Press-Conference by Amb. Vassily Nebenzia on the occasion of the Russian Presidency in the UN Security Council in June
Thank you very much. This is your lucky month, you have me for the whole of it. I’m all yours. It’s a pleasure to see you on the first day of the Russian Presidency. Allow me to briefly announce what we are planning for the month week by week.
We already had meetings today: traditional Permanent Representatives’ breakfast where we discussed the program and then the political coordinators’ meeting and a little bit later we adopted our program of work and I already briefed the non-members of the Security Council on this content.
If somebody of you needs a copy, it is here on the table.
We will start our work on 4 June with the informal interactive dialogue on the situation in Libya. Force Commander of EU NAVFOR Med Admiral Enrico Credentino and Deputy Secretary-General for Common Security and Defense Policy and Crisis Response at the European External Action Service Pedro Serrano will brief the Council via VTC from Brussels. The meeting due to logistics will begin at 2.00 pm. We will discuss the possible extension of the maritime inspections’ regime. This activity of the Council is not traditionally in the program but it is scheduled.
On the next day, 5 June we will discuss in consultations chemical demilitarization of Syria. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu will brief us on the latest developments.
On 6 June we will start work in the morning with the debate on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. President of the Mechanisms Theodor Meron and Prosecutor of the IRMCT Serge Brammertz will brief and present the Mechanism’s assessments.
On the next day, the Council will gather for the Troop Contributing Countries’ meeting to discuss the work of the UN Mission in Mali. USG Jean-Pierre Lacroix will present the SG report on MINUSMA.
8 June is an important day. It is reserved for the elections of the new non-permanent Members of the Council.
Briefing and consultations on the United Nations Mission in Darfur are scheduled for 11 June. USG Jean-Pierre Lacroix again will brief the Council and we will discuss the extension of the Mission’s mandate.
We have not scheduled any activities for 12 June. But of course if there is any urgent need to meet we will be ready to do so.
On 13 June we will gather to discuss UN Office in Central Africa/Lord’s Resistance Army in briefing and consultations. SRSG François Fall will present the SG report.
On 14 June we will start the working day with the TCC meeting on UN Disengagement Observer Force. Then we will take a short but pleasant break: at around 10:30 am we will invite all Member-States to the North Delegates Lounge to watch the ceremony of the World Cup Opening – live from Moscow. By the way, in accordance with the tradition we will install in 4 locations TV screens, corners where we could watch football from Moscow. Some games will be live – around 12.00-1.00 pm local time. These will be the evening games in Russia. The morning games will be replayed recorded.
Then on the 14 June we will resume our work. In the afternoon we have scheduled the briefing and consultations on MINUSMA. Again, Jean-Pierre Lacroix will brief us during both meetings. We will discuss also the extension of the mandate of the Mission in Mali.
On the 15 June the UN is closed. Our Muslim friends will observe Eid al-Fitr.
On 18 June, Monday, we will have only consultations on Yemen in the afternoon. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths will brief us on the latest developments in the country.
A regular monthly briefing followed by consultations on the Middle East is scheduled for 19 June. Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov will hopefully brief us on the latest developments in the region. Later in the afternoon we will discuss the work of the Disengagement Observer Force in consultations.
On 20 June International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will brief us on ICC Sudan’s dossier.
On 21 June there will be a briefing followed by consultations on the work of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. ASG Bintou Keita will brief.
Next day, 22 June, is reserved for the elections to the International Court of Justice.
And then that brings me to our signature event which is a debate on the threats to international peace and security through the prism of the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa. That will take place on 25 June, Monday in the morning at 11 a.m, because the Secretary General will be in the General Assembly the same morning at 10 a.m. This is not a ministerial level event but we are encouraging high-level participation. Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin who will chair the meeting. We see this meeting as a good opportunity to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the roots of the crises in the region. I was meeting my non-Security Council colleagues earlier today. And some of them said that this meeting is in a way unprecedented because in that format we might have not ever discussed this problem. This debate will be convened as a follow-up to the initiative voiced out by our Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the high-level segment of the 72nd session of the UNGA. No outcome is planned for the meeting.
On 26 June we will have quarterly debate on the situation in Afghanistan and the work of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. SRSG and Head of UNAMA Tadamichi Yamamoto will present the SG’s report. As usual, we anticipate the interventions from Afghans, a number of their neighbors as well as the interested states and the EU.
