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Press Conference by Security Council President for January, 31 January 2012

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

South Africa had achieved its objective of focusing the Security Council’s attention this month on a number of important and pressing Africa-related issues, Council President and South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Baso Sangqu, said during a Headquarters news conference this afternoon.

“We are satisfied with the progress we have made during this presidency,”Mr.Sangqu said.

He cited the 15-member body’s productive debates on the conflicts in Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and Somalia, as well as its day-long discussion of improving cooperation between the United Nations and regional bodies, such as the African Union.

During its 12 January debate, chaired by South African President Jacob Zuma, the Council had adopted resolution 2033 (2012), in which it called for greater coordination between the Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council, including in the area of conflict prevention, resolution and management; electoral assistance; and regional conflict-prevention offices.

Enhanced strategic engagement between the two bodies, whose relationship had strained in 2011, was important, particularly as many conflicts on the Council’s agenda occurred in Africa, Mr. Sangqu said. “This gave us an opportunity to press the restart button”.

During its 11 January meeting on the situation in Somalia, the Council had discussed the African Union’s proposal to reinforce the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and ensure it was equipped to address the humanitarian situation on the ground and to capitalize on the improved security situation in that country’s capital, Mogadishu. He said the Council would benefit from that engagement as it considered a new mandate for AMISOM next month.

The 16 January meeting on West Africa, in which the Council had focused on the humanitarian and security consequences in the Sahel region brought on by the Libyan conflict, had been “very useful”, he said, noting that the Secretary-General had sent a joint assessment team to work with the African Union on that matter.

Other Council meetings had focused on the Israel-Palestinian conflict and on justice and the rule of law, he said. This afternoon, the Council would hear from the League of Arab States on unfolding events in Syria.

Answering questions on Syria, he said he welcomed this afternoon’s meeting, which was in line with South Africa’s quest to better engage the Council with regional organizations in order to resolve conflicts, particularly when such organizations requested it. He regretted that such engagement had been denied when the Council took up the conflict in Libya and the road map presented by the African Union was undermined.

Regarding preliminary reports by the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group over the lack of evidence that Eritrea had brought weapons into Somalia to support armed groups, such as Al-Shabaab, and whether that new finding would reverse the heightened sanctions imposed last month on Eritrea by the Council, he said he was not aware of the Monitoring Group’s new report. The Council would await it and take it from there.

On South Africa’s bid to be the next Chair of the African Union, he said the latter had made a decision to discuss the chairmanship again in June and that a committee had been set up for that process. After the current Chair’s term ended, the Deputy Chair of the African Union Commission would take over until a successor was chosen.

As to the most frustrating aspect of his Council presidency and how it could inform discussions on Council reform, Mr. Sangqu said that, as a non-permanent Council member, South Africa believed Africa was not adequately represented on the body and the say of non-permanent members should be improved.

Asked why the Council had not condemned last month’s assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, nor properly addressed last month’s threat by Iran to cut off the oil supply from the Strait of Hormuz should economic sanctions limit or cut off Iranian oil exports, he said the Council had failed to agree on a press or presidential statement on the first matter. The second matter had not been raised in the Council.

Asked whether the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was satisfactorily achieving its mandate in the light of several clashes in South Sudan last month, he said he was not qualified to make that kind of assessment. Any UNMISS coordination with the South Sudanese Government for a stronger presence on the ground would be a “positive contribution”.

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