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Transcript of remarks at press conference

Thematic issues

  • Afghanistan
  • Central Africa
  • Central African Republic
  • Chemical weapons
  • DPRK
  • Egypt
  • Golan Heights
  • Great Lakes Region
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Human Rights
  • Humanitarian
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Kosovo
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • Middle East
  • North Korea
  • Peacebuilding
  • Peacekeeping
  • Protection of Civilians
  • Sahel
  • Sanctions
  • Sierra Leone
  • Small arms
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Women
  • Yemen

Remarks by the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gary Quinlan, at a Press Conference on the September Program of Work for the UN Security Council.

Transcript, E&OE

Moderator: Good morning everyone, apologies for being late, it has been a busy morning. I'm sure that I don't need to introduce Ambassador Gary Quinlan, Australia's Permanent Representative to the UN. He's just going to run you through the Programme of Work for September and then we'll take some questions. Thanks.

Ambassador Quinlan: Good afternoon, my personal apologies for delaying you. I know how interested you are in the meetings we've been having. But at any rate, the first thing I need to do is just outline the programme for September. I think it's been distributed in the room to everybody. And I am very open of course to answering questions about that programme. The focus this month of course in September shifts to the General Assembly as well as the Security Council and the current agenda we have from that. So we frontloaded quite a lot of the Security Council programme to the earlier parts of the month before the General Assembly Leaders' Week gets underway in the third week in September. So you'll note that in terms of the programme – and I don't want to spend too much time going through all the elements of it, but happy to talk about whatever – there is a review of progress in a number of key missions: Guinea-Bissau, which is tomorrow I think; Liberia, which is on the 10th September – that's the only mandate renewal we're dealing with during the month; Somalia, which is at a critical phase, as you know, in terms of where we go with the operations in Somalia; Libya; Sierra Leone; Afghanistan, which is a quarterly review of UNAMA – the United Nations presence; and UNDOF of course on the Golan Heights. I've mentioned only one mandate renewal and that's Liberia.

In terms of regular briefings, the monthly Middle East consultations will take place on the 17th of September and that will be a briefing by Robert Serry, the UN Representative in the region and then consultations behind closed doors with the Council. And there will be the regular fortnightly briefings on Sudan/South Sudan. And as chair of the Iran sanctions committee, I think its tomorrow afternoon, I'll report to the Council on my latest 90 day report of activity of that sanctions committee.

In terms of the Australian presidency, and we're glad to be back as President. We were the first President of the Security Council – in fact January 1946 was an Australian presidency, and that was because of the alphabet so we're not claiming anything in particular, but it's nice to be back in the presidency. The centrepiece of our presidency will be a debate that we're bringing to the Council, a high-level debate hopefully at head of government-level, certainly at Foreign Minister-level, on the afternoon of 26 September on small arms and the role that small arms and light weapons have in fostering security threats around the world and instability. Obviously (I'm) happy to talk about all of that. The issue of small arms has been discussed over the last decade in the Council a number of times. I think it began in 1999, the last debate was in 2006. It does have an impact right across the mandate of what we do in the Security Council of course, in terms of peacekeeping missions, their ability to operate, the roles for demobilisation, reintegration in conflict situations, reform of security sectors, there are gender implications of course in terms of the role of women in peacebuilding. We also have a number of normative issues that we want looked at. There is the question also of getting some coherence across the UN system in the different parts of the system which deal with issues generated by small arms, which need to be looked at a little more closely as well. Anyway, we're hoping to get a draft resolution, that's our intention, out of the discussion. There hasn't been a resolution on small arms and the threat from small arms ever adopted in the Security Council before. There have been a number of statements but the last one was some time ago, a long time ago, in fact, so we'll be looking at a draft resolution. We begin the negotiation of that with partners, members of the Council, this week.

Moving on, we'll also be convening a briefing on Yemen on Friday afternoon, 27 September, to discuss the point we're at with political transition. Again, we're at a critical point – the national dialogue process, the national reconciliation process, is meant to conclude in mid-September, 18 September to be precise. And that's part of a process of reconciliation and transition for elections and the adoption of a constitution and so that has a very tight timetable, a very tight timeframe, and we'll be reviewing progress on that on the afternoon of the 27th. The Friends of Yemen, which is a separate group, of course, will be meeting a couple of days earlier during the General Assembly and we hope to have some high-level participation in that discussion on Yemen as well.