The next day, which is 27 June, will be quite loaded. We will first adopt two resolutions extending the mandate of Disengagement Observer Force and appointing the Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals and confirming that the Security Council has completed the review of the Mechanism. Then we have scheduled the combined discussion on both Syria political and humanitarian in briefing and consultations, but it is quite probable that we will separate these two issues. On the 27th we will discuss only humanitarian and when we will schedule the political we will decide on consultations with our colleagues and the Council and with Staffan de Mistura.
After that in the afternoon USG Rosemary DiCarlo will present the SG’s report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) on Iran during the UNSC’s briefing. Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the UN João Vale de Almeida and Security Council Facilitator Ambassador Karel van Oosterom of the Netherlands will also brief the Council on the same matter. Given the latest developments around JCPOA, as you understand, the discussion will be very likely.
On 28 June we will again start the day adopting two resolutions extending the mandate of MINUSMA and UNAMID. Then we will proceed with the briefing and consultations to discuss the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. And again, that will be Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who will present the report of the Secretary-General. In the afternoon we will gather in consultations to listen to SRSG and the Head of the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia, Ms. Natalia Gherman, who will brief the Council on the activities conducted by this Center since our last meeting.
On the next day, which is the last working day of our presidency, 29 June, we have the annual Peacebuilding Commission meeting. Permanent representatives of Romania Ion Jinga and the Republic of Korea Cho Tae-yul in their capacities as Chair and Former Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission respectively will brief the Council on the work of PBC. The Council Members will consider the report of the Commission.
And in the afternoon of the same day we will discuss the work of UNMAS and consider the Secretary-General’s report on mine action.
As for the formal wrap-up, the so-called “Toledo Formula”, we are thinking of either 28 or 29 June. We will confirm it at a later day.
That brings me to the end of my briefing. I would also like to use the opportunity to make a small but important announcement. Today we will conclude the day by an event that the Visitors’ Lobby that our Mission will organize in connection with the forthcoming World Soccer Cup in Russia. The ceremony followed by a reception will start at 6 pm. All of you, of course, are cordially invited. Please, bring your business cards with you as we plan to organize a raffle.
Now, my dear colleagues, I am ready for your questions or comments.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, or Mr. President, we all welcome and thank you on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association for this briefing. Just a housekeeping question to begin with. You set four television screens or one will be outside the Security Council? Can we insist on that?
A: There will be three outside the Security Council. We were thinking about one in the Security Council. Later we decided not to go for it.
Q: Ambassador, my question is about the Middle East meeting this afternoon. Can you provide us with some clarity, because there is a bunch of journalists that are confused about what is going on? Are there two drafts? Is there one draft with a long list of amendments from the United States? And if there are two drafts, which one are you going to support?
A: As far as I know, for this moment we have a draft resolution by Kuwait, the one that was already circulated for quite awhile. And we have the text that the US presented. They presented that text as an amendment, although it is quite lengthier and that will be discussed today at 3 o’clock how we will proceed about this.
Q: Thank you, Ambassador. One quick question on Ukraine. There was this draft presented by you a couple of days ago, a draft statement, press-statement. What’s happening with it and I understand there was a counter draft statement by the European colleagues. Is there any way of combining them? And also on Syria - there have been efforts by the Western countries to adopt a resolution which would unify the three dossiers on Syria, what do you think about that? Does it have any future in your opinion?
A: On the first question – the issue is still being discussed, and we are hopeful that we will have a balanced PRST on the meeting on Ukraine, we never lose hope, but what will come out eventually we have to see. It is not yet off the table. And yes, there is a possibility to combine both drafts, indeed, but that depends not only on our will but on the will of our partners as well. On the resolution that you mentioned – at present it is not being moved by anyone, as it was mentioned, but it never took any even semiofficial forms, so to say. I don’t think that this is the right time for such resolution and I believe that my colleagues at a certain point totally agree with me on it.
Q: We hope to see you every day and not even once – twice. I know this month the voting on UNAMI mandate will not be the part of your agenda but there are now proposals to change the mandate of UNAMI given the circumstances have changed in Iraq after the defeat of ISIS. This is one of the proposals by the local government and Kurdistan regional government to have UNAMI have a bigger role in dispute on the territories between Bagdad and Kurdish authorities. Given Russia’s new economic role and especially in Kurdistan region oil investment, what do you think a role of UNAMI should be? Do you think the mandate should be changed or should it stay as it is?
