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

In November, the Security Council will hold an open debate on promoting peace through sustainable development, while prioritizing urgent and meaningful action to address the ongoing conflict in Gaza, its President for the month told reporters at a Headquarters press conference today.

Zhang Jun (China) — whose country currently holds the 15-nation organ’s rotating presidency for November — said that the “very full” programme for the month would include a signature event on 20 November, on the promotion of sustaining peace through common development, which would explore investing in development for lasting peace, as part of its focus on eradicating the root causes of insecurity.

Faced with present global challenges, the Council’s performance of its duties was “not as good as what the global community expects”, he said, assuring that his delegation would spare no effort in moving the organ towards guiding it to take concrete and meaningful actions in promoting political settlements on issues on its agenda.  “To make it more specific,” he said, “the top priority [this month] is to tackle the Israel-Palestine — namely Gaza — conflict that is going on.  The Council has been focusing on it for a few weeks, and it will continue to be the focus of its work, and the Chinese presidency.”

His delegation will continue to work towards calling for a ceasefire, ensuring the protection of civilians, and preventing a further deterioration of tensions, as well as the humanitarian catastrophe, he continued, adding that it would focus on “meaningful action” along the lines of the General Assembly resolution (see Press Release GA/12548).  That text sent a clear message on a ceasefire, protection of civilians and the provision of humanitarian assistance.  In addition, his delegation would continue to stay in contact with the Secretary-General and his teams in New York and on the ground, support mediation efforts and work closely with humanitarian agencies, he added.

While the “current deadlock” among Council members was disappointing, he said his delegation had no intention to give up on striving towards prompt action in responding to latest developments, including the 31 October attack targeting a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, which it condemned.  “You may say meetings are not powerful enough,” he said, “but, I would say that a prompt response by the Council in convening meetings can convey a strong message from Council members and Member States to let the parties concerned realize what they should and should not do.”

On the difficult work of building consensus, trust and solidarity among Council members, he said that, earlier in the day, just ahead of the annual Finnish workshop of incoming Council members, he had handed each of his colleagues an ancient Chinese toy, a “Lu Ban lock”, which was composed of six interlocking pieces of wood.  The toy broke apart if one piece was pulled out, and was difficult to put back together, he said, adding:  “Let’s take this as peace; once it’s broken, it can’t be fixed easily.  And one piece alone can’t do anything.”  All 15 Security Council members must hold one another up together, he said, voicing hope that “ancient Chinese wisdom” would help them tackle their problems together.

Other meetings through the month would include a discussion on a report pertaining to United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces, given its deployment in South Lebanon, close to Palestine, and the concern over regional spillover of the conflict.  On 8 November, the Council would hear from the International Criminal Court, on its work in Libya.  On 14 November, it would hold a dialogue with United Nations Police Commissioners, and it would be briefed by the Special Coordinator, Independent Assessment Mandated by Security Council resolution 2679 (2023) on Afghanistan, on 17 November.

As well, the Council would discuss sanctions against Yemen and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the mandate extension of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) and take up expiring sanction regimes on Somalia and the Central African Republic.  It would also continue to pay attention to the situation in Ukraine, as it has done for the past year and a half, he added.

Responding to a question about how hopeful he was in being able to break the present deadlock among Council members and adopt a text on the situation in Gaza, he said:  “That’s a question we are all asking ourselves, and that I am asking my colleagues.  It’s not just our moral duty, it’s our legal duty.”  However, any text that is adopted must be important as well as meaningful, and it must send a strong message to relevant parties about a ceasefire and abiding by international law, he said, adding that, while this message did not pose a problem to many Council members, it did to certain ones.  However, faced with the calls of civilians, children and mothers in Gaza, his delegation would not give up.

In response to questions about China’s diplomatic engagements on the Middle East, with non-State actors who might be involved in any expansion of the conflict, he emphasized that his country is most concerned with avoiding a further deterioration of the situation in Gaza. He highlighted engagements by China President Xi Jinping during the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in October, including with Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s close contact with the Foreign Ministers of Israel, State of Palestine and neighbouring countries, such as Iran.  As well, his Government’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Zhai Jun, has been travelling in the region and meeting various parties to discuss the current situation, he added.

When asked a follow-up question about what might happen next in Gaza, and about whether a multinational or peacekeeping force could be sent in if the fighting were to stop, he said:  “We should focus on ending the crisis first; the most important issue:  the fire should be ceased.”  However, whatever happened next, concerning the future of Palestine, “it should be with their consent first”, he said.  “No others can make decisions on their behalf.”  Implementing the two-State solution is the only way to settle the long-lasting dispute, he added.

On questions about calls for the Council’s reform, sparked by its inability to respond to challenges in a timely manner, he emphasized that the United Nations and international law were at the core of the multilateral system.  There is a need for solidarity and cooperation between Member States, he said, adding that any reform of the Council must tackle the imbalance of its membership structure, including through ensuring developing countries have equal say, and in making its decision-making more democratic.

Addressing a query about an amendment, put forth by Canada, proposing to add a condemnation of Hamas to the General Assembly resolution on Gaza, which was rejected, he said that, while countries had different perspectives, his delegation condemned all violence against civilians.  “The most meaningful message is a ceasefire,” he stressed.

When asked about whether his delegation would consider raising the “unbearable humanitarian situation”, and the denial of water to the population of Gaza, before the International Criminal Court, as this constituted a crime against humanity, he said:  “There are many serious questions floating in the air, and all of them need to be answered based on facts and international law, including international humanitarian law.”  When pressed further on the issue, he said that China was not a State party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  It is up to the Council to decide what happens next.

For the full programme of work, please see:

For information media. Not an official record.