The quarterly debate on Afghanistan I've mentioned, which is the United Nations Mission, will be on 19 September. Obviously a key focus will be preparations for the presidential election in April next year, progress with Afghanistan's assumption as the lead for security which is now almost complete across the country and steps towards peace and reconciliation – problem area – human rights issues and, of course, what will be the role of the UN beyond the transition. We need to renew the mandate for the UN presence in Afghanistan next March so that will be an opportunity to put some thinking, or for member states to put some thinking out there on that as well. I might also note that Australia is the pen-holder, the co-ordinator for Afghanistan on the Council and will be negotiating the next security mandate for ISAF, the security presence, for the remaining period of ISAF's negotiations until transition until the end of 2014. We'll be negotiating the adoption of a new mandate, it has to be adopted by 13th October.

This morning, after adoption of the Programme of Work, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeff Feltman gave a debrief to the Council at our request on his recent visit to the Middle East and neighbouring countries. The major focus of his debrief was on the political, or the attempt to garner a political solution in Syria. He was talking to a number of Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and others, Iraq. He also visited Egypt. And the focus was on, very much on, Geneva II. What are the prospects, who should participate, what kind of support can be given? Obviously other issues related to Syria arose in those discussions that he had in the region and there was some comment in the Council obviously on those issues this morning but perhaps we'll leave those for questions.

On Egypt, I might say, he indicated because he did go to Egypt for a few days at the request of the Secretary-General, that he was very much in listening mode, as the Secretary-General himself has indicated – just to get a sense of the point that the Egyptian government is at in the transition into the future, and so it was very much being informed by parties right across the spectrum in Egypt. The question of Egypt, of course, is not on the agenda and no one is suggesting it should be, but there is an interest in the reconciliation processes because of the vital role of Egypt in the region, and the leadership it historically, the leadership role it has historically played in the region, particularly in respect of the Middle East Peace Process and so on. And that was a useful briefing.

And the Middle East Peace Process, of course. He also spoke briefly about that as he had earlier – with the Secretary-General – visited both Ramallah and Israel, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. His sense of that was encouraging. The talks continue despite some incidents on the ground, the deaths of some people and other problems, which might be thought to destabilise the opportunity to progress the talks but the talks are continuing. The Quartet he reported will be meeting in Rome, I think it's next week, and there is the question of re-energised involvement by the Quartet in order to support the processes that have been led by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas with Secretary Kerry's indefatigable pursuit of what can be achieved for which we all owe him thanks.

There are other, briefly, other situations which, of course, might be discussed in the month. You'll see on our programme the inclusion of footnotes which, of course, is just to provide an avenue for discussion as we need it during the month. The Middle East (Syria) is obviously there to be discussed when discussed, the Central African Republic, the DRC and Mali. They're the main elements there.

What else can I say that might be useful to you? Perhaps it's probably best just to throw ourselves into questions I think because you've got the paperwork in front of you. And even if I'm not happy to answer questions, I'll do my best to see how I can help.

Moderator: Thank you, and if I could just ask people to identify their name and what organisation they're from and of course if I could just give the first question to the President of the UN Correspondents' Association, Pamela.

Question: Thank you very much, Ambassador Quinlan, President Quinlan, it's Pamela Falk from CBS News. And on behalf of the UN Correspondents' Association, congratulations on the presidency and thank you for briefing. My question is about Syria and how it will come up on the agenda. There's nothing in the agenda. Needless to say any Council member could bring it up. There's been a humanitarian resolution draft discussed in July, there was also the weapons report coming out, and obviously the possibility of a unilateral strike. How do you see it as coming up on the agenda? Is there any role that you as the President would play in putting it on the agenda for an open debate or anything else? Thank you.