A: First of all, we should not be over complacent with the defeat of ISIS in Iraq or elsewhere. Still it lingers on, and we know that there are incidents happening in the country with terrorists attacks. So, we have to be vigilant on ISIS in Iraq. I think that the war is not over yet, although, of course, the major component of it was defeated and we congratulate our Iraqi friends on it.
On the mandate of UNAMI. I think that any change in the mandate that would contribute to the stabilization and prosperity and consensus in Iraq in general and within its regions would be supported by us. But we have to see what the proposals on the change of the mandate are. If they are conducive to that goal than, of course, we will support them.
Q: Mr.Ambassador, don’t you think that the Palestinians suffer too much? 50 years of occupation, 70 years of displacement. I have two questions. First: Isn’t it the time to do something about the end of occupation? And not only keeping the two-states solution? Do you believe this two-states solution is still available and possible? On the other hand, I will ask you about these warm relations between your country and Israel. You know that Israel is in violation of the international law and there have been no other country that have violated the Security Council resolutions as much as Israel. But your country although has warm relations with Israel. Can you explain that? Thank you.
A: I fully agree. It is time to end the occupation. We say it constantly. We say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in fact the core and the key to solve all other conflicts and puzzles in the Middle East. What is happening around, the solving of the conflict is not very encouraging. We just had the meeting last week on that issue and we were speaking clearly that the Palestinian conflict, unfortunately, has become the hostage of geopolitical turbulence. Unless it is solved to the satisfaction of both Palestinian people and the Israelis, that will continue to be the source of instability in the Middle East. Yes, we support the two-states solution. And I think that is the only viable solution. And this is not only us who believe in it.
On our warm relations with Israel - yes, indeed. We are very lucky and fortunate to be friends of all the countries in the Middle East. Without exclusion. We are unlike some other countries, fortunately. Yes, we are in very good relations with Israel. We understand that there is a need to ensure that Israel has legitimate security concerns but at the same time we are very principled on the policies that Israel conducts vis-à-vis Palestinians and vis-à-vis the occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Q: What about the consultations on Yemen, an open briefing initiated by Mr. Griffits? Another question concerns Cyprus. It sappeared to have dropped off the agenda. If the Security Council still in the loop om this? What do you think can happen with the issue of Cyprus?
A: Martin Griffits, Special Envoy, started his job very energetically, everyone who met him appreciated his attitude, intentions and willingness to look at it with a fresh view. He is now in the process of preparing a road map, how to move, and the ideas that he shares with us are very solid, viable and reasonable. The problem is that, of course, the situation on the ground is not very conducive for moving any peace plan forward with recent developments in and around Yemen. But we hope that the Special Envoy Griffits either is in Sanaa or will be in Sanaa very shortly to talk to the Houthis. He is talking to the countries who have a stake in the region in particular Saudi Arabia of course.
Yes, we know about the developments, about the onslaught on Hodeida. And of course Yemen like any other conflict cannot be resolved by ceasing Hodeida or whatever else. I mean it can be resolved by political means, by an agreement whereby all parties would be satisfied. Let’s hear from Martin Griffits on the 18th but my humble proposal is that he will brief us in the open first. We need to hear his frank assessment of the situation that he will bring with himself from the region.
On Cyprus indeed we have I would call it a pause, not much has been happening since those days when things did not go the way many expected. There were many internal factors influencing the developments in Cyprus - both in the South and in the North. Now we are waiting for another political event to happen, but I know that within the Secretariat there is a school of thought of how to go about its next step, so to say. You know that we had a special envoy being proposed but before some things happen politically in some of these areas, I think that will not move. But of course, we are following the situation.
Q: Thank you, Ambassador. I was wondering if Russia has reached an agreement with Israel on pulling the Iranian forces out of Southern Syria according to some media – that’s both according to Israeli and Russian sources. And my second question will be on Syria again: do you expect the constitutional committee which was agreed in Sochi to be formed sometime soon?
