Press Conference by President of Security Council on Work Programme for September

The Security Council would hold a high-level briefing on the situation in Syria on 21 September, coinciding with the general debate of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly, Gerard van Bohemen (New Zealand), Council President for September, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Presenting the Council’s programme of the work for the month, he said the 15-member body would also be focusing on South Sudan, the selection of the Organization’s next Secretary-General and aviation security in the context of threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

The high-level briefing, which would take stock of efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria and consider more ways to ensure progress, would be chaired by New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, he said, adding that invitations had gone out to other Heads of State and Government to participate.

The Council would also address developments in South Sudan, with a briefing and consultations scheduled for 13 September, on the heels of a mission that would visit Juba and Addis Ababa on 2-5 September.  That mission, he said, would show the Council’s concern at the state of political and security developments in South Sudan, as well as its strong support for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), particularly the ability to fulfil its mandate, including the protection of civilians.

In Addis Ababa, he said, the Council mission would engage with the African Union Peace and Security Council and, hopefully, also with Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa.

On the selection of a new Secretary-General, Mr. Van Bohemen said straw polls would be held on 9 and 26 September, under the same conditions as previous rounds of balloting.  Those would be followed in the first week of October by another poll using differentiated ballots.  Because Helen Clark of New Zealand was among the candidates, he said he had voluntarily opted to recuse himself from presiding over the balloting.  Filling that role instead would be his counterpart from the Russian Federation.

On 6 September, the Council would adopt a resolution to appoint an additional judge in the trial of former Bosnian-Serb army chief Ratko Mladić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

On 13 September, consultations on the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict would be held, with an additional report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism expected before the meeting.

A briefing on 22 September would address aviation security, he said, with negotiations already under way on a resolution that would have the Council lend political support to technical arrangements being put into place by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 

Other meetings would see the Council discuss the situations in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and the Middle East, as well as health care for civilians in armed conflict situations.  The Council would also extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Responding to journalists’ questions, Mr. Van Bohemen said the Council was discussing its response after it considered a report from the Joint Investigative Mission that confirmed the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Armed Forces and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

Asked about a possible ministerial meeting on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he said “an active discussion” was under way on whether to adopt a resolution to mark its twentieth anniversary.  As discussions were currently very preliminary, the topic was not on the formal programme of work.

On the selection of the next Secretary-General, he said there was concern in the Council to complete the process within a reasonable time frame.  He added that he expected further ballots in October if multiple candidates remained in the running after the first week of the month.

On a draft resolution co-sponsored by China and the Russian Federation on the use of chemical weapons by non-State actors, he said the issue was “very much alive”.  One thing was clear — everyone on the Council was concerned by the use of such weapons by ISIL.  The question was how to deal with it.

Asked what he hoped to accomplish with the high-level briefing on Syria, he said that in terms of practical outcomes, he could not be confident that the Council would agree to any.  He noted ongoing extensive negotiations between the Russian Federation and the United States, saying that if those countries had some agreement, it could provide a path forward.  It was New Zealand’s calculation that if all the world’s leaders were in New York at the same time, how could Syria not be discussed.  At least there would be a conversation that would spotlight the conflict, he said.

Finally, on publicizing the results of straw polls for the next Secretary-General, he said the President of the General Assembly was “very annoyed” that information had appeared on Twitter, but that there was no agreement to vary the process.

For information media. Not an official record.