Quinlan: People are familiar with the sorts of discussions, the reports that are already being reported to people through the media, discussions that the P5 have had last week. The Secretary-General met with the non-permanent members as I indicated yesterday, yesterday morning. And there had been other consultations and so on among members about what do we, how do we take the question of Syria forward. The situation at the moment…and we had a discussion this morning as a result of the debriefing of Under-Secretary-General Feltman's visit to the region. I mean, the reality is, everybody obviously is quite transfixed by what we do about this. And everybody knows that the violation of international law involved through the use of chemical weapons is atrocious, unacceptable. We talk about future measures and so on. People are obviously concerned about the UN investigation, how best it can proceed, how quickly that can be done to preserve also the integrity of the scientific process, questions of when that can be done and whether any consideration of action should, of course, await that. All of these are very legitimate questions which are obviously on people's minds.

In terms of the discussions that have taken place, the stalemate among the key players on the Council remains obvious. Discussions among the P5 last week, particularly Wednesday and Thursday and into Friday, went nowhere. Positions haven't moved. There was a draft resolution spoken of in terms of possibly condemning the chemical weapons attack – I haven't seen the text of the resolution but we know the content and it's been explained publicly. There was the question of what actions could be taken as a result of all of that and positions haven't varied within the P5. People are not happy about that further discussion on Thursday. So no agreement. So that's where the P5 situation stands.

In respect of non-permanent members, I think it's fair – and I'm not speaking formally or officially as President of the Council because I haven't been authorised to do so, but the degree to which I can characterise where things are at – I think that the non-permanent members, many of whom are concerned, realise that the efforts have to be made to try and break the stalemate. And that's obviously something that we've tried to convey to the parties concerned. Certainly, my own country, speaking nationally, has. And to others who are also sort of key players as this unfolds – points we've made to the Secretary-General as well. The reality is that with that stalemate, however, there needs to be a re-energised diplomatic effort and the gear has shifted, or the focus has shifted really to the G20 meeting. That's just a reality. In Russia, which is Thursday-Friday, the Secretary-General is there. All the P5 leaders will be there. And a couple of other Council members including my own country, Australia, the RoK, we're members of the G20, will be there and other significant countries that have made it very clear that Syria is a major preoccupation that they want to talk about during the G20. It's not on the G20 agenda, but obviously bilaterally and in any other groups or, you know, collections of people, while the G20 takes place. The reality is that the shift has been to there to try and see if there is a possibility of getting over the stalemate, getting through the stalemate. I think that most of us have concluded that just for the moment it would not be productive or useful to try and have a Security Council discussion of this in some more formalised way because it leads nowhere. We had a discussion this morning in the context of a broader discussion about Middle East issues that were generated by the debriefing by Jeff Feltman. But positions haven't varied, there's no change there whatsoever. And it's clear that we have to try and address this at a higher level, a leaders' level and see if some kind of brokering can happen during the G20 itself. I think that's the next phase.

Frankly, you know, people might say what is the Security Council doing. Is it abrogating its role? Well, not yet. But the geopolitics of this has shifted to the G20, there's no doubt about that.

Question: Russia's President Putin said today that he would consider Security Council action if they had definitive proof? Is there anything the Security Council can do to move that forward, or in other words, change the mandate or add a new mandate where the UN would determine who was responsible for the attack?

Quinlan: The Secretary-General, I think, has answered, or/and his spokespeople have answered this several times. Maybe, I haven't seen any answer to this question posed today but I think it may have been posed at press conferences in Russia already. So far, I mean, the Secretary-General as we understand it, as he has explained to us, is operating under the very tight guidelines that have been laid down in terms of process, the actual scientific process and that's fine – people understand and welcome all of that. In terms of the mandate, he has explained there's a General Assembly resolution dating from 1987 I think, endorsed then by a Security Council resolution which lays out the processes for what is analysed in these kinds of situations. That would be something, I imagine, that would be discussed in the margins of the G20. I did see President Putin, the reports of this this morning on one media outlet and it occurred immediately, its obvious that if this is an idea it clearly should be discussed in the G20 context, in these contacts. So I think we're in a little bit of a holding pattern until we see where leaders take us in the next couple of days because they are the key people, the key countries concerned on this.

