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1 Aug, 2014

July 2014 – The “Tragic Month” the U.N. Fiddled While the World Burned

United Nations, 30 July 2014, Department of Public Information – Although the Security Council should be commended for overcoming divisions and adopting important measures in the face of several grave international crises, it remained clear that Council members were once again unable or unwilling to use their influence to find sustainable political solutions, the representative of Rwanda, Council President, told the 15-member body today.

Describing July as an “eventful and, at times, very tragic month”, Council members met for a monthly wrap-up session to evaluate its ability to address a wide range of pressing international crises, which now included the conflicts in Syria and Gaza, as well as the violence in Ukraine.

Today’s interventions focused on the Council’s approach and effectiveness in dealing with the increasing number of country-specific situations that had recently emerged or worsened. It was the first time in years such a meeting had been held in a public briefing format, noted Rwanda’s delegate, adding that previous debates had been conducted as informal consultations or private meetings.

Around the table, members highlighted the crises in Gaza, Syria and Ukraine, with many commending the adoption of resolution 2165 (2014). The representative of the Republic of Korea said it showed “modest but meaningful progress” in Syria, while Luxembourg’s speaker described it as a “glimmer of hope”, with the potential to enable aid to reach 2.9 million people in need. Adoption of resolution 2166 (2014) on the downing of a passenger jet in Ukraine was also highlighted, with members agreeing that implementation of both texts would test their effectiveness.

The representative of Chile said the text issued on the downing of flight MH17 and the passage of resolution 2165 (2014) on the humanitarian crisis in Syria proved that when Member States showed flexibility and worked to achieve a consensus, progress could be made. However, he said the Council was not completely fulfilling its role, as evident by the current grave situation in Gaza.

On that point, the representative of the Russian Federation said the presidential statement of 28 July on Gaza was an important effort, but it was insufficient and had come a “tad too late”. In the face of the numerous crises before it, the Council had been unable to play the role the international community rightfully expected of it, he said.

Other speakers noted the Council’s efforts to address other persistent security issues, such as the uptick in terrorist violence in Iraq. The threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant merited the Council’s full attention, warned the representative of the United States.

The United Nations role was essential and consistent, although strengthened international support was needed, said the representative of France. Africa offered some rare good news, he said, citing initiatives on the situations in Mali and the Central African Republic. Measures to tackle the situation in South Sudan had expanded, but he urged the Council to continue thinking about how it could best impact the situation there.

Also speaking were the representatives of Argentina, Chad, Lithuania, China, United Kingdom, Jordan, Nigeria, and Australia.


MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said the month had included 15 of the most intense days in recent years. The Council had overcome differences to adopt resolutions 2165 (2014) on Syria and 2166 (2014) on the shooting down of an airliner in Ukraine, where military activities continued to prevent the text’s implementation. Neither had the Council’s calls on Gaza been heeded, she said, pointing to open defiance of international humanitarian and human rights law. A press statement and a presidential statement had been released demanding a ceasefire and calling for respect for civilian facilities. Instead of a ceasefire, however, violence had intensified and Council members had awakened to news of 15 deaths in an attack on a school. She called on the Council to play a more active role, assuming its Charter-based responsibilities and ensuring that the parties to conflict heeded its calls to renew talks and find political solutions. Only that would give the Council the ability to influence world events.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) noted adoption of resolution 2165 (2014) on Syria, saying the text would not have been necessary if resolution 2139 (2014) had been implemented. The new resolution offered “a glimmer of hope”, potentially reaching 2.9 million people in need of aid, she said, recalling an encouraging briefing by Valerie Amos. Pointing to continued instability in Ukraine and the undermining of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, she said another line was crossed when a civilian airliner was shot down, following which armed groups prevented access to the crash site to recover the bodies. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza had now gone beyond what had been foreseen for Operation Cast Lead, she said, recognizing Israel’s right to self-defence but not its disproportionate use of force. The deep-rooted causes of the conflict must be addressed for any lasting settlement to be achieved, including the lifting of the blockade, and she hoped the Council would continue to speak out about that. She also noted the situation in South Sudan, where the security, humanitarian and human rights situations were worsening because of “the obduracy of the leaders of both camps” who rejected peace efforts.

