Syria: On 1 March, the Council issued a press statement (SC/10564) deploring the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria and calling upon Damascus to grant access to Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. On 6 March, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, briefed Council members during the monthly horizon scanning exercise, reporting that both Amos and Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, would soon be visiting Damascus. On 13 March Amos briefed Council members on her 7-9 March visit and on 16 March Annan briefed Council members on his 10 March visit and ongoing mediation efforts. On 21 March the Security Council agreed on a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/6) supporting Annan and his six-point plan for mediation (S/PV.6736). The same day the Council issued a press statement (SC/10585) on the terrorist attacks in Aleppo and Damascus which had occurred earlier in the month. Syria was also a prominent issue at the 12 March high-level debate on challenges and opportunities in the Middle East (S/PV.6734). On 22 March there was an Arria-formula meeting for Council members to meet with the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria. There were P5+Morocco negotiations between 6 – 8 March on a draft resolution condemning the violence in Syria. However, as agreement was not possible the draft text was never circulated to the wider Council membership.
Somalia: On 5 March, the Council held an open debate on Somalia chaired by Under Secretary of State Henry Bellingham (UK) as a follow up to the 23 February London Conference (S/PV.6729). Both the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, Augustine Mahiga, spoke in the debate, the latter via videoconference from Mogadishu. The Council also adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/4) welcoming the conference and expressing support for its communiqué. Additionally, the statement reiterated key messages relating to the political process and emphasised the need for continued support of AMISOM, both bilaterally and through the UN AMISOM trust fund, and for the development of Somali security forces while calling on AMISOM to continue efforts to ensure the protection of civilians. It also stressed the importance of effective governance and encouraged international support for reconstruction and economic development as well as continued humanitarian assistance. Lastly, it expressed concern about the continued threats of piracy and terrorist attacks by the Islamist group Al-Shabaab and others. On 28 March, the chair of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri (India) briefed Council members in informal consultations on the work of the Committee. (The Committee received a mid-term briefing from the Monitoring Group for the sanctions regime on 3 February, and on 17 February announced the addition of one individual to the sanctions list. The chair is required to report to the Council every 120 days.)
Libya: On 7 March, the Council was briefed (S/PV.6731) by Ian Martin, who presented the Secretary-General’s report (S/2012/129) on UNSMIL. Martin said that UNSMIL should focus on five areas: democratic transition, including the electoral process; public security, including the demobilisation, integration or reintegration of ex-combatants; human rights, transitional justice and rule of law; proliferation of arms and border security; and coordination of international support. Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib also addressed the Council. On 12 March, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2040, modifying and extending UNSMIL’s mandate by 12 months but subject to review within six months (S/PV.6733).
Yemen: On 7 March, Council members were briefed in consultations by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar. On 29 March (S/PV.6744), the Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/8) voicing its concern over the deteriorating situation since the transfer of power to President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi on 25 February and stressing the need for all political actors to remain committed to the political transition and constitutional order. The Council welcomed the efforts of the Friends of Yemen and noted the importance of its next meeting on 23 May. The Council endorsed the Secretary-General’s intention to deploy a team of experts, to work alongside the UN country team, and monitor progress on the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and Implementation Mechanism in consultation with the Yemeni government.
Haiti: On 8 March, the Council held a debate (S/PV.6732) on the situation in Haiti. Mariano Fernández, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINUSTAH, briefed during the debate.
ICC: On 16 March, the Council released a press statement welcoming the first verdict of the International Criminal Court, which found Thomas Lubanga guilty of the crimes of conscripting and enlisting child soldiers under the age of 15 years (SC/10580).
Working Methods: On 19 March, Council members met to discuss working methods of the Security Council. Portugal—as chair of the working group that deals with working methods—and the UK distributed a non-paper in advance of the consultations, inviting suggestions on the three issues of “periodicity” (spreading out the Council’s mandate renewals), conference resources and “interactivity” (such as regular horizon-scanning sessions and use of video-conferencing). Additional issues were also raised, many of which were suggested during the open debate on 30 November. On the drafting resolutions, an idea was proposed that, in addition to a permanent member being the “pen holder” on most issues, an appropriate co-drafter could be selected from among the elected ten. On the appointment of chairs of subsidiary bodies, several states called for more inclusiveness and transparency in the process and the chair of the working group suggested that a more consultative process would be desirable during the next round of allotments. Another suggestion related to posting the daily schedule of the Council President online, which might be of interest to the wider membership. Following the consultations, the working group met on 23 March to discuss the ideas proposed during the consultations.