Moderator: Thank you, and could I call on Lou, please.

Question: Thanks, Lou Charbonneau, Reuters. Following up on the Syria question, when Under-Secretary-General Feltman was speaking this morning and you said that one of key issues that he was discussing during his trip to the Middle East was Geneva II, do you get the sense that there is an effort to reach a decision, a kind of consensus decision among the key players to hold the Geneva II Conference? It will obviously take some time to organise it, to bring it about, that probably wouldn't happen until after the General Assembly. But do you see that there's momentum towards making a decision to have it because that decision hasn't happened yet?

And I'm wondering if you could update us on what's going on with the DRC as well because last month there was a lot of discussion because of the fighting that was going on there and allegations of who was shooting who. Thanks.

Quinlan: Ok. In relation to Geneva II – one thing that was very clear, the single major point of agreement in this morning's discussions for example, informal discussions, you know, behind closed doors in the Council, on Syria, apart from the condemnation of any use of chemical weapons – obviously everybody in fact continues that condemnation – was the need for Geneva II is very real and remains urgent. So that was a point agreed by all members.

And in terms of the public commentary of some of the major players in the last few days, it's also been, it's also very clear that that professed commitment remains. The problem of course is how to deliver that and can it successfully be delivered quickly. And again I imagine this will be a major topic of discussions in the margins of the G20 among the key players. But the commitment was there, all members of the Council this morning focused on that in their comments on Syria, I have to say.

On the DRC – sorry, you want to know where we're precisely, where things are up to in relation to DRC?

Q: Yeah, if you could update us on where we were from last…

Quinlan: People are familiar with the situation with M23 and with the role of MONUSCO and it's been a more forward projecting role to secure the areas in Goma and all the rest of it. And this has been done in cooperation with the Congolese army. There have been some deaths, of course, on the Congolese army side certainly, and of course on the UN side the Tanzanian peacekeeper, and a number of injuries. But MONUSCO has taken a forward leaning role in securing those areas. And that was intended under the mandate and has been done, the new mandate that we gave MONUSCO earlier this year, where protection of civilians is the key, is the definition of the mandate.

Things seem to have gone into a slight lull at the moment but these sort of operational situations, as you know, change very quickly. DPKO here are much better positioned to give that kind of granular, moment to moment operational briefing, but our understanding as things are a few hours ago is that things are in a reasonable lull in the military side.

In terms of what we do about addressing how some of the issues that are there including the concerns that have been expressed by Rwanda about shelling from M23 areas into a couple of towns in Rwanda and so on – the shift has likewise been to re-energised diplomacy right now. The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region will meet on 5th September which is tomorrow and that's the 11 key countries plus 4 which concluded, you know, the very successful regional agreement which has enabled a lot of this peace process to advance earlier this year. Mary Robinson, who's the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, is in the region. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, has likewise been in the area in Goma and elsewhere and has been talking to various parties and has been part of this diplomatic process as well. And Mary Robinson is actually in the region at the moment, she's accompanied by representatives of the AU, the EU and the United States which is also assisting to see what kind of mediation can be done. So at the moment a big focus is on the diplomatic, and the military situation seems just to have lulled, but all this is unpredictable of course and could change very quickly.

Moderator: Nick Bryant, please.

Question: Nick Bryant, BBC. Your presidency not only coincides with the General Assembly leaders' week, it coincides with the Australian election which takes place this Saturday. I just want to know how that has complicated your planning. Especially because in leaders' week you don't know who your leader is going to be.

Quinlan: It, look, it's made it exciting. A little bit of unpredictability is always interesting in life. Look, it has complicated our lives. I should just explain – we have an election in Australia this Saturday, 7th September. Our presidency of course started a few days ago, started this week. And it's a very intensive month for us. Under Australian government arrangements, we have, when an election is called, we have formal arrangements which are called caretaker arrangements. And that is, the government of the day is not able to take new policy decisions or commit new expenditures which haven't already been programmed in our budget. That's a sophisticated safeguard in a democracy and we're rather proud of it. It does mean that public officials like myself are not allowed to speculate on policy. We can make comments about policy of course, but not to speculate about policy directions and so on because we have to wait and see who the government will be after an election. Again, this is a safeguard all round. So that's the situation we're in.

