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she added.