Afghanistan: On 20 March, the Council held a debate (S/PV.6735) on the situation in Afghanistan. Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA briefed during the debate. The Council renewed the mandate of UNAMA (S/RES/2041) for an additional 12 months on 22 March (S/PV.6738).
Iran: On 21 March, the chair of the Iran Sanctions Committee (1737 Committee), Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia), provided a regular 90-day briefing to the Council (S/PV.6737). He noted that within the Committee some members had expressed concern regarding the illicit transfers of arms between Iran and Syria, indicating that one member state had drawn the Committee’s attention to a public statement of Hizbullah on 7 February in which its Secretary-General acknowledged that the movement had received material support from Iran since 1982. The Committee also received a briefing from France on the similarities between ballistic and space technologies and several states notified the Committee of Iran’s launching of a satellite on a Safir rocket on 3 February, which they asserted was a violation of paragraph 9 of resolution 1929. Several states reiterated calls for the Panel of Experts’ report from May last year to be released, arguing that it was an important tool to help the membership at large implement sanctions measures. Several Council members welcomed the initiative for the chair to convene an open briefing for all member states on the work of the Committee and the Panel. At press time, the open briefing was likely to take place during the third week of April.
Lebanon: On 21 March, Council members were briefed in consultations by Special Coordinator Derek Plumbly on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701 and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (S/2012/124). Plumbly said that his medium-term objectives would be to seek an Israeli withdrawal from northern Ghajar, facilitate talks on the Lebanese-Israeli maritime issues and to work closely with the UNIFIL force commander.
Mali: On 22 March, the DPA head, B. Lynn Pascoe, briefed Council members on the situation in Mali after junior army officers fighting a spreading rebellion by the Tuaregs in the north mutinied. President Amadou Toumani Touré, who had previously announced that he would not participate in the elections slated for April, was reported to be in hiding. Following the briefing, the Council issued a press statement (SC/10590) strongly condemning “the forcible seizure of power” and calling on the soldiers to “ensure the safety and security” of President Touré and “return to their barracks.” The statement welcomed efforts by UNOWA and international partners, especially the AU and ECOWAS, for putting pressure on the coup-makers to return to the barracks. On 26 March, the Council discussed the issue (S/PV.6741) and on the same day issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/7) echoing the press statement of 22 March. The statement further addressed the wider issue of instability in the Sahel, noting its concern “over the fragile security and humanitarian situation in the region” which has been “exacerbated by drought, food shortages and the return of thousands of returnees following the Libyan crisis and other crises in the region.” At press time, Lt. Amadou Konare appeared to be consolidating his regime.
Sierra Leone: On 22 March, Michael von der Schulenburg, who was withdrawn from Sierra Leone on 6 February as the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for UNIPSIL following a request by the Sierra Leone government, presented the Secretary-General’s midterm report on UNIPSIL (S/2012/160). This was followed by consultations. Joseph Bandabla Dauda, Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister, as well as Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski (Canada), head of the PBC configuration for Sierra Leone, also briefed the Council (S/PV.6739). Schulenburg stressed the importance of the free and fair conduct of the forthcoming general elections in the country on 17 November as “the major challenge” for Sierra Leone going forward. He reported on a number of contentious recent developments in the country, including violent attacks on the opposition presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio and the importation by the government of arms and munitions for a paramilitary police force already notorious for attacks against the opposition. Dauda emphasised the government’s commitment to the peacebuilding process, including transparent elections in November. Schulenburg’s successor has not been named. The mandate of UNIPSIL expires on 15 September 2012.
Peacekeeping: On 26 March, Under-Secretary-Generals Herve Ladsous (Peacekeeping Operations) and Susana Malcorra (Field Support) briefed the Council (S/PV.6740).
Guinea Bissau Consultations: On 28 March, Joseph Mutaboba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau, briefed the Council via video-link on recent developments in the country, including the inconclusive elections held on 18 March to succeed President Malam Bacai Sanhá, who died on 9 January. Former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, head of the ruling party, failed to win outright victory, and a run-off has been scheduled for 22 April. However, the opposition candidate, Kumba Yala, who came in second, has announced that he will be boycotting the run off, claiming the polls were rigged. There was no outcome from the briefing.
Cyprus: On 29 March, Council members met in consultations to discuss Cyprus and received an update from the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, via videoconference on negotiations between the two sides. (The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders met the same day in the buffer zone in the capital Nicosia, with the focus being on property—one of the core outstanding issues.) At press time, Downer was expected to submit a report to the Secretary-General on 30 March and then meet with him on 19 April in New York to discuss next steps.