Recent developments on the situations covered in this Forecast are addressed in the relevant briefs. Interesting developments in the Council on other issues included:
Middle East: Council members held a weekend session on 1 and 2 March to discuss the growing violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel in response to a Libyan request for a meeting to address the situation (S/2008/142). During the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the Council. He condemned and called for an end to rocket attacks from Gaza that endangered the lives of Israeli civilians. Additionally, while recognising Israel’s right to self-defense, he condemned what he called Israel’s “disproportionate and excessive use of force” and called on Israel to “cease such attacks” (S/PV.5847). The Permanent Observer of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, stated that Israeli actions constituted “war crimes” and called on the Council to “uphold international law and its Charter responsibilities and act to bring an end to this cycle of violence and counter-violence.” Daniel Carmon, Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel, stated that his country had a right to defend its civilians from attacks from Hamas in accordance with article 51 of the UN Charter. After the meeting, Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, which held the Council presidency in March, read out a media statement agreed by the Council that summarised the debate, called for an end to the violence and requested all parties to adhere to their responsibilities under international law.
Following the session, Libya introduced a draft resolution addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Negotiations among experts followed and Council consultations were scheduled to discuss the draft on 6 March. The US introduced a press statement condemning the terrorist attack against Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav Yeshiva which killed 8 students and took place just before the scheduled consultations. It seems that the US reluctance to engage in discussions on the draft resolution before adopting the press statement, or to incorporate language on the situation in Gaza in the statement, coupled with Libya’s refusal to adopt any text not mentioning the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and the failure to agree on holding discussions on the two texts in parallel, once again paralysed the Council.
On 25 March, the Council held its monthly debate on the Middle East (S/PV.5859 and Resumption 1). Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned by the prospects of renewed violence in Gaza and southern Israel. Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine participated in the debate, as did Lebanon, Syria, the Arab Group, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement and the EU.
Iran: Following a Council debate on 3 March (S/PV.5848), Council members adopted resolution 1803 with one abstention (from Indonesia) which placed on Iran additional sanctions related to its nuclear programme. New mandatory measures included a travel ban on some individuals listed in previous resolutions, an expansion of the list of individuals and entities subject to an assets freeze and an embargo on nuclear-related dual-use items, with the exception of items for exclusive use in light water reactors and when necessary for technical cooperation with the IAEA. The resolution invited member states to inspect carefully materials travelling to and from Iran via Iranian cargoes. New discretionary measures also included a call to increase scrutiny of activities of “financial institutions in their territories with all banks domiciled in Iran,” as well as vigilance in granting export credits to Iran.
On 17 March, the Chairman of the 1737 Sanctions Committee on Iran, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verbeke, briefed the Council on the activities of the Committee (S/PV.5853). He noted that 88 countries had so far submitted reports to the Committee under resolution 1737, and 72 submitted reports under resolution 1747. He also emphasized that resolution 1803 broadened the scope of the committee’s mandate. Only the US and Burkina Faso made comments after the briefing.
Kenya: On 5 March, the Council heard a Secretariat briefing on recent developments in Kenya, including the power-sharing agreement signed in late February. Members apparently welcomed the developments but expressed concern about the fragile security situation. Members also underlined their expectation of further Secretariat reporting—as requested in the 6 February presidential statement (S/PRST/2008/4)—as well as interest in briefings by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide.
Great Lakes Region: On 13 March, the Council demanded that the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR)/Interahamwe and other Rwandan armed groups operating in eastern DRC—referred to in the “Nairobi Communiqué” signed between of the governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda on 9 November 2007—lay down their arms and submit to the Congolese authorities and MONUC for their disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR) (resolution 1804). The Council also demanded that the illegal armed groups immediately stop recruiting and using children, release all children associated with them and put an end to gender-based violence. The Rwandan authorities welcomed the Council’s resolution, reiterated their determination to cooperate with the DRC on the matter and encouraged Rwandan armed groups in eastern DRC to comply with the DDRRR process in a letter on 14 March (S/2008/180).
Myanmar: On 18 March, Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Myanmar briefed the Council on his visit to Myanmar from 6 to 10 March (S/PV.5854). He expressed disappointment at not obtaining any tangible outcome but also stressed that it was important for the UN to keep engaging with the authorities. The Council met in consultations after the public briefing. Subsequently the elements of a draft presidential statement were circulated but at press time no agreement had been reached.
Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED): On 19 March, the Council held an open debate on threats to international peace and security resulting from terrorist acts (S/PV.5855). During the debate, Mike Smith, the Executive Director of the CTED, presented changes to the organization and plan of work of CTED. In addition to developing several new working methods, the main organisational change discussed by Smith was the creation of five cross-cutting groups under the CTED’s Assessment and Technical Assistance Office for technical assistance; terrorist financing; legal issues; border control, arms trafficking and law enforcement; and issues related to the prohibition of incitement to commit acts of terrorism and to human rights. On 20 March, the Council adopted resolution 1805 which welcomed the recommendations in the CTED’s reorganisation plan and extended the mandate of the CTED until 31 December 2010.
Afghanistan: On 20 March, the Council extended UNAMA’s mandate for 12 months until 23 March 2009 in resolution 1806 as recommended in the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2008/159). It also decided on a significant clarification and enhancement of UNAMA tasks, especially in the areas of coordination and political reconciliation. This responded to the point made during an open debate (S/PV.5851) on 12 March by Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno that UNAMA did not need additional powers but that its mandate needed to be sharpened. On 6 March, the Secretary-General informed the Council in a letter (S/2008/165) that he intended to appoint Kai Eide as his Special Representative for Afghanistan, and the president of the Council in a letter on 7 March (S/2008/166) informed the Secretary-General that he had brought this matter to the Council’s attention.
Northern Uganda: The Council was briefed in private consultations on 26 March by the UN Department of Political Affairs on the progress of the ongoing peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which are being facilitated by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the LRA affected areas, former President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique.
Guinea-Bissau: On 26 March, the Council was briefed by the Representative of the Secretary-Generalto Guinea-Bissau, Shola Omerigie, on recent developments in the country and the latest report of the Secretary-General on Guinea Bissau submitted to the Council on 17 March (S/2008/181). The Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission’s country specific configuration on Guinea-Bissau, Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti, also apprised the Council of the Commission’s activities towards understanding and meeting the peacebuilding priorities and challenges of the country. The Council issued a press statement on 27 March in which it reiterated its support for the peace consolidation efforts of the government of Guinea Bissau and called on the international community to provide resources for the holding of legislative elections on 16 November (SC/9286). It also requested the Secretary-General to provide proposals on how the UN could provide assistance “in an integrated and holistic manner” to Guinea-Bissau.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): At press time the Council was expected to extend, on 31 March, the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts on the DRC.