Transcript of remarks at UN Security Council stakeout
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Remarks by the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gary Quinlan, at the UN Security Council Stakeout
Ambassador Quinlan: Good afternoon. First of all, I need to say something on Guinea-Bissau which is just to draw your attention to the fact that a press statement on Guinea-Bissau, following the Council’s consultations on 5 September, was issued last evening. That’s been circulated and I think it’s all very self-explanatory. You had a very good presentation after the discussions on 5 September in the Council by the UN Special Representative José Ramos-Horta, so I think that’s covered those issues.
In relation to this morning’s consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I do have a press statement which I’m obliged to read and which is going out now. I’ve been asked by the Council to read it.
This is the third time that the Council has met since 21 August, when the security situation in eastern Congo went south very badly, particularly with activity by M23 – the armed rebel group. And the Council has met three times to review that security situation and political and diplomatic efforts that are underway, to try and ensure that we can secure a stop to the military threat, but also so that we can keep advancing the political process – and there was a fairly extensive discussion this morning. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Mary Robinson, came in for a discussion by VTC. Also, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, accompanied by the Force Commander for MONUSCO, General Santos Cruz – they came in for the discussions this morning by VTC from Goma.
There was very strong support in the Council for the continuation of the robust mandate that was agreed earlier this year to protect civilians, and to do that, to neutralise armed groups. That’s the central point again coming out of this morning, (and) also strong support for continuing diplomatic and political efforts. The Kampala peace process or discussions, involving the M23, convened by President Musuveni of Uganda, as you know, has started again and has set itself an ambitious target of fourteen days. Ambitious on one level and not ambitious on another, because there is a terrible urgency about this process that is underway again. There will be discussions, of course, in the margins of the General Assembly, which begins the week after next, while leaders are here and the Secretary-General and others will be obviously involved in those processes.
In terms of the press statement – since I am obliged to read it out, I will do so.
On 12 September, the members of the Security Council heard a briefing via VTC by Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, on the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The members of the Security Council reiterated their concern on the fragile security situation on the ground. They commended the joint visit of the Special Envoys and Special Representatives of the United Nations, African Union, European Union, and United States, to the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda from September 3-7 in an effort to bolster peace in the region. They took note of the Declaration of the 7th Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region held on September 5 in Kampala. The members of the Security Council reiterated their support for the implementation of the commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region, and called upon all signatories to fulfil their commitments in good faith, which is essential to achieving lasting peace and security in eastern DRC and the Great Lakes region. In this regard, the members of the Council looked forward to the upcoming meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism scheduled to take place on 23 September in New York.
Finally, I might say a couple of words about Syria. Obviously, there’s a great deal of activity underway about Syria and as I said, I think, on Tuesday here, this is a step by step process. Discussions are continuing among members of the Council, in particular, of course, the P5 and discussions today between Secretary Kerry of the United States and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. And we obviously want to make sure that our efforts here in New York are complementary with those discussions in Geneva. We all know that the stalemate on Syria has been within the P5, the permanent members of the Council, and we need to break that stalemate – and in order to break it, obviously these kinds of discussions that are underway are necessary, are essential, in fact, to bring the sides closer together and to see if we do have a viable, enforceable basis for having a solution in respect of Syria’s chemical weapons programs….the discussions that are going on in Geneva involve a good number of technical experts as well, accompanying Secretary Kerry and Mr Lavrov – and we’ll see what the nature of the regime that might be put in place to secure an arrangement might be.
Of course, the Council is very seized of all of these discussions. Just because we’re not formally meeting, I might comment, does not mean that people are not working…thinking and trying to see what sort of progress we might be able to make. I am very confident that the Council will meet as soon as we need to and the next major phase, of course, we would expect would be the UN investigation report.
Q: Ambassador Araud earlier today said that France was told last night about the reports from the Secretary-General and as you’ve probably seen Minister Fabius has said it will be Monday and it will probably implicate Assad. I wanted to know, are you aware of any communications yesterday from the Secretariat or from the Secretary-General himself either just to the P5 members or to all 15? What’s your understanding of what was communicated to anyone beyond France yesterday on this topic?
