Notes Following Weekly UN Security Council Briefing by Mr Xolisa Mabhongo Deputy Head of Multilateral Affairs, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Tuesday 4 March 2008

Good Morning

Our briefing today will focus on two aspects: firstly just to highlight to you some of the issues that are going to be on the agenda of the Security Council during March, and secondly to look at some of the current developments within the Security council.

Now in terms of the programme for the month of March, the following are some of the issues that will be on the agenda.

Sudan (UNAMID)

Firstly on Sudan, the Security Council will hold the monthly debate on the situation in Darfur.  This is aimed at assessing the progress with the implementation and the deployment of the Unamid, the hybrid force between the African Union and the UN. So this debate will take place during March to assess the situation and to see how this process can be hastened.

Somalia

On Somalia, the Council will also address the situation in Somalia. As you know the mandate of AMISOM, the African Union mission to Somalia, was extended.  South Africa is concerned about the delay in the process of the deployment of deployment of a UN peace keeping mission in Somalia and we hope that the debate in the Security Council, the discussion during March,  can  allow us to again make progress as the international community in this regard, in line with the AU summit decision that stressed the need for a UN peacekeeping mission to take over from AMISOM and assist with the long-term post conflict reconstruction of Somalia.

So this is an important area of focus for South Africa as we have said, we are concerned about the delay in this process of the UN taking over from AMISOM and we would like to stress this point.

The Council will also look at the situations in Afghanistan, Guinea Bissau and Lebanon.

So those are some of the areas that will be covered by the Security Council during March, it is not the whole agenda but I thought I should highlight these ones for the purpose of our briefing today.

Recent developments in the UNSC

Now the second part of our presentation today is on the current developments. In this regard there are two areas that I wish to highlight. The first is with regard to the current situation in the Middle East, in Palestine in particular. Secondly the issue of the resolution, as you know, that was voted yesterday on Iran.

Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question

So firstly on the Middle East, During the night of 1 March the Security Council held an emergency session in response to the attacks by Israeli on Gaza, which has claimed the lives of over a hundred Palestinians by today including many children. After the meeting, which was convened at the request of the Arab Group at the UN, the President of the Security Council was authorised to inform the press of the general areas on which the Security Council greed.

Mainly, members of the Security Council expressed deep concern about the loss of civilian life in Southern Israel and Gaza and condemn the escalation of violence that has taken place. They called upon all parties to respect their obligations under international law.

Members of the Council also underscored the need for all parties to immediately cease all acts of violence.

They also stressed that these acts must not be allowed to deter the political process between Israel and Palestine aimed at establishing two states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security. 

So the Arab Group and most UN Member States, including South Africa, felt that this was an insufficient response given the gravity of the situation – we felt that the Security Council should have pronounced itself much more strongly in this aspect. Therefore what has then since happened is that Libya has introduced a resolution in the Security Council to address this matter.

that focuses on the need to end violence and to address the dire humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Libyan draft resolution is currently under discussion – negotiations started yesterday and they will continue today.

Basically just to highlight some of the key provisions of the Libyan draft resolution:

  • It obviously strongly condemns the killing of innocent civilians;
  • It calls for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including military incursions and rocket attacks;
  • It calls on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights;
  • It calls on Israel to immediately open Gaza’s border crossings and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid;
  • it calls on the international community to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people

So these are some of the key provisions of the draft resolution that has been introduced by Libya, as I indicated the negotiations on this draft are continuing today

Iran:

Now with regards to Iran, as you might have heard, last night the Security Council adopted resolution 1803 (2008), which strengthens the existing sanctions against Iran. The resolution was adopted by a margin of 14 in favour to one abstention (Indonesia). South Africa voted in favour of the resolution.

In their statements in explanation of vote, Members of the Security Council reaffirmed the rights of States emanating from the Non-Proliferation Treaty with some delegations explicitly noting that this right extends to the enrichment of uranium, subject to appropriate safeguards.  Some delegations, however, argued against states engaging in enrichment activities and suggested that the purchase of nuclear fuel on the international market would be the best way to counter proliferation dangers. 

Other Delegations expressed a great variety of views on the latest report by the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with some states seeing the report as negative while the majority of Members of the Council seemed to see a lot of positive aspects in the report.

There was obviously a strong support for a negotiated solution as referred to in the resolution as well as in the statement by the foreign ministers of the Russian Federation, China, US, UK, France and Germany.

South Africa explained that we have joined the support for the resolution because we felt that Iran has not fully complied with previous decisions of the Council. We however also criticised the manner in which the co-sponsors of the resolution ignored the significant progress that is being made in the context of the IAEA and we also pointed to a number of problematic aspects of the resolution, such as the provision that allows the inspection of cargo ships and other vessels. We said that whilst we have decided to vote for this resolution, it is imperative that we should now work creatively to defuse the confrontation in order to allow for a resumption of negotiations towards a more sustainable and peaceful solution of this issue. South Africa also reaffirmed the principle that once the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme has been established, Iran should be allowed to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as any Member State of the NPT.

So I will stop here and take any questions.

