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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

2 February 2007

Briefing correspondents at Headquarters this afternoon, Slovakian Ambassador Peter Burian said that, during his country’s first-ever presidency of the Security Council this month, he would aim to manage the business of the powerful 15-nation body in a way that would lead to consensus decisions on the many important topics on it’s agenda, including priorities like the “urgent crises” in Darfur, Somalia and the Middle East.

After reading out a presidential statement welcoming the African Union’s decision to immediately deploy a peacekeeping mission to war-ravaged Somalia, Mr. Burian said the Council had scheduled consultations throughout February to discuss situations in several African nations, including in the Sudan, where he hoped the Council would speed up implementation of its three-phased plan that will eventually lead to the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in the restive western Darfur region.

With the United Nations assessment mission to the Central African Republic expected to return to New York by 8 February to report on whether blue helmets should be sent to stabilize the troubled country and its neighbour Chad, in the wake of recent clashes between rebels and Government forces in both countries, the Council had scheduled consultations for 16 February on the way forward, he said. Private talks on Côte d’Ivoire were scheduled for 9 February and would feature a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Pierre Schori on the situation there, as well as on preparations for the twice-delayed Ivorian elections.

Responding to a question, he added that members planned to discuss the possibility of sending a Council mission to that country, which might include stops in other West African nations such as Liberia or Guinea-Bissau. The Council had scheduled consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 7 February and was also expecting a briefing next Tuesday from the Secretary-General on his observations from his trip to the just-concluded African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While he was certain that the situations in Somalia and the Sudan would come up during that session, he told several correspondents who had asked that he was unsure whether the members would discuss climate change, which had been a key topic at the Summit.

Looking beyond the African continent, Mr. Burian said that, on 13 February, the Council would hold an open debate on the Middle East, which he said would feature the participation of the parties to the conflict and other nations wishing to speak. He said there was a “sense of urgency” about the unfolding events in the region and he hoped that the debate would draw on the outcome of the meeting today in Washington of the diplomatic Quartet.

The Council also hoped to be briefed by Alvaro de Soto, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. To a question, he said that the Council was prepared to support the Quartet, but that the members were also aware that the Quartet’s efforts could not replace direct talks between the parties on the ground. So he hoped that the open debate would touch on ways to promote the peace process and restart direct talks between those parties.

Responding to another question, he said that he also hoped the Council debate would not be long and drawn out, but would provide an opportunity for meaningful exchange. And while the Council did not want to pre-judge the format of the debate or limit the number of speakers, he acknowledged that the traditionally speaker-heavy day-long Middle East debates often tended to lose focus and the participants often became “exhausted”, so the Council was considering the possibility of regional structures, or organizations representing groups of countries.

When a correspondent said the “catastrophic” situation in Iraq was nowhere to be found on the Council’s programme, Mr. Burian said that, while everyone was aware of that pressing situation, the Council could not address all the important issues at once, and the topic had not come up when the Council had discussed its February work plan.

Mr. Burian said that his delegation had scheduled two thematic debates for the month, the first, on 21 February, would tackle security sector reform, and the second, set for 23 February, would deal with the implementation of two Council resolutions on non-proliferation; 1540 (2004) and 1673 (2006). The open debate on security sector reform would be presided over by Slovakia’s Foreign Minister and the discussion would centre on ways the United Nations could more efficiently and comprehensively address security sector reform, which was a critical element of all peace consolidation processes. It would also touch on how best to use existing structures and regional players to promote the process. The meeting would wrap up with a presidential statement that would provide a basis for further steps, including receiving further input from the Secretariat on the matter, he added.

On the second thematic debate, he said that Slovakia currently chaired the 1540 Sanctions Committee and gave high priority to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the spread of other weapons of mass destruction. Slovakia hoped the debate would generate more synergy between all stakeholders, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international organizations towards implementation of the relevant Council resolutions.

To several questions about Iran’s nuclear programme and what the Council could do to ease tensions over that issue, he said the Council was expecting a report by 23February from IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei on implementation of resolution 1737 (2006), which imposed a set of sanctions against Iran in response to its uranium-enrichment activities. After that, the Council would hold consultations on the way forward.

Among other things, Mr. Burian said that, on Monday, the Council would hold consultations on Afghanistan and that, on 12 February, it would hold a private meeting with troop contributors to the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, which would be followed by an open briefing with Timorese Prime Minister Jorge Ramos Horta.

Responding to questions, he said that he did not expect any action this month by the Council on the proposals concerning Kosovo just released today by Martti Ahtisaari, Special Envoy for the future status process. He did, however, expect that the Council would receive copies of the plan, which was now in the hands of the parties. The Council expected to begin its formal consideration of the proposals sometime in March, after Mr. Ahtisaari reported on the outcome of the talks between the parties involved.

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For information media • not an official record

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