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With the situation in eastern Ukraine escalating and the humanitarian situation there deteriorating further, the Security Council would focus on peace and security issues pertaining to Europe, including his own country, in the coming month, Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), its President for February, said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Presenting the Council’s programme of work for February, Mr. Yelchenko said the Council would consider various “frozen” conflicts throughout the continent by holding a ministerial open debate on 21 February. “The matter does not get the attention it deserves, even though the repercussions of conflicts in Europe are far-reaching,” he said, adding that the Council would hear a briefing on the situation in Ukraine on Wednesday afternoon.
Highlighting the wide implications of the 1990s Balkans conflict, he pointed to the frozen conflicts in the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan, saying they raised the question as to how much longer the international community could continue to stick to “business-as-usual” while hoping for different results. New approaches to conflict resolution would be critical, including through greater United Nations involvement, he emphasized.
He said that on 13 February, the Ukrainian Presidency planned to convene a meeting on protecting critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks. It would also focus on facilitating additional interactions and discussions between the Security Council and the new Secretary-General. The Presidency would also welcome all initiatives of the Secretary-General in order to make the issues on the Council’s agenda more informative and substantial.
Mr. Yelchenko said the Council would also focus on its regular agenda: the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the Middle East, Iraq, Syria, Libya and the report on the Sanctions Committee relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among other questions.
Asked how to deal with a permanent Council member who remained an adversary, he stressed the importance of demonstrating greater balance and neutrality as Council President. Underlining that the escalation in eastern Ukraine had not been invented for a Ukrainian Council Presidency to deal with, he declared: “Obviously, I will have to say something on the issue as it affects my own country.” As Council President, he would try to ensure that the discussion was not converted into a series of verbal exchanges between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
In response to a question about the United States putting Iran “on notice” regarding its recent nuclear missile test, he said a further investigation and more information would be needed. In the meantime, the Council would closely follow the situation, including Iran’s explanation of “why they did it and for what”.
Replying to a question about Israel’s settlements and the conflict in the Middle East, he stressed that the absence of direct discussions was the biggest obstacle to peace. Terrorism and lack of trust also remained major challenges. However, it was critical that both parties come to the negotiating table, he said, adding that he would meet with the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine later today.
He responded to several questions about Ukraine’s relationship with the new United States Administration, by stating that he had met with Nikki Haley, that country’s new Permanent Representative, who was well-informed about the situation in his country. She had confirmed that the United States would continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he added. Ms. Haley had also confirmed that the annexation of Crimea would never be accepted.
Asked how Ukraine would reconcile itself with the new relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation, the Council President said it was important to separate the United States relationship with Russian Federation and then the United States relationship with Ukraine.
Asked about the statement by the United States to the effect that the United Nations was weak and inefficient, he said the Organization was far from ideal. “Yes, it is ineffective,” he added, emphasizing the need to change “many things”, especially drastic changes within the Secretariat. There were many expectations of the new Secretary-General, he added, describing some of the briefings by United Nations officials to the Council as “very low-quality”. Sometimes they did not provide the information needed to decide what to do with certain missions.
In reply to a question about the work programme in relation to Burundi, he said the Secretary-General would brief the Council on the situation in that country, as well as the situation in South Sudan.
Responding to a question about the open debate on the protection of critical infrastructure, he said a draft resolution was currently under discussion with a view to creating a code of conduct for Member States on how to deal with the destruction. The draft would list sites to be considered “critical infrastructure”, he added.
In response to a question about the arms embargo imposed on South Sudan, he said that he did not see any reason why that country needed any more weapons. Sanctions were a “very useful tool” for preventing the Government from killing its own people.