QUESTIONS & ANSWER

Question: Thank you. I see a distinct divide here between what we were told by Ambassador Minty and the way we actually voted. He said nothing should be done that could in any way diminish or even stop Iran’s cooperation with the Security Council. Surely imposing further sanctions will do that – what changed in the interim between the time that we spoke last week and the vote last night?
Answer: As you know the negotiation of a Security Council resolution is an ongoing process until they are adopted, so amongst the things that have happened is that South Africa did manage to make interventions in the resolution and we introduced amendments which we thought addressed some of the concerns that we had expressed with the resolution. Maybe I can just highlight some of these amendments that sort of enabled us to look at the resolution in a way which enabled us to then support it.  Firstly, we proposed that in the resolution there should be a clear reference to the fact that once confidence in the peaceful nature of the Iranian programme is established, Iran would have to be treated like any other member of the NPT, so this is the first proposal that we introduced as South Africa, and it was accepted and introduced in the resolution by the co-sponsors.  Secondly, as you know one of our biggest concerns has always been that this resolution, since it was drafted and finalised, it had not taken into account the latest report of the Director-General of the IAEA. So we then introduced an amendment to the resolution which specifically and exclusively recognises the latest report of the Director-General of the IAEA – this was important for South Africa because we felt that the report of the IAEA was showing some progress in terms of the work that had been done between the IAEA and Iran. So this was the second amendment that South Africa made and it was accepted by the co-sponsors.  Thirdly, as you will recall there was a concern that we continuously expressed right from the beginning about the inspection of cargo ships and other vessels from Iran. So there was a proposal to this effect made by the delegation of Vietnam which said that specifically any such activity that would be undertaken by any country would have to respect the law of the sea as well as international law related to civil aviation agreements. So this was another addition therefore that sought to balance what was already in the text.  Another addition that was also made by Vietnam, and not necessarily by South Africa, was a reference to the need for a Weapons of Mass Distraction-free (WMD-free) Middle East so that the region can be free of these weapons – so this reference was also made.  So in answer to your question, there are these four new additions which were not there before – two of them were explicitly made by South Africa and others, as I said, were made by other delegations, but even though they were made by other delegations, (they) spoke to our concerns as South Africa.

Question: Can I ask then how do we see this going forward – is it still our view that Iran’s nuclear issue needs to be removed from the Security Council and taken back to the IAEA, that is where the file belongs – is that still our prevailing view?
Answer: Well that is what we were saying in most of our statements – that in fact the IAEA is the only body that can actually do, that has the competence to do all the necessary technical verification work that is required. Therefore for that reason we keep making the point that the IAEA has to play its own role – that is why it was important for us to make that proposal that refers to the report of the Director General so that it can be included because for us that is a clear recognition of the work that is being done by the IAEA. There is no other body that can do that type of verification. That is why, obviously for objective reasons in the Security Council that we continue to say that the Security Council, whatever it does, it should be informed by the work that the IAEA and its Director-General are doing in this area.

Question: I just want to go back to the first question that was raised and your response when you said that South Africa took the decision in favour of the resolution because Iran has not been abiding by the previous resolutions of the Security Council, which are calling for that country to stop its nuclear programme. Does that mean that as long as they continue the enrichment of Uranium programme you will be favouring further sanctions against that country, and is that the only obstacle in your opinion?
Answer: The point that I made in terms of how we look at this issue these are some of the Security Council when we were explaining our vote. Firstly we think that there is a need for the international community – all the actors that are involved in this work – to find other creative solutions, a more sustainable and peaceful solution to this issue. And the point we made again very clearly in our explanation of vote to the fact that we reaffirmed that once this peaceful nature of the Iranian programme is established, Iran should not be discriminated against, it should be treated like any other member of the NPT.  So that does not mean that we will automatically be supporting all other future resolutions. As we have also said, we have made it clear in our statement that we did recognise in this report – I mean there are different interpretations of this latest report – but South Africa is one of those countries that looked at the report in a way that tells us that there is a lot of work, there is some progress that has been made between Iran and the IAEA. So that is basically the overall manner in which we look at it, but I mean in Security Council resolutions you obviously have to look at them as they come, you can’t just say you will take a blanket approach on all future resolutions. So if there is a resolution again in the future we will have to look at it on its own merits, judge it against other reports from the IAEA or other developments – you look at all of that and you make an assessment of what approach you should take.

Question: Sorry, just a follow up on that question because Ambassador Minty said last week just before the resolution was passed that all the outstanding issues between Iran and the IAEA which actually initiated the actions by the Security Council had been removed and that with that has been proof that was presented in El Baradei’s report. Are you saying that that statement was not correct or you are doubtful about that statement now? Thank you.
Answer: No the statement by Ambassador Minty was certainly correct, I mean because in any case even if you read yesterday the statement by the Director-General of the IAEA it was also along the same lines. So no there is doubt, I mean Ambassador Minty’s statement was correct, that is our interpretation of the resolution and we made that very clear also in the Security Council. That is why even though we joined to support the resolution; we still made our concerns very clear in the way in which this file has been handled. The point is that we have to look at all of these issues, also in line, because in the Security Council ultimately individual states assess the situation from their own national point of views, so that is why it was also important for us to make these amendments that we made and, as I indicated, the co-sponsors then agreed with our amendments. I mean the very recognition of the report of the IAEA, which was not there before – you must remember this resolution has been on the table for about three to four weeks and the co-sponsors were not ready – I mean we kept saying, and that was also the crux of Ambassador Minty’s statement last week – the co-sponsors were not ready to even recognise the current report of the IAEA. So now we have therefore made this intervention and said there is no way in which the Security Council could just continue as if there was no new report of the IAEA, precisely recognising the progress that Ambassador Minty was talking about. Therefore on the basis of that and other modifications to the report, then South Africa took the decision to join in Support of the resolution.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
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4 March 2008

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