It does, it does mean a bit of uncertainty – at the planning level – about who will be the Prime Minister, who will be the Foreign Minister and therefore attending the General Assembly, or chairing our High Level meeting for example that we're having on Small Arms on the 26th September. But suffice to say that everybody in Canberra both in Government and the Opposition is well aware of what the agenda is for September. I spent a couple of hours briefing the Opposition a couple of months ago with the authorisation of course of the Government – again, this is part of our government processes – about what the month of September would look like, so that the Opposition, were they to become Government, of course, would be in a position where they could hit the ground running and make their own decisions about who would attend and so on and so forth. It complicates things a little but no big problem.

Moderator: Nabil.

Question: Mr President. What did you hear from Mr Feltman this morning on his visit to Iran? Did he speak of any new approach that the Iran leadership has on the region and also regarding its nuclear issue?

Quinlan: Look, some of these discussions of course in a briefing like this from the Under-Secretary-General remain, you know, between Council members and the USG. So I'm not trying to imply by that that he had some remarkable insight that is terribly confidential on the issue or something, but there is a need to respect the confidentiality of some of that discussion. The purpose of going to Iran was very much to talk in the first instance about Syria, Geneva II and the whole political solution process and to get the perspectives of Iran about the conflict there and beyond that in the rest of the region. But also he…to get a sense of, to take the pulse, if you like, of, as you say, of the new Iranian Government. He was the first UN official to visit Iran since the change. And so again he was very much in listening mode, as I said in relation to Egypt as well. And he spent a lot of time with people in different parts of government. He certainly sensed that there was, as he characterised it, I don't wish to over, over-brief on this, he certainly sensed an interest in talking. And, I can't make judgements about where this would lead. But an interest in talking very freely about current settings and how the UN saw things generally.

In relation to the UN question, I don't know if there was any substantial…there was discussion about where the process is up to and all the rest of it. But I don't know the substance beyond that. Jeff Feltman was also preserving, I think, a certain amount of confidentiality with his discussions in Tehran as well. But he seemed…it was a good thing that it happened. And there were some good vibes but I wouldn't want to over-characterise anything. But it was important that it happened and all members of the Council are pleased that that sort of engagement does happen.

Moderator: Evelyn.

Question: Greetings, Evelyn Leopold, Huffington Post contributor. Can you say anything about Mr Feltman's description of the new Iranian leadership? And if you can't, let's go back to Syria on… Is the Council going to do anything to improve humanitarian goods flowing into Syria properly? I don't know if Syria has its consultations with OCHA or if you have been asked by anyone to put any pressure on Syria.

Quinlan: Look, I really can't say anything more about his assessments and characterisations of the visit to Tehran.

In relation to Syria humanitarian, all members of the Council, I did leave that out actually, all members of the Council, most members of the Council made a reference to the concern on the broad humanitarian front. You know the figures – we passed the two million mark for refugees two days ago and that's just official refugees. There are a large number of other Syrians of course who are living elsewhere in the region in communities and in homes and all the rest of it, so the number is very big. We all know the figures in terms of displaced, I mean, it's a third of the Syrian population that are internally displaced. It's a population of 22.4 million people – the estimate last year of a census. A third of those 7 million are internally displaced, 4 million of those go hungry every day, 3million are fed by the WFP although the numbers are down a little bit because of the difficulties of getting the convoys to areas so the figures for last month in fact were only 1.3 million who were fed. But I'm just saying this to try to re-emphasise the dimensions of the humanitarian crisis. It's no secret that the Council, a couple of countries in the Council, Luxembourg and Australia, have taken much of the lead on this, have been trying to find ways within the Council to help OCHA and the UN system, and all elements of the UN system to get better systems, better access, better ways of delivery of humanitarian assistance in Syria. Our own government has been pressing questions relating to medical access and the protection, demilitarisation of hospitals and medical facilities for a long time. This is all background. Those discussions have been on the humanitarian side and what we can do to facilitate humanitarian assistance and access and overcome the sort of bureaucratic obstacles that exist – visa delays, the difficult numbers of approvals that are required for a convoy to transport things throughout the country, particularly across conflict lines. We've been working on ways to sort of leverage agreements with the Damascus authorities on helping OCHA improve all of that. Those things haven't been finalised but they've been under discussion among some members of the Council. And certainly OCHA itself has laid out very clearly to the Council for a number of months, again at the request of countries like Luxembourg and Australia, precisely what the difficulties are and precisely what it needs. So that's a work in progress to be frank. The current crisis over chemical weapons has slightly interfered with the sorts of consultations we've been hoping to progress in that area. But the question of humanitarian situations, humanitarian relief, must be returned to very quickly by all members of the Council because it just continues, of course, to get alarmingly worse every day.

