U.N. Security Council Weekly Media Briefing by Xolisa Mabhongo, Chief Director Multilateral Affairs (Excerpts)

February 6, 2008

Good Afternoon.

This afternoon we are essentially going to talk about two things that are topical in the Security Council. One is the situation in Kenya, and the second issue is that of Iran. Deputy Minister Pahad had, already yesterday, touched on the other areas of work of the Security Council, such as Chad and on the situation in Darfur.

. . .

Moving onto Iran: Last week, Ambassador Nene indicated to you that we were studying the elements of the draft resolution on Iran. As you know, these elements were issued by the sponsors of the resolution last week. And then the sponsors had invited the US and the rest of the members of the Security Council to comment on those elements. You should, of course, also note that by this time, already, the resolution itself has been issued largely based on the same elements. We are currently finalising our consideration on the actual resolution. But in the mean time, we did submit our comments on the resolution; preliminary comments on what we have seen on the elements. As I say, these elements are similar to what is in the resolution. These, therefore, are the comments that we made:

Firstly, we expressed our appreciation for the opportunity given by the sponsors to share our views and opinions with them. We indicated that we would reserve our final position until the resolution itself had been circulated. As I indicated, this has now been done and we are studying it. We said that in the context of the Security Council, South Africa will continue to approach all the issues on the basis of principle, and in particular, the need to strengthen the relevant multilateral institutions and to find sustainable and peaceful solutions to challenges facing the international community as a whole. We said that when South Africa takes a position on any draft resolution on Iran, it would be guided by the need to protect the integrity of the IAEA processes. We believe that nothing should be done that would undermine the progress that is currently being made in the implementation of the work plan that was agreed between Iran and the IAEA during August last year. We think, therefore, that the Security Council should acknowledge the reality of this progress that is being made and the cooperation that Iran has been giving so far. In order for the Security Council itself not to undermine it's own credibility, we also said in our preliminary comments that South Africa is concerned about the potential impact of a new, punitive resolution on Iran at a time when Iran is actively co-operating with the IAEA. There is some optimism, both in Iran and the IAEA that there will be more effort put in to resolving the outstanding issues. We therefore indicated, also, that we hoped that any action that may be taken, outside of the IAEA by any other side, including by the Security Council, would not set back the progress that has been achieved. Because, as you know, and as we have always said, we believe that as a country, we cannot afford to have another volatile situation developing in that particular region, which is already suffering the consequences of various conflicts that are ongoing.

Specifically, we then asked the sponsors of the resolution to take note of the recent US National Intelligence Estimate that was issued, which was, amongst other things as we know, this was a public document. It had confirmed the absence of a current nuclear weapons programme in Iran. We also asked that the co-sponsors would obviously have to take into account the progress that has been made, as I indicated in the implementation of the work plan that was adopted. We also indicated that whilst we appreciate the opportunity to share our view on this, we also were of the view that it is imperative that there should be proper negotiations and consultations in the Security Council, involving all members on this resolution and its elements.

We also hoped (and this is very important for us) that there would be adequate time given to the non-permanent members of the Security Council to study these elements and the resolution so that they can be able to make their own inputs into the resolution. This is important for us, that non-permanent members are given an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security, so that non-permanent members of the Security Council are not seen as countries that just "rubber-stamp" decisions of the Security Council. We think it's important that they should play a particular role. That is why they are elected, and the Charter confirms all those responsibilities of the Security Council. Therefore, when a resolution is presented, all the members of the Security Council should be given an opportunity to participate in its discussion.

So, it is therefore, in this spirit, that we are currently finalising our assessment of this resolution and our ultimate reaction to it. Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers

Question: There is a general perception out there that the resolution that's being drafted by the sponsors already has taken into account, for example: the IAEA and NIA report and so on, that, as a result, Russia and China have insured that the resolution is very weak. It barely takes forward the sanctions that were recommended in the second round. Is this a fact that South Africa would consider, and do you foresee the possibility of South Africa voting against a resolution that China and Russia have supported?

Answer: On your first point, the resolution, as I said is based on the elements. As we saw, in the elements that were circulated last week, there are new elements. This resolution is obviously different from the resolution that was passed because there are additional sanctions that are being proposed on individuals and certain entities. There are other new elements. Our Ambassador to the UN in New York was quoted already mentioning for example, the issue of one of the elements of the resolution. It refers to the fact that it would require countries to inspect what is called suspicious cargo travelling to and from Iran. So there are new elements in this resolution. By all means, it is different, it is new. Therefore, we are considering it in that spirit. And for us, our final assessment is going to be very important that we take into account whether this resolution has indeed taken into account the NIA of the US as well as the work plan. Both of these are very significant documents, and very significant steps that have been taken on this question. If the US publishes a NIA estimate that makes certain conclusions, with regard to Iran in this area, obviously that is very significant. And then if the IAEA also agrees to a particular work plan with Iran, and there is a report - the last report of Dr. El Baradei was very clear - there was some progress that was being made between Iran and the IAEA in the implementation of the work plan. His next report is expected in the next few weeks. So those are very significant. It will be important that the Security Council should adopt/be informed by this progress. I mean, I think it would not be correct for the Security Council to ignore these very significant developments. No in terms of whether South Africa supports for votes will be determined by the type of analysis and assessment we are doing now. But I mean, just as you know, last time there was a resolution already agreed by the permanent members, that South Africa was also able to make amendments to the resolution. So if we feel that we have to make amendments to the resolution, we will make those amendments, regardless of the fact that it has been agreed already amongst the P5; like we did last time.