Mr. GOMBO (Chad) said the Council’s agenda had been dominated by the crises in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question and the violence in Syria. Chad welcomed the Council’s efforts to address the human tragedy that was unfolding in Syria against the absence of a political solution. His delegation also welcomed the focus on the Syrian crisis, which was affecting the security and stability of the entire region. The situation in the Middle East, including the violence in Gaza, continued despite repeated calls for a ceasefire there. The hostilities had reached unacceptable levels, claiming more than 1,200 lives, the majority of whom were civilians. The Council had made some progress in its consideration of West Africa, including in security-related areas. Also notable was the consideration of regional threats posed by Boko Haram and the Ebola virus.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the open wrap-up offered a chance to inform the United Nations membership of Council deliberations. On sanctions, for example, awareness was needed to ensure engagement and impact. As Chair of the Central African Republic sanctions regime, she knew that implementation of resolution 2127 (2103) required broad cooperation. Coherent, determined action was needed to address the complexity, legal challenges and enforcement issues entwined with sanctions regimes, and she commended the Department of Political Affairs’ work in streamlining implementation. The post-election crisis in Afghanistan needed to be resolved, and the Council had a vital role in supporting vote verification and strengthening of the democratic process. She called for “new thinking” on how best to employ the existing counter-terrorism toolbox in combating radical extremism in Iraq and went on to praise the flexibility and informality of Arria Formula meetings on Syria. She criticized pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine for their actions related to the downed passenger jet, noting reports of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of “egregious” human rights violations. The Russian Federation was “yet to disown and condemn the illegal armed separatist groups”, yet to do anything less was to hand them “carte blanche” to continue their criminal acts.

ROSEMARY A. DICARLO (United States) said July had been an eventful and, at times, very tragic month. The Council had convened several meetings on the downing of flight MH17 and welcomed the Netherlands’s proposal to send an international team to Ukraine to investigate the tragedy. The United States remained concerned about Russia’s support for pro-Russian separatists, which had a destabilizing affect. The resolution passed by the Council in July on humanitarian assistance for Syria would allow critical aid to reach over 2 million Syrians, many of whom had been suffering for more than two years. The rapid gains of Islamic extremist groups in the region were worrying, she said, adding that Syria must remain front and centre and that the Council must push for a political solution to the crisis. The threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant also merited the Council’s full attention. Regarding the situation in Gaza, she expressed deep concern for the civilians affected by the hostilities and called on the parties to comply with international humanitarian law. The United States had repeatedly urged an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. Looking forward, she said the Council’s planned trip next month would be a critical opportunity for reflection and a push for peace in Somalia and South Sudan, where conflict had raged for far too long.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) expressed frustration with civilian deaths in conflicts, as well as with the humanitarian crises around the world. Four emergency meetings and an open debate had been held in relation to Gaza, and in line with the call for increased international humanitarian support his country had donated $1 million to help the Palestinian people. Adoption of resolution 2165 (2014) showed “modest but meaningful progress” in Syria, but implementation was the real test and the Council should stand ready to apply more measures in the event of non-compliance. He was encouraged by progress in recovering the bodies from flight MH17, but regretted that the crash site was not yet fully accessible. Concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Council had issued a strong and unequivocal warning about its continued ballistic missile launches, he noted, condemning continued provocations, violations of resolutions and defiance of the Council’s authority. He called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to desist from acts disrupting regional peace and security, while welcoming progress on the sanctions regime, which, he said, was a proper response.

ZHAO XINLI (China) recalled the adoption in July of resolution 2165 (2014), which had identified priority corridors for humanitarian aid to Syria. China hoped the concerned parties would keep close cooperation for the implementation of the text, which would improve the humanitarian situation in the country. The parties must step up efforts to re-launch the Geneva peace talks as soon as possible to identify a political settlement to the crisis. On the issue of Palestine, the Gaza conflict had caused massive civilian causalities, and, condemning the use of force against non-combatants, he urged all parties to implement an immediate ceasefire. Peace talks, he added, were the only way to create a peaceful co-existence between the parties.