Quinlan: I’m not familiar with any communication that did or did not take place, I have to say, between the Secretariat and the French. All I can say is that the Secretary-General has not formally advised us of when he will receive the report because he is waiting for that advice to come to him from Dr Sellstrom. And then he will advise us, as President, of when he believes we should convene a meeting of the Security Council. I do know that he has reconfirmed his desire to have a meeting with the Council as soon as the report is available and consequently as soon as we can organise a meeting of the Council. I should say that we expect that sooner rather than later. But there has been no official communication to me and I’m not aware of any official communications to other Member States…
Q: [Inaudible – interjected question]
Quinlan: Look, I’m not them, so I don’t know. But I must say that we, we as President of the Council, have tremendous confidence in the Secretary-General and the Secretariat on this, and we want to ensure that we see a very clear, quick process – but also a very proper process. And I think that is what the Secretariat have been putting all their focus on.
Q: Just going back to that, we just heard a briefing from Mr Ladsous that was fairly optimistic in terms of the M23 being pushed further north and removing immediate threat to Goma and MONUSCO itself. So I wanted to ask if that came up in your discussions this morning. And secondly, all we’re hearing about in terms of rebel groups is M23. Did the FDLR or other rebel groups come into the discussion this morning as that would seem to be within the mandate of the MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade.
Quinlan: On the first question, I really can’t give you any serious advice on operational matters. That is in fact a matter for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Force Commander and the Special Representative on the ground. But the briefings we had this morning were consistent with what you’re telling me Under-Secretary-General Ladsous has said. But this is a precarious situation, it’s fragile, and so there continues to be a lot of attention to ensuring the existing gains are locked in but also how they can be extended and reinforced. But on operational matters, I’m simply not in a position to answer and I don’t want to mislead you, but that is consistent with what we heard this morning. But it is precarious, it is fragile and we want to make sure that we don’t go backwards.
On the question of the other armed groups – yes, this was mentioned this morning. The fact remains that the mandate which we reconfirmed, reconfirmed in our discussions among ourselves this morning, is very strong, very robust on the protection of civilians – and the protection of civilians is to be achieved by neutralising armed groups. I think that’s the exact words used in the resolution. Those armed groups are not just M23. There’s very large numbers, as you know, and that includes FDLR. And a number of countries and others in the room mentioned that in particular and also the need to address that threat. It’s very clear, there’s never been a question of it not being addressed. The immediate, urgent danger we faced around 21 August and beyond, of course, was the immediate threat in Goma from M23. So operationally that was what was dealt with first. Other operational decisions will take into account the nature of the threat and what needs to be done. But the organising principle, and we’ve seen it – and we’re all very pleased with it, and thanked, in fact, the Force Commander and his forces on the ground for the courage they’ve displayed as well as their determination – that will continue. We’re very confident that will continue and we want to see it continue.
Q: Ambassador – do you envisage, do you see a possibility of the Security Council having a resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons since you’re going to be meeting on it next week?
Quinlan: Well we’ll have to wait and see. I mean, obviously there are drafts. I read a draft published by Reuters yesterday, for example, which was instructive. But there are texts out there, as you know. People have been trying to bring together – various members of the Council, particularly among the Permanent 3 – a text which they felt was acceptable to them and how they thought we needed to proceed. Russia indicated that it had an alternative text. Those texts are being discussed among themselves in the P5 to see if it’s possible to bring their different perspectives on this together, and that’s where we’re at. Obviously other members of the Council are following this very closely and we want to see, we want to see something. We want to see an outcome, we want to see action. It’s a bit premature to say precisely what that outcome will be but the activity, you know, it’s now intense. So we’ll wait and see. As I say, this is a step by step process and I don’t want to speculate on exactly what the nature of that would be.
Q: Have any elements of the resolution been discussed with the non-permanent members by the P3 or the P5 at any point in time?