A: Yes, I heard these news. They were in the press and elsewhere about an agreement reached on a disengagement in the south-west of Syria, and my understanding is that the agreement was reached. I cannot answer whether it has been implemented as of now but I understand that parties that were involved in reaching the agreement are satisfied with what they have reached. If it has not been done by now it will be done in the near future. On the constitutional commission there was, I may call it, a major breakthrough, when finally the Syrian government provided a list of their delegates to the constitutional commission with which Staffan de Mistura is now working. We still expect a list of the opposition, for which Turkey is responsible, and also there is a part of the members that will represent independent, scientific community, social organizations, gender, women, etc. – that, I am sure, has been formed. Then there was a major breakthrough. We’ve worked with the Syrian government for a long time to ask them to produce that list to allow Staffan de Mistura to move forward with the commission. We have not heard from him because the list is not complete yet, we have only one part of this tri-part arrangement. Maybe that will be the cause and the reason for us in the Council to discuss later in this month when we discuss political Syria.
Q: Just a follow-up on those questions. First, what is the current timeline you are seeing with regard to the political process and actually getting the parties to Geneva again. And, secondly, could you elaborate on this understanding which has been reached with regard to southern Syria. Tell us exactly how this works, who is doing what?
A: If I even knew, I wouldn’t tell you. When we see it public, then it would be much easier to comment on the timeline. We are not responsible for the timeline. It is, in fact, Staffan de Mistura who is the clock master, but unfortunately, his clock did not work for a long time. The Swiss clock masters maybe helped him to repair it a little bit, now with this new mechanism that he was given he has the resources and means to move forward. It is not an easy process, of course, but as we always were saying, this should be Syrian-led process, nobody can solve the puzzle of Syria except for the Syrians themselves. We perfectly well understand that Syria doesn’t have a military solution. Besides fighting and defeating ISIS, there is a need to reconcile within the Syrian society and that is one but very important step in that direction. When it will start and finish, I cannot tell you, but of course we as members of the Security Council, we as guarantors of the Astana process, we as a country which has good relations with the Syrian government, we will be trying to be conducive and helpful.
Q: Quick two questions – one about Palestine, and that is that Michael Lynk, who is a Rapporteur with regards to the Palestinian situation, has come up with a presentation at the General Assembly where he said that Israel has obligations as an occupier and it has failed all of those obligations. So it’s not a legitimate occupier any more, it's illegitimate. So that’s a very important issue and had to be looked at the Security Council, because it is not an equal situation, it an occupier who’s failed in the obligations and the occupied. It just seems it would be good if the Security Council invited him and heard at least what he has to say and discuss that. And the second is, whether there was any discussion at the Security Council about the fact that there finally are negotiations with North Korea and the US, and there is any way to the Security Council to support that this is happening and give its helping if anything is needed.
A: The name Michael Lynk resembles something but could you tell me what’s his position? Second thing, I don’t know such a thing as a legitimate occupier. That’s a new notion for me. There is no such thing as legitimate occupier, the occupier can only be illegitimate. We discuss the Middle East regularly, its practically every month on our Security Council agenda. We discuss the recent tragic developments in Gaza, we will discuss it this afternoon in fact. That’s a follow-up of what happened earlier. We will have our main event on the 25th June, also dedicated to the core issues of the Middle East crisis, where Palestinian issue is at the center. We regularly with our partners, with Europeans and with other colleagues, vote on decisions which condemn the illegal occupation and call for the full implementation of all UN resolutions – both by the Security Council and the General Assembly - that were adopted on the matter. I think that of course the Palestinian people is a people who suffered for a long time but I wouldn’t say their plight has been neglected. Of course, there are new difficulties on the road to peace that emerged recently but the Palestinian issue is in the center of our and of many of our colleagues’ attention.
On North Korea – yes, we discussed it this morning during the meeting with my colleagues Ambassadors. Nikki Haley briefed us on what’s going on, and what’s going on is preparations for a summit which may not take place exactly on the 12 June but there is a strong will by both parties as of now to hold that meeting. We wish our US colleagues every success, very frankly and sincerely. We think that denuclearization of the DPRK, along with security guaranties to that country and overall security architecture in North-East Asia is a very important thing which is something that is aspired by not only the US, North Korea, Japan or Republic of Korea, but by Russia, China and elsewhere in the world. Yes indeed, I said that if something happens during our presidency on North Korea we might wish to be briefed in the Security Council, may or may not take some action on it, but we have to see how the situation develops.