Question: Thankyou. Yasuomi Sawa from Kyodo News, Japan's newswire service. Let me ask something about non-proliferation issues. Mr President, do you have anything to share with us about the most recent developments from the inspection of the North Korean cargo ship detained in Panama? And do you have general idea on how to improve the implementation of sanctions regimes both against DPRK and Iran as more and more violations reports come in from time to time?

Quinlan: I don't have anything that I can report about the interdiction in Panama. The Panel of Experts visited, as you know. They need to report to the relevant committee. That hasn't happened as far as I know yet, I mean the visit to Panama was delayed originally and has only just fairly recently been completed. And so, to tell the truth, I don't know if the Panel has completed its actual report as yet. But that process needs to be gone through and then the Committee itself needs to discuss the Panel's findings and determine what sort of action… Well, was there a violation, number one. And number two, what sort of action can be undertaken.

That does bring us, of course, to the issue you mention of how to improve these sanctions regimes generally and, in our own case, we chair three sanctions committees – al Qaeda, Taliban and Iran. And, you know, just as in real estate everything is location, location, location, with the sanction regimes, everything is implementation, implementation, implementation. And it's an ongoing, how would I put it? It's an ongoing challenge within the committee to first of all determine whether violations that have been reported have taken place and get agreement on that – first of all, the panel has to make a proper objective assessment. Then it's discussed within the relevant sanctions committee, and then of course once that's determined, what kind of action can be put in place.

I've got to say that we're not making as much progress as we should. Some of the regimes are not as effective as they need to be. You know, in our own case we've particularly – Australia's chairmanship – I mean (we've) been looking to ways we can tighten the al Qaeda sanctions (regime) and I think we're making a little bit of progress in that respect. Particularly getting the committee to focus on a more contemporary analysis of what the threat from al Qaeda is and, you know, the new areas where al Qaeda is operating from, the way it is operating, the way it funds itself and trying to establish a better understanding of those linkages so we can get a better listings process for example. And that obviously involves more work we're doing on the Sahel, the Maghreb, AQAP, which of course is al Qaeda in the Yemen.

In relation to the Iran Committee, I'll be reporting on this issue tomorrow afternoon in the Council and indicating there some of the problems in implementing the regime, getting agreement within the committee to endorse some of the Panel's findings. Even where there has been a unanimous finding by the Panel that Iran is in violation of the sanctions regime and a specific case that I will again mention in the Council publicly tomorrow afternoon relates to ballistic missile tests in July 2012 – the Great Prophet exercises. The Panel found unanimously that that was a violation but we have not been able to agree that recommendation in the Committee and then determine what action needs to be put in place as a result. So it's a work in progress but I have to say that the work in some of these areas is a bit slow.

Moderator: Just a follow-up question here and then Matthew.

Question: Raghida Dergham from Al Hayat. Mr President, follow up on this question. On Iran in particular, your committee, heading this committee on Iran sanctions, have you tried, will you do so tomorrow, speak of violations of Security Council resolution in Syria by Iran being involved directly and indirectly in Syria? Is this a violation and would that require you to have consensus in the Council in order to bring it in? Because otherwise it is being taken a little bit like a lack of consensus is taking away some of the credibility of your committee.

And the same on al Qaeda and Syria. Both are other actors there, Iran and al Qaeda, and would like to know how much light you would shed on that?