PHILIPPE BERTOUX (France) addressed the situations in Ukraine, Gaza and Syria before describing the threat to regional peace and security posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. He condemned their barbarity against ethnic and religious minorities. Libya showed another example of security unravelling and political confusion. France had asked its citizens to leave the country and had closed its embassy there. He called for national reconciliation after the elections and for a speedy ceasefire. The United Nations role was essential and consistent and strengthened international support was needed. Africa offered some rare good news, he said, citing in particular the Algiers Agreement on Mali; also welcome had been efforts by the international contact group to arrange a reconciliation forum on the Central African Republic. Security Council initiatives to tackle the situation in South Sudan had expanded in the past six months, but it was important to continue thinking about how the Council could impact the situation there.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the Council this month had been unable to play its role. The presidential statement of 28 July on the situation in Gaza was an important effort, but it was insufficient and had come a “tad too late”. The unilateral efforts of the United States to reconcile the two parties had failed yet again, as secretive negotiations had outlived their usefulness. He proposed the convening in August of an informal brainstorming session involving politicians from Washington to allow for detailed discussions on the issues and exploration of the factors hampering progress. On 17 July, the entire world had been shocked by the tragedy of MH17 over the skies of Ukraine. Subsequent activities in Kyiv seemed to indicate a desire to destroy evidence at the crash site, perhaps to hide involvement in the tragedy. Despite the high hopes at the start of the month, Kyiv had not facilitated the necessary steps to ensure peace. Also in July, the Council’s condemnation in a presidential Statement of the illegal trafficking of oil in Iraq and Syria had been an important accomplishment, while the resolution on humanitarian aid in Syria would hopefully lessen the suffering there. The situation in Iraq remained a concern, including increased terrorist activities, which had roots dating back to the events of 2003.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) noted the amount of time the Security Council had spent on emerging and worsening crises in the preceding month. He described “appalling disrespect” for the bodies of victims of the shooting down of flight MH17 and stressed that while the Council held responsibility for international peace and security, each member had an individual responsibility as well. He said the Russian Federation had “not lived up to” its responsibilities, firstly through the annexation of Crimea and by seeking to foment unrest in Ukraine by supporting rebels. The Council would have to maintain its attention on Ukraine in August. He called for a durable ceasefire in the Gaza conflict and said the Council was ready to do what it could to bring about comprehensive and lasting peace. He praised the open debate held on peacekeeping, and looked forward to the Secretary-General’s review. He stressed the importance that more must be done to prevent conflict and respond to early warning signals.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said the month had been marked by grave tragedies in the Middle East, including in Gaza, Syria and Iraq. In July, the Council had followed developments in Ukraine, in addition to many issues across the African continent.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said the wrap-up session was a chance for self-assessment and a “springboard for the future”. She welcomed continued preparations for the deployment of MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) troops to the Central African Republic to replace MISCA (African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic) on 15 September, noting that violence in the Central African Republic had exacted a high humanitarian toll. Tragedies elsewhere, she said, had distracted attention from established areas of conflict, such as the “forgotten conflicts” of Yemen, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the future, maintaining a prudent balance of attention to threats was necessary. It was important to be creative in dealing with the many crises demanding attention and she was encouraged by the regional initiatives that had sprung up, such as the signing of a ceasefire for the Central African Republic in Brazzaville on 23 July, which effectively bridged a gap while the Council’s attention was diverted. She was disappointed that action on Gaza had come after three weeks of hostilities, and she looked to the response to the downing of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft as an example of the sort of unified response required.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said the downing of MH17 put great pressure on the Security Council and had forced it to grapple with a serious crisis that killed many civilians and threatened international security. In response, the Council had issued a press statement that sought to ensure a fair and comprehensive international investigation. Adoption of resolution 2165 (2014) on the humanitarian situation in Syria proved that when Member States showed flexibility and worked to achieve a consensus, progress could be made. The unanimous approval of both texts bolstered the Council by creating a show of unity and proved it was possible for it to forge a common vision. However, it was not completely fulfilling its Charter-based role. Despite the gravity of the situation in Gaza, it seemed incapable of preventing continued violence there.

GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN (Australia) said the many nationalities of people killed when flight MH17 was downed illustrated the increased stake that nations had in international events. Dutch and Australian personnel had been deployed under resolution 2166 (2014) to secure wreckage and bodies, but they were yet to access the crash site. With that, he stressed the obligation for full and immediate implementation of the resolution. Resolution 2165 (2014) had proved the Council could “break new ground on seemingly intractable issues”, he said, calling for its full implementation and further measures in the event of non-compliance. The use of “Other Matters” in connection with consultations on Libya, Yemen and Iraq, for example, had been welcome, as was information from senior-level United Nations officials to inform the Council’s work. Sanctions were a useful tool in ensuring implementation of the Council’s decisions, he said, noting their imposition on Yemen and the Central African Republic. He looked forward to chairing the high-level review of sanctions. In closing, he said the International Criminal Court should be empowered, noting the need for follow-up action by the Council, especially in response to the eight letters on non-cooperation related to Darfur.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda), recalling the thematic debate on peacekeeping this month, said peacekeeping alone could not resolve conflicts and would require concrete, coordinated and sustained action from the international community. It was important to note that although conflicts continued in Africa, other situations had dominated the July agenda, including the crises in Syria, Gaza and Ukraine. The Council had been confronted with the resurrection of hostilities in Gaza, which brought to light the divisions in the 15-member body. It nonetheless had overcome them and adopted important measures, although it remained clear that members were again unable or unwilling to use their influence to find sustainable political solutions. Team spirit was the best chance for success.