Question: There was very strong language used yesterday regarding the Kenyan Governments rejection of Cyril Ramaphosa as a mediator appointed by UN Former Chief Kofi Annan. Is it likely that reference might be made to that in the Security Council? Indeed, would that. We, wish to make such reference in the Statement?

Answer: Thank you. No, we would not insist on any reference like that in the Statement of the Security Council. I think our statement was made in the bilateral context and we don't think it's really necessary to bring that issue to the Security Council. As I said, this statement that is likely to be adopted today is clearly focussed on encouraging the progress in Kenya; encouraging all the parties supporting the initiatives led by the former UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan.

Question: There are two questions. Firstly, the inspection of cargo. If you could explain why South Africa feels that that is a controversial issue. And also on Kenya, why South Africa is supporting a statement by the Security Council? Does this imply, with reference to some of our previous positions on the Security Council that we regard the situation in Kenya as a threat to international peace and security?

Answer: Well, the Security Council, in this instance, is specifically reacting to what the Kenyan Government itself is requesting that. There has been communication from the Kenyan Government to the Security Council, to the UN Secretary-General, to say that they would wish to see the Security Council considering this matter. They have even requested that their foreign minister should go and address the Security Council. So no, it has got nothing to do with our principled position. If a country requires the Security Council to get involved in one way or the other, it's very unlikely that the Security Council will say no. You must remember, also, that the Security Council is currently engaged with the issue of Nepal.. But again, in that there was an express invitation by the Government of Nepal for the Security Council to engage in the issue. It is in that context that the issue of Kenya is being considered.
We are still finalising our consideration of our resolution or the elements of the resolution we look at it in totality. As I was indicating, the Ambassador was quoted on this specific issue. But I mean, one of the issues you can imagine: the resolutions of the Security Council are binding on all UN member states, so once the Security Council passes a resolution that says "inspect all suspicious cargo moving in and out of Iran", that could have all sorts of consequences. For example, what if a particular country refuses to inspect cargo, and who defines what is suspicious and not? There other problems are what happen when somebody boards ship or the high seas by force? There could be tensions arising out of that. So those were some of the issues. We've seen these things happening all over the world. Sometimes people board ships and there's resistance. It was in that context that Ambassador Kumalo was talking about this. But I must again emphasis that we are looking at the totality of the elements of the resolution to make our final assessment.

Question: Could you update us on the Kosovo situation. It seems like there is a strong suspicion, I may be a bit out of date, that Kosovo is going to declare independence, I think this weekend, even. I mean, where does the Security Council stand on that?

Answer: The Security Council has discussed this issue both in December and in January. The latest status in that, in the Security Council, is that there are obviously two schools of thought at the moment. There is a group of countries who feel that negotiations are exhausted so there is no prospect of a further resolution for this matter through the negotiations through the parties. On the other hand, there's another group of countries that considers it such an important issue has complex issues that have far reaching consequences. You can never say that negotiations are not exhausted. There is still, in fact, room for further discussions and negotiations concerning the parties in Kosovo. That is the reality of the Security Council. There is such a divide between the memberships of the Security Council. Then, on the other hand, as you said, we hear that Kosovo intends to declare its independence unilaterally. It does not only affect the Security Council, but I think it would affect all member states of the UN in terms of how they react. To such an eventuality. And I would think that many countries, like South Africa, would have to reflect on that very seriously in terms of what the consequences are. Everybody is concerned about any impact of that in the region itself. That particular region, the Balkans, has seen many conflicts and many wars throughout history. Many countries are concerned about those types of negative developments that might emanate from any unilateral declaration of independence. All members of the Security Council are still seized in this matter. The reality at the moment is that there is obvious division in the members of the Security Council.

Question: There's a Security Council resolution passed on Chad, right?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Was that because of the involvement or the suspicion or the inspected involvement of Sudan, that that was a threat to international peace and security because it was with the request of the Chadian Government?

Answer: Well, Chad has already been on the Security Council Agenda in any case. There is a mission there, the so-called MINOCUD. The Security Council at the end of last year agreed to the deployment of a peacekeeping mission on the North East of Chad, and CAR. So that was already on the agenda of the Security Council. Now with the new developments from their side, the assembly of the African Union passed a decision on the resolution of this matter of the AU Summit in Addis last weekend, where it clearly condemned what at that time, was advance of the rebel movements in the Capital. The AU made it very clear that it would not be acceptable. And then, so the Security Council then passed a statement which essentially also endorsed what the AU had said and supported the AU. The AU, you must remember, also appointed the President of Libya and the President of Congo -Brazzaville to be the mediators in this. So the statement of the Security Council supported the mediation by the President of Libya and the President of Congo. So it was in that context that the Statement of the Security Council was very simple and straight forward, supporting what the AU had said; basically offering support to the Government of Chad. The statement was not introduced by South Africa, but we support it. We co-operated the calling of the meeting and we support the statement itself.

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