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

4 March 2008

The President of the Security Council, Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, told correspondents today at Headquarters that one of the key events of the Russian presidency would be an open debate on Afghanistan, to take place on 12 March.

Mr. Churkin said his presidency had started in a stormy way, with meetings on Gaza on Saturday, 1 March, and a meeting on non-proliferation in Iran on 3 March. On 19 March, there would be a Council meeting on counter-terrorism issues in the light of the mandated extension for the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). A comprehensive discussion, the format of which had not yet been decided upon, of the Middle East was planned on 26 March, while Council members would assess the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) on Lebanon in consultations on 10 March.

He said that the Council would pay close attention to the situation in Africa, with a meeting on the deploying of the hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) on 11 March, and on the situation in Somalia, at the request of many delegations, on 20 March. The developments around the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) would be discussed on 13 March, and the Council would follow developments in Guinea-Bissau, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the negotiation process on Western Sahara. A briefing on the peace process in northern Uganda was planned for the week of 24 March.

The Council would also keep the situation in Kosovo and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in mind, with the Secretary-General’s report on the situation expected by the end of March. The Council also had to take a decision on possible field missions. The traditional lunch with the Secretary-General would take place on 17 March, and on 7 and 8 March, the Council members would go on a retreat, with participation of the Secretary-General.

Answering questions about the Saturday meeting on the Middle East, Mr. Churkin said that, for “as long as many can remember”, the Council had not been able to have a united approach to the Middle East. It had, therefore, chosen to have a “summary of discussion” to be read orally to the press. It was important to note that, for the first time since a long time, the Council had been able to come to a joint position in calling on all parties to end the violence. He hoped that that mood in the Council would continue. Libya had introduced a draft resolution, which had been discussed by experts. What to do with that draft was now in the hands of Libya.

Continuing in his national capacity, he said that positions were far apart. The Council had been close to having a “summary of conclusions”, which was stronger than a “summary of discussion”, with clear cut characterizations of actions on both sides. However, some delegations were not prepared to characterize the rocket attacks as a terrorist act, while others could not agree to describing Israel’s actions as the use of excessive force. Not commenting on reports that the United States had made amendments to the draft resolution which were unacceptable to Libya, he said the important thing was to try to work towards a unified position.

In response to correspondents’ questions about yesterday’s adoption of resolution 1803 (2008) on Iran, he said, speaking in his national capacity, that yesterday actually two documents had been adopted. One was the resolution, the other was the statement agreed to by the foreign ministers of six countries: China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States. The dual-track approach -– Council support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the one hand, and negotiations by the Permanent Five plus Germany on the other –- was of vital importance to his country. The resolution was a very measured one, adopted because Iran had not given in to demands for suspension of enrichment activities. The other half of the package was the ministerial statement that dealt with Iran in a respectful way and re-emphasized all its rights as a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The statement contained many incentives for Iran, and represented a new reality, since the Russian Federation and the United States had participated in negotiations, he said. One of the incentives was an opportunity for Iran to overcome differences with the United States. The fact that his country had supplied fuel for the Busher nuclear power plant, which was now supported by the United States, meant that Iran did not have to worry about a supply of enriched uranium for years. That ensured Iran’s ability to develop its nuclear programme. It was also a message to the six countries that they must pursue those things that they had mentioned in their statement.

Mr. Churkin emphasized that nobody had said one single word about the use of force during any Council meeting on the subject. All three resolutions on the issue had been adopted under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. That Article addressed exclusively economic measures. Resolution 1803 (2008) contained a clause that, should Iran fail to comply with the resolution, the Council would consider other measures, again under Article 41. There was no indication at all that any member of the Council was willing to accept the use of force. The resolution also had a clause supporting the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

The Council was following the situation of the implementation of resolution 1244 (1999) regarding Kosovo closely. Three meetings in a row had resulted in a statement by the Secretary-General on 18 February that resolution 1244 (1999) remained in force until the Council decided otherwise, and that the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) would continue to operate in Kosovo. That statement had not met with any objections. The Council would try to make sure that everybody respected resolution 1244 (1999) and that there would be no interference with UNMIK activities on the ground. Statements by some other institutions -- that UNMIK was going to wrap up in 120 days -- had no legal foundation whatsoever and were made by “impostors”, as far as the Council was concerned.

Addressing questions about the situation in Darfur and the Russian Federation’s possible contribution to UNAMID, he said the situation with UNAMID was indeed frustrating, but there had also been progress in deployment. The dialogue between the Secretary-General and Khartoum had borne fruit. There were discussions about a contribution of helicopters and some Russian Federation helicopters were already in the region on a commercial basis.

Asked whether the Council would address the tense situation between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, he answered that, yesterday, he had received a letter from the Permanent Representative a.i. of Ecuador expressing “certain sentiments”. That letter was being circulated to Council members.

He did not foresee that the Council would interject itself into the situation in Cyprus, now that there was a general expectation that, with a new regime, something would change. It would limit itself to observing, while efforts would be made by others.

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For information media • not an official record

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