Belgium will have the Council presidency in June which is traditionally a month with a very heavy work schedule for the Council. This year is no exception. Moreover, Council members have scheduled a mission to Africa with visits to the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa and the current AU presidency in Ghana. In addition a smaller Council delegation is likely to visit Côte d’Ivoire and Sudan.
There are four mandates which expire and renewal will need to be considered:
In addition to these four renewals, formal meetings of the Council are also expected on four general or thematic issues:
Middle East (the standard monthly meeting);
Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (the regular semi-annual briefing);
International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (ICTY and ICTR); and
a new thematic agenda item initiated by Belgium dealing with the contribution that natural resources can make to initiating and sustaining conflict.
Despite this already long list, the key focus for most members of the Council during June is likely to be the six other major issues facing the Council at this time:
Discussion of these issues is likely to be concentrated in meetings of experts from Council delegations or informal consultations at the Permanent Representative level. However, it seems probable that some or all of these issues will also be the subject of formal meetings of the Council to adopt decisions.
The Council mission to Kosovo in April seems to have crystallised views and there is now a much wider acceptance that maintaining the status quo is not a viable option. As a result the Russian position that action should be delayed to allow further negotiation is attracting much less support. Elected Council members seem also to be giving weight to the fact that in June three months will have passed since Ahtisaari’s recommendations became known and it is not unreasonable to now put the issue up for decision one way or the other. That said there is also a strong sense that it is a European issue and some frustration that Russia and the Europeans should still be unable to sort it out.
The G8 Summit in early June offers an opportunity for high-level discussions. It is unclear whether Russia prefers to negotiate a compromise to be decided by the Council which will mean accepting independence in some form or other, or whether it would prefer to continue to reserve its position by vetoing the adoption of the draft resolution on the table. This option would not block independence since it seems likely in such circumstances that independence will occur unilaterally-with all the attendant administrative and technical problems that it will cause for the UN, the EU and NATO. The worst case scenario in this situation could involve outbreaks of violence and possibly parallel unilateral attempts at secession by Serb sections of Kosovo.
At this stage it seems that exploration of compromise possibilities in the text in return for a Russian abstention is difficult because of the firm attachment by Russia to its three basic points. Perhaps the G8 meetings will provide an opportunity to receive authoritative steer from Moscow on the kinds of elements which might make a constructive compromise. The Summit between Presidents Putin and Bush on 1-2 July may also be a factor. It could produce a determination to resolve the issue before the Summit or alternatively become an issue reserved for final resolution at the Summit.
June is likely to be the critical month in terms of the way ahead on Darfur.
Khartoum has inched forward in terms of accepting the packages of support from the UN to AMIS, the beleaguered African Union peacekeeping mission. And there is now firm agreement between the UN and the AU on the details for the “Hybrid AU/UN” mission. But there are real concerns that Sudan will again drag its feet on the hybrid mission. (The fact that the support packages and the hybrid mission were given high-level approval by the AU in December and it is now June and the humanitarian crisis has continued to worsen during that period leaves some Council members convinced that a tougher posture towards Sudan is required. Hence the talk of sanctions as an alternative has grown louder and the US has already put in place some domestic measures as a warning to Sudan.)
In June the Council is likely to be considering a resolution to authorise the funding for the hybrid mission. In addition it will be very actively following the progress between the Secretariat and Sudan regarding agreement for early implementation and deployment.
It is possible that the Council will also consider what can be done to reinforce the political reconciliation track and whether there are incentives or disincentives that can be brought to bear on the disparate players in addition to the government.
It remains to be seen whether the decision of the Security Council on 30 May to implement the special tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri assassination will have the adverse effects on the situation in Lebanon that some had feared.
At press time, it seemed that the reaction on the ground was more low-key than the tribunal’s opponents had predicted. Looming much more largely in many minds is the uncomfortable reality that the anniversary of the events which led to the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war is now just a month away. While the reinforced UNIFIL has achieved a significant amount on the peacekeeping front, the wider issues in the mandate established in resolution 1701 largely remain unaddressed.
The Council will have a report on 1701 from the Secretary-General and possibly some recommendations on border issues, both the security of the Lebanon/Syria border in the north, to prevent arms smuggling, and the delineation of the Lebanon border in the South, in the Sheb’a Farms area. Council members will be considering action on these aspects. And, in order to pre-empt as far as possible fallout from the war anniversary, some may be very keen to see the Council taking a higher profile in reenergising the other aspects of the 1701 mandate.
The standoff seems likely to continue with Iran insisting that there should be no preconditions for negotiation on its nuclear programme and the P5 committed to a track on which negotiations could only commence if there were a token of good faith in the form of suspension of current enrichment activity. Unless the discussions between the envoys of the EU (Solana) and Iran (Larijani), which had just commenced at press time, lead to some unexpected positive developments, it seems likely that the Council will be negotiating a further sanctions resolution in June.
If the EU and the US follow the same logic of steadily increased incremental pressure, it seems likely that consensus will be obtained in the P5. It is unclear whether the elected Council members will again assert a wider role in the drafting. However, the history of the last few months suggests that many of them (not just Indonesia and South Africa who presented amendments to the March resolution) will want to be seen to be playing a full role in the decision process.
The Council seems likely to continue to take a cautious approach to the AU request that the UN should take over the peacekeeping role in Somalia. This flows not just from ongoing concern that there is no peace to keep, but also from an anxiety that the political reconciliation process may not be fully inclusive and may result in a distorted outcome.
However, dynamics in the Council will keep the issue on the agenda, not only because the African members remain concerned about support for the Ugandan peacekeepers, but also because the US remains concerned about an exit strategy for the Ethiopian forces.
It is unclear if the Council will pick up any of the options that may be available to reinforce the political reconciliation process. Discussions during the mission to Addis Ababa and Ghana may encourage a more active approach.