Private Meeting With Jordan on Syria
Tomorrow morning (30 April) at 9:30 a.m., the Council is expected to hold a private meeting with Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein, the Permanent Representative of Jordan, on the impact of the influx of Syrian refugees on Jordan. No other speakers from either the UN Secretariat or the larger membership are expected to participate. (A private meeting is a formal meeting of the Council which is not open to the public. There will be no verbatim record although a communiqué will be issued at the conclusion of the meeting in keeping with rule 55 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council.)
Separately, Russia today circulated a draft press statement in response to the car bomb attack in Damascus earlier in the day apparently targeting Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, who survived, but killing several others. (The draft was under silence procedure until 4:30 p.m. today but, at the request of France, it was extended until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.)
Tomorrow’s meeting with Jordan follows an 18 April briefing in which the humanitarian situation in Syria was described as catastrophic, a 19 April briefing by Joint UN-Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi who said the situation in Syria required action by the Council and the probe into the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. On 26 April, King Abdullah II of Jordan and US President Barack Obama met in Washington D.C. to discuss the Syrian refugee situation in Jordan as well as the allegations regarding chemical weapons use. President Obama said that the US would be working with countries like Jordan to try to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this potential use.
On 25 April, Jordan sent a letter (S/2013/247) to the Security Council requesting a private meeting to formally bring to the attention of the Council the grave humanitarian situation facing Jordan due to the presence of in excess of 500,000 Syrian refugees, compounded by a rate of approximately 1,500 to 2,000 additional Syrian refugees flowing into Jordan on a daily basis. The letter stated the situation was a threat to the security and stability of Jordan with implications for international peace and security.
Citing Articles 34 and 35(i) of the UN Charter, the letter formally requested that the Council determine that the humanitarian situation in Jordan “constitutes a threat to international peace and security if left unchecked and in the absence of financial assistance required to enable Jordan to cope” with the influx of refugees. The letter also asked the Security Council to undertake a visiting mission to Jordan as soon as one could be arranged.
Upon receipt of the letter, the President of the Council for April, Rwanda, held bilateral consultations among Council members regarding the request for a private meeting. It seems these bilateral consultations went smoothly as no major objections were raised.
It is unclear what Council members’ positions are vis-à-vis the request for the Council to undertake a visiting mission as there has been no serious discussion of that issue yet, though most Council members are expecting that this might be a topic of discussion at tomorrow’s meeting. It is possible that some Council members may be cautious about visiting a country that is not on the agenda of the Security Council.
Initially, Jordan had been invited to participate in the humanitarian briefing on Syria that the Council held on 18 April along with Syria and neighbouring countries Lebanon and Turkey. However, Jordan chose not to participate at that time. It seems Jordan had a preference for a private meeting which would spotlight the humanitarian situation in the country due to the Syrian crisis in order to garner the Council’s support in maintaining stability in Jordan. In the past, Jordan has indicated that if the refugee situation began to negatively impact its security and stability it may have to consider closing its borders to refugee flows. Such a step would be a cause of concern for some Council members who may want to get a sense of whether this is something that could happen in the near future.
Council members are also anticipating that tomorrow’s meeting with Jordan may revive discussions of the request by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on 18 April for the Council to authorise cross-border humanitarian access into Syria. The Council was able to agree, after long and difficult negotiations, on elements to the press regarding cross-border access following Amos’s request. While such agreed language is an important political signal, “elements to the press” are not binding nor are they considered a decision of the Security Council in the way that a presidential statement or a resolution is. In practice, the only way to ensure cross-border humanitarian access, without the cooperation of Syria, is through humanitarian corridors protected by an armed presence, which if it involves the UN would require a Chapter VII resolution.
Given the stalemate in the Council over Syria, it is likely that some members will not want the Council to determine that the continuing influx of refugees into Jordan constitutes a threat to international peace and security as this could imply the need for the Council to act. Even Council members concerned about the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria and its dire impact in the region, nevertheless don’t seem to want to spend too much political capital in the Council on the humanitarian track as the cost might be, in their view, unacceptable concessions on the political track.