By Santo D. Banerjee
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – Kazakhstan has elicited praise for highlighting Afghanistan and Central Asia during its first ever presidency of the Security Council in the month of January. An end-of-the-month “wrap-up” session also reflected appreciation for putting spotlight on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and confidence building measures.
Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian country to be elected to the 15-nation Security Council as a non-permanent member for the two-year period 2017-2018.
“Central Asia is represented on the Security Council for the first time in the history of the United Nations,” said Council President Kairat Umarov, Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative to the UN.
A ministerial debate on ‘building regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model to link security and development’ was “among the signature events of a January packed with meetings and discussions,” he pointed out. It helped to balance the Council’s global agenda with priorities in the region.
Through a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, Umarov added, Kazakhstan had sought to foster new dynamism, pursuing a strategy to strengthen: the security-development nexus; a regional approach to transnational threats faced by countries in conflict; and streamlining United Nations effectiveness.
Also speaking on behalf of Côte D’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia’s Mahlet Hailu Guadey said the Council’s visit to Kabul – during the Kazakh presidency – had allowed members to better understand regional dynamics.
She described as notable also the meetings on enhanced coordination among the UN, African Union, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Southern African Development Community (SADC) in support of the December 31, 2016 political agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the briefing on the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), and the related presidential statement, in support of national and local actors.
The U.S. representative Amy Noel Tachco welcomed the emphasis on promoting peace in Afghanistan, and potential partnerships between Afghanistan and other countries in the region, stressing that Afghanistan was a top priority for the United States. Discussions on the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), and the press statement supporting the work of its Head, Natalia Gherman, marked “the first time we have come to consensus on that topic in several years”, she noted.
Peru’s Gustavo Meza-Cuadra emphasised the importance of constructive actions aimed at conflict-prevention. Meeting today’s challenges must include bolstering multilateralism, respect for the rule of law and compliance with the UN Charter, especially its Chapter VI envisaging “pacific settlement of disputes”. It was important for the Council to be more coordinated in tackling new challenges, and to maintain unity.
While the 15-member UN’s influential organ had stood together in support of the peace process in Afghanistan, it was struggling to reach consensus on the issue of impunity related to chemical weapons use in Syria, Peru’s representative noted.
Sweden’s Olof Skoog expressed appreciation for the “timely” briefing on January 18 by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on non-proliferation, and in particular, the role of confidence building measures. The Council had an important role to play in advancing those issues, as well as standing united. He applauded efforts to ensure that the Council communicated clear messages after most closed consultations, which not only increased transparency, but allowed members to summarize the salient points of discussions.
French representative Samer Melki welcomed the January 9 meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and adoption of the press statement, which recalled the importance of the Saint-Sylvestre agreement, respect of electoral timeline and participation of all in respect of fundamental rights.
“This was very important for the partners of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” At the January 23 meeting on Mali, the Council sent a unanimous message reflecting impatience on the implementation of peace agreements, while the renewal of sanctions on the Central African Republic on January 30 was another sign of its attention to the need for sustainable peace.
Lise Huberta Johanna Gregoire Van Haaren of the Netherlands said the Council’s continued support to Afghanistan was evident: in the last week of January alone it had issued three press statements on terrorist attacks. These strengthened its resolve to stand with the Afghan people.
Besides, the Council considered a draft resolution on Syria to establish a new mechanism to investigate chemical weapons use in that country. The fundamental characteristic of any accountability mechanism was the principle of impartiality and independence. “These are still missing in the proposal presented,” Van Haaren faulted.
Russia’s Alexander A. Polyanskiy said non-proliferation required a quest to overcome disagreement, especially when considering new mechanisms. On cooperation in Central Asia and Afghanistan, he expressed hope that the positive experience of the “Moscow format” would be taken into account, adding that external players must not try to drag regional countries into a game or present false choices. It was important to find mutual understanding, and discussions must continue in the broader framework of the UN General Assembly. He also welcomed that the Council agreed on a press statement on the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia for the first time in three years.
China’s Zhang Dianbin said the Council’s visit to Kabul, along with the January 19 ministerial meeting on Afghanistan and Central Asia, allowed members explore ways to resolve Afghan issues from a regional perspective. The open debate on the question of Palestine underscored the urgency of resolving the issues and sent a clear message on the need to resume peace talks.
Joanna Wronecka of Poland referred to two high-level events in January, along with the Council’s visit to Afghanistan, noting that the press statement on the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia was the first since 2015. The presidential statement on UNOWAS would be a useful tool for maintaining stability in that region. She underscored the need to maintain unity, stressing: “We will need this level of unity in the upcoming months.”
Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz of Bolivia stressed that cooperation between Afghanistan and Central Asia was vital for creating stability as well as fighting terrorism and transnational organized crime, citing four recent terrorist attacks in that country. He also highlighted United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and work to support the political process.
UK’s Stephen Hickey said the Council must draw the consequences for those violating the cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and undermining the revitalization forum. He called for an arms embargo equally on all parties. In Syria, while the Council had agreed to set aside differences on the political situation to tackle humanitarian issues, “we haven’t seen any progress. Neither have the people in eastern Ghouta,” where children awaited the regime’s approval for medical evacuation. The Council must express itself clearly on the matter.
Kuwait’s Mansour Ayyad Sh. A. Alotaibi said his country and Sweden, as co-penholders on the humanitarian situation in Syria, were ready to take the lead in reaching a unified Council position on expanding assistance to reach Idlib, eastern Ghouta and Aleppo, and providing civilian protection. As Chair of the Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions, and as Council President for February, Kuwait would hold an open debate on increasing transparency and performance. [IDN-InDepthNews – 04 February 2018]
Photo: Kairat Umarov, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN and President of the Security Council for the month of January, speaks to press following Security Council consultations on the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) and other matters. 22 January 2018. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Loey Felipe
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