Quinlan: In relation to…I'm not addressing the issue of Syria tomorrow in fact in the 90 day report. There has been some, but there hasn't been a substantial discussion in the Committee in the last few months about that. It has been mentioned of course by individual member states, including publicly in their comments and statements they make in response to the 90-day report of the committee. The reports, of course, have to be agreed – so agreement of all members of the chairman's report of these committees before they can be presented in the Council. And that means sometimes – well, it's obvious what that means – that if you don't have agreement, you don't have agreement.

In relation to the operation of al Qaeda in Syria, Al Nusra of course was listed earlier this year – in its relationship to al Qaeda in Iraq – for example. So there are listing opportunities there.

Question: Has anyone brought Hezbollah in Syria to either of the two committees that you are chairing? And has any country brought the issue of Iran's role in Syria, officially or non-officially, to your committee?

Quinlan: Not, not…Yes, it's been mentioned. It's been mentioned in discussions in the committee, but it hasn't led anywhere formally – that is, Hezbollah and possibly Iranian involvement. There is, for example, in relation to, if you take another example of Iranian potential involvement, alleged involvement in respect of arms flows into Gaza. There is a panel report looking into a whole series of public statements that have been made by people, including in Iran and including in Hezbollah, and including others in Gaza itself, about the sources of weapons which they've identified as Iran. These are public media based, mainly commentary from media have been made about this. The Panel looked into this and decided that there is sufficient material there for them to continue to look into the allegations. We discussed in the Committee, and I have got to be careful about this, but we discussed whether we should approach the Iranian Government formally and ask, "is there any substance to these kind of allegations?", but we could not get agreement within the Committee to making that approach because a number of committee members considered the allegations, since they were drawn from the media, not to be substantial enough for the Committee to refer them to the Iranian Government for comment. So the challenges in the Committee on these things can be very strong. I mean, I can't go into more detail of the Committee discussions and so on.

Moderator: Matthew and then last question.

Quinlan: There will be a reference to this in the 90-day report, it was in the last 90-day report as well.

Question: Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, here's hoping, thanks for doing this and here's hoping that you'll do stakeouts after closed consultations to give, you know, summary of what happens there.

I wanted to ask on Syria – the Secretary-General has said that the countries like the US should share their evidence with the team, Sellstrom et al. And Russia have said that all of this evidence, including the UN report, should go to the Council and, kind of, give a UN process to it. I'm wondering since you're the president this month and the report will be finished, the Sellstrom report, do you see… Is it going to be given to all 193 States at once? Is there some role for the Council to say, you know, "we want to see it" and have some process around it? Even if you sense that the P5 are, you know, – correctly – are divided in terms of what to do about it.

And then just on DRC, I've noticed that you've said that this forward leaning stance is, is performing the mandate that was assigned to it. And I just, how does this relate to this Kampala Agreement? A lot of people are saying that the M23 agreed to pull back, left Goma, and now they are being attacked in areas that have been assigned to them under a regional agreement. So do you anticipate this month any oversight of this military action and the, you know, the use of drones, and this press statement that went out that sort of implied that the killing of the Tanzanian Brigade member was not a war crime? Are these people parties to an armed conflict? Or are they combatants? Or are they peacekeepers. Thanks.

Quinlan: In relation to the Sellstrom report, all I can say is, of course, to repeat, well, the expectation of the Council of course is that it will come to the Council as soon as possible after it is completed and made available to the Secretary-General – and the Secretary-General has publicly committed to sharing it with the Council as soon as it is available, as you know. He has also indicated that the UN (has) been using a number of creative ways to expedite the scientific analysis by using more people, basically, and all the rest of it. And more laboratories. But I can't go into the detail of that because that's all I know. I mean, there's confidentiality associated with all of that in order to protect the laboratories and people concerned. But he's got a great sense of urgency about it but with respect, as he has explained publicly and so on, to the scientific integrity of the process. But he has said that he'll bring it to us as soon as, as soon as he can.