Quinlan: All members of the Council are talking to each other in different configurations. I can’t speculate because I don’t know precisely what conversations all the time are taking place between individual members of the Council. But there’s a lot of activity underway. I can’t really say more than that.
Q: Has Ambassador Churkin presented an alternative text?
Quinlan: No, it hasn’t been – it’s been discussed as I understand it. I have not seen it.
Q: Did the issue of the shelling of Rwanda from within DRC come up in this briefing and what’s the status of the UN since finding out who did that?
Quinlan: Yes, it was mentioned by one or two members, of course. And the investigation through the Joint Verification Mechanism is, as I understand it, not yet finalised. But I’d have to take operational advice on that, but it’s not yet finalised. But it was mentioned; it was.
Q: The Secretary-General this morning received a document from the Syria Government saying that they plan to, you know, an accession document to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Did you receive a document and is there going to be some sort of Security Council reaction to this latest development?
Quinlan: I haven’t received a document and since I don’t have a responsibility as President of the Council in respect of (treaties) – I’m not a depository for treaties – I wouldn’t expect to receive it in that sense. I understand this was mentioned by the press spokesman of the UN Secretary-General a little while ago – I haven’t seen the transcript of that but we hadn’t known about that, and that’s not surprising. I understand that the response was that they’re looking at this document now and translating it, and we’ll see where we go. But I haven’t seen it and it didn’t come to us as President of the Council. But, you know, we’re not the depository for treaty action.
Q: …the French Minister said that the investigators’ report on Syria and the chemical weapons, is going to be finished on Monday, is going to be issued to the Secretary-General. Do you expect that next week, the Security Council, you as the President, to have received this report on Monday, Tuesday, or during the next week?
Quinlan: We expect to receive it sooner rather than later but I have no precise timetable yet. My understanding is Dr Sellstrom and his team need to finalise their work. Today is Thursday and they’ve been working, as you know, at a fast pace but with increased numbers of people, increased numbers of laboratories involved and all the rest of it. That report, as I understand it, needs to be finalised. It is, as I understand it, not yet finalised. It then goes to the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General has undertaken to make it available almost immediately after he receives it, as soon as he practically can, to the Security Council. I expect that’s how we’ll proceed. I cannot put a timing on it just now but I do expect it sooner rather than later.
Q: (Inaudible)…letter from Syria on accession to the CWC …[inaudible]..essential for you, for the Security Council members to have that before proceeding to bring about a resolution.
Quinlan: Yes, absolutely, yes. I’m not disputing…We haven’t seen it – it hasn’t come to us as President of the Council. I’m not aware of it having come to us, but obviously it would be an important part of what has been speculated on as one of the components of an arrangement of a regime that would need to be enforceable in respect of handling chemical weapons in Syria in the future.
Q: …do you entrust that it will be given to you as soon as possible?
Quinlan: We would expect the normal processes would take place. And normally the Secretary-General when he receives a letter of accession or ratification in relation to a treaty, he distributes that to all member states. That’s the normal treaty practice but again I don’t want to, sort of, give you a definitive answer on that because I’m not responsible for treaties.
One more question, please, yes.
Q: …through the relationship between what’s happening in Geneva and the possible assertion that the Syrian Government is signing on to the treaty. That relationship with the report that you are expecting next week, one does excuse the other? For example, if they go ahead and sign the treaty and they go with the process in Geneva, would you put aside and away the Sellstrom report so that, that the…
Q: So then…
The entire international community is waiting for the Sellstrom report and we’re hoping to see it sooner rather than later. That is an investigation that is being done into the specific incident and there is a mandate for that and that report is being done. And it stands on its own. We then need to see that, of course, as a part of what will be the overall response by the Council to the situation for chemical weapons.
On the contrary. Yes. Thank you.
Quinlan: I’m sorry?
Q: (inaudible)…were you debriefed on the P5 discussions?
Individuals are talking to one another and I am reasonably well aware of these discussions between individual members of the Council and where all these matters are up to. But they were private discussions among the P5 as I understand it. And that’s really all I can say. Yes.
12 September 2013