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Informal Meeting between Members of the UN Security Council and the EU Political and Security Committee

Tomorrow (26 May), members of the UN Security Council will hold an informal meeting with members of the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC). Since this is an informal meeting, it will be held in the permanent mission of Egypt and is not on the official programme of work of the Council. This will be the fourth time Council members are meeting with the members of the EU PSC in New York. The last informal meeting took place on 20 May 2015, and its agenda included EU-UN peacekeeping cooperation in Africa, Libya and Ukraine.

The mutually agreed agenda for tomorrow’s meeting includes Libya, Syria and counter-terrorism.

Council members are likely to discuss with the members of the EU PSC the efforts to assist the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya, including in creating the security conditions for it to operate in Tripoli and in supporting the pressure by the UN Support Mission in Libya for endorsement of the GNA by the House of Representatives. On 31 March, the EU targeted perceived spoilers by imposing sanctions on Agilah Saleh (head of the House), Nouri Abu Sahmain (head of the General National Congress) and Khalifa Ghweil (head of the Tripoli-based National Salvation Government).

Council members and EU PSC members are expected to assess the impact of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, which was established by the EU on 18 May 2015, in disrupting the business model of the migrant smugglers. Operation Sophia was authorised by the Council on 9 October 2015, through the adoption of resolution 2240, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya, when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking, and to seize them if there is confirmation that they are doing so. The negotiations on this resolution spanned several months last year, given the different positions of Council members regarding issues such as flag state consent and provisions regarding Chapter VII and the use of force.

On 23 May, the Council of the EU extended the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia to build the capacity of the Libyan coastguard and Navy and to support the implementation of the arms embargo on the high seas. In this context, EU members of the UN Security Council have already started negotiating a draft resolution that would authorise Operation Sophia to interdict ships on the high seas off the coast of Libya to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo. UN Security Council members might take advantage of this opportunity to ask EU PSC members about the rationale for broadening its mandate to enforce the sanctions regime. Members of the two Councils might also discuss whether Operation Sophia could eventually operate in the territorial waters of Libya, as originally foreseen, following an eventual request by the GNA.

Council members are expected to exchange views with the members of the EU PSC on the Syrian crisis, in particular their support for Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and the prospects for the resumption of intra-Syrian talks against the backdrop of escalating fighting and inadequate levels of humanitarian aid reaching those in need in April and May. In this context, many members are likely to welcome the 17 May statement of the International Syria Support Group that emphasised the need for all parties to adhere to the cessation of hostilities and the need for humanitarian access.

On Syrian humanitarian issues, some members may raise the feasibility of air drops and air bridges of humanitarian aid to besieged areas and the capacities of various member states to contribute financially or logistically to such action.

Finally, it is likely that there will be a discussion of Europe’s refugee crisis. In that context the recent impasse between the EU and Turkey over a deal to staunch the flow of refugees to Europe from Turkey may be raised.

Council members are expected to discuss with EU PSC members the direction of the UN counter-terrorism efforts, as the General Assembly is in the process of reviewing the UN global counter-terrorism strategy. This process, facilitated by Argentina and Iceland, is expected to be completed in June. High on the agenda of tomorrow’s meeting is expected to be the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, presented by the Secretary-General in January, and the importance of bridging the divisions among member states regarding its implementation. In this context, even though the Council is not expected to play a role in the review, members of both Councils might raise the importance of ensuring coordination and consistency of UN efforts in countering terrorism, including by restructuring the current architecture, and could discuss what changes might be made.

EU PSC members are expected to emphasise the importance of upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms while developing counter-terrorism strategies. Improvements regarding fair process in the counter-terrorism measures established by the Council, such as the establishment in 2009 of the Ombudsperson of the Al-Qaida sanctions regime, were largely motivated by decisions of the European Court of Justice. Ensuring due process guarantees at the Council level to defend its listings in EU courts is an ongoing issue.

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