In terms of it becoming available to others, I don't know what the Secretary-General's intentions are. But there was a briefing, as you know, provided by Angela Kane yesterday afternoon to a group of member states who signed a letter asking for the events of 21 August to be investigated. My own country was among those. And obviously that group of countries has a high level of interest in getting access to that report when it's completed as well. I cannot imagine, I have to say, speaking nationally, that it won't be made available broadly. Whether it means it goes into the Council first and is quickly dealt with and then made available elsewhere, I just don't know – we haven't got to that. But it's a question, obviously, we will look into as well ourselves.

In respect of the question of other intelligence that's out there and so on, a number of countries have published their assessments and all the rest of it. They're obviously available to everybody. I simply can't answer the question of which countries have shared with whom what information and with the UN and something – I simply don't know that detail. So you'd need to ask the UN or those countries concerned.

In relation to MONUSCO, we have, as I say, we've included it as a possible subject of discussion during the presidency in September, frankly, in the expectation that we will need to discuss it and frankly, speaking nationally for a moment – but also I guess I'll talk to colleagues about this – we may well want to just suggest it go on the agenda. Once we have the immediate diplomatic process sorted out in the next couple of days, to review what progress has been made and then if there is, what more the UN can do in the little time ahead. I flagged this with a few people in the Council yesterday during our consultations, individual consultations on the month and everybody's receptive to this because it's such a compelling situation for us – and of course it is quite a historic situation as you know and everybody knows. We're talking about a robust role to protect civilians in circumstances where combat operations essentially can be undertaken. We're well aware of this question of, do people become effectively combatants if they take a role? That is an issue which frankly is, at the moment, legally still unresolved. It's a question which you might address, Matthew, to DPKO and the Legal Office. There are different legal views about this – it's really all I can say at the moment, I'm not a lawyer, but there are different legal views out there about that. But it is an area we do need to have, perhaps, some more precision about because of the obvious implications.

In respect of M23 and the areas they're operating out of, the reality as people have been briefed on, is that there was a threat to civilians and that had to be countered and that was authorised by MONUSCO, by the leadership and that's the basis on which they acted.

Moderator: The last question – second row.

Question: Jonathon Wachtel at Fox News. The Security Council has been bypassed before when there have been crises. How would you feel if use of force took place during your presidency without authorisation from the Security Council?

Look, let's not speculate on that. It has been… Yeah, the Council… We get into some very complicated questions about what is legal, what is legitimate and all the rest of it. And when you look back over the history of actions, if you take Kosovo, which is an example in the past that people are citing, there remain differences of view about that. There are differences of view about what…can you have a hierarchy in what constitutes a violation of international law? Which violation is more important? Where did the moral and humanitarian imperatives come in through responsibility to protect or humanitarian intervention over more precise legal remits and all the rest of it? It's a complicated area, I don't think it will ever be resolved. The fact is, of course, the Charter does lay down the UN as the only body mandated to authorise the use of force, but we all know that there are a series of broader issues which have been taken into account by countries in the last 10-15 years and that may not change. Countries will make their judgements about that at the end of the day.

The only thing I'd say, setting that aside, is that the Council is always defined by and always will be defined by its failures. And that's quite proper – that people should take a serious look at failures and what we can learn from them and all the rest of it. But it still does have a tremendous number of successes – if you look back over the last eight months, 29 resolutions have been adopted this year. All by consensus, all by agreement. In fact, the Council has agreed on everything except Syria, with one or two minor exceptions, frankly, in terms of one or two mandates where, you know, there were abstentions which, you know, I don't wish to diminish the basis on which they happen but they were special. And all of those things are happening pretty successfully. Historic mandates in relation to DRC and Mali; I mean, absolute historic mandates in terms of combat operations and so on, for the UN. So there's a very good story out there that all members of the Council are pretty proud of as well. But we'll just have to wait and see how this plays out – I know what you're saying, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Moderator: Thankyou

Question: (inaudible – any discussion on the need to wait for UN chemical weapons report before any response)

Quinlan: Various Member States, and I'll stop here, did make reference to this but there were differences of view. It's part of the differences that exist. And there's really no more I can say about that. Thank you.

Last Updated: 17 June 2015
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