With meetings on the Middle East and several parts of Africa, Kazakhstan Ambassador Kairat Umarov concluded his term as U.N. Security Council President, with a busy final week of meetings attending to the world’s hotspots.
First on the list was the tenuous situation in the large West African Republic of Mali. The U.N.’s Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told the Council that the country was at a juncture where events were taking a turn for the worse. He said that the upcoming presidential election was essential for the stability of the country.
Mali’s own Foreign Minister, Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, reaffirmed the commitment of his President to implement the Peace Agreement that had been signed between the country’s contending factions.
France’s Ambassador Franclois Delattre said that the window for action was very small, and that therefore the job of the Council was to encourage all parties to act quickly in their nation’s interest. Mali’s neighbor, Ambassador Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoue of the Cote D’Ivoire, agreed that the Council should ensure that MINUSMA, the U.N.’s force in Mali, should be strengthened, and that its proposed Rapid Reaction Force should be made operational, as soon as possible. And Kuwait’s
Mansour Al-Otaibi—shortly to succeed to the Council’s presidency—said that his country was following recent developments with alarm. But he said that the Joint Force was critical, especially given the country’s recent economic advances.
Ethiopia’s Delegate, Mahlet Hailu Guadey, speaking from the “other side” of the continent, said that it was essential to reverse the deteriorating security situation. And she emphasized the importance of coordination between MINUSMA and Malian Security Forces. Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea, Africa’s new Council member for 2018, said that not only must MINUSMA be strengthened, but that there must be a “common political strategy with necessary support from the international community”.
Council President Kairat Umarov of Kazakhstan, speaking in his “national capacity”, said that the implementation of the Peace Agreement (“Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation”) was primary and essential. This must be followed, however, by establishment of the rule of law.
After the Council Meeting, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley met with Foreign Minister Coulibaly. They agreed that the implementation of the Peace Agreement and the holding of elections were the two elements critical to the country’s future.
The Council produced a Press Statement as a result of this meeting. It welcomed the commitment of all sides to the implementation of all their agreements. It called for the
implementation of that Agreement, and warned of actions by any of the parties that would tend to obstruct that implementation.
The Council next dealt with the issue of Chemical Weapons use in Syria. Reacting to reports of a chemical attack in Eastern Gouta on 22 January, it proposed a new, “depoliticized” structure to replace the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Joint Investigative Mechanism. The Russian delegate said that accusations by the United States had caused the investigative mechanism to collapse. And his American counterpart charged that the Russians had put forth their proposal as a distraction.
A relatively short meeting was held on the situation in South Sudan. Speakers noted that while some small progress had been made, the recent ceasefire had already been broken. Despite the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), South Sudanese Forces loyal to President Salva Kiir Mayardit and those of his former Vice-President Riek Machar were still fighting each other.
A regular monthly meeting on Israel-Palestine was held on Thursday, 25 January. Nikolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process briefed the Council. Most importantly, Mladenov said that the international community must create conditions for peace talks, by building an international consensus on a two-state solution.
The Observer of Palestine, Dr. Riyad Mansour said that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had upset the international consensus that had prevailed for several decades. This made it very difficult for any negotiations to resume.
Israel’s Danny Danon, on the other hand, said that the true
threat here was not Israel but Iran. The Islamic Republic had given some $1.5 billion to its “proxies”, Hamas and Hizbullah.
The Ambassador of Iran, Gholamali Khoshroo, said that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem proved that the U.S. and Israel were conspiring to deny Palestinians their own sovereign state. Israel, he said, had violated at least 86 Council Resolutions, and the U.S. was never an honest partner for peace. Other speakers both criticized the U.S. action on Jerusalem, or pleaded for efforts toward a two-state solution.
In addition to the Middle East meeting the Council produced on the same day a Press Statement on the U.N. Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia. This both reiterated the importance of preventive diplomacy, and supported the Center’s efforts at counter-terrorism activities. At the same time, the Council produced a similar statement on Somalia. It complimented the Somali government for its efforts toward stability, and stated that “all parties should make 2018 a year of implementation”. The Council also called for close cooperation between The Somali Federal Government, the U.N., the African Union and troop-contributing states.
On 30 January, a meeting was held in Sochi, Russia, to discuss the situation in Syria. Staffan De Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, complimented the Conference’s efforts, as well as the formation of a Constitutional Committee. De Mistura said that he would consult widely, “because Syria cannot wait”. The envoy also spoke to the U.N. Press Corps in
New York by video, to report on the Conference. I asked him how he viewed Kazakhstan’s “Astana Process” efforts. He told us that he thought well of those efforts, and made it clear that he viewed it as complementary, rather than competitive with, the Geneva/Sochi track.
On that same day, 30 January, the Council held a meeting on the dire and confusing situation in the Central African Republic. The Arms Embargo on that deteriorating but strategic country was extended. This aside, it noted and complimented several regional efforts at peace there. And it called for cooperation with the U.N. Force, MINUSCA.
On that same morning, in a separate Meeting immediately following the CAR one, the Council dealt with the deteriorating situation in West Africa and the Sahel, particularly the former Portuguese territory of Guinea-Bissau. calling upon that nation’s leaders to implement their Agreement, the Conakry Accord, without delay. It also noted the recent presidential elections in Liberia, as well as the withdrawal of the U.N.’s UNMIL force.
On the very last day of the Kazakhstan presidency, the Council held a Meeting on the situation in Darfur, Sudan. A region in Western Sudan that has held the world’s attention for over a decade, the area saw a recent reconfiguration of its UN/African Union joint force, UNAMID. Members of the international community were asked to treat Darfur as a priority.
January has been a busy month at the U.N. Security Council.
It saw the highlighting of the regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia. It saw the visit of President Nazarbayev, to preside over the Council and show his country’s new role. And it saw multiple efforts—however small—to try and tackle difficult world problems—particularly in Africa and the Middle East. It was an impressive effort by a nation demonstrating its growing role in the world.
© Copyright 2018 George Alan Baumgarten