The crisis in Ukraine will be at the heart of the Security Council’s considerations during September, its President for the month told a United Nations Headquarters press conference today, also noting that its programme of work will account for the commencement of the high-level debate opening the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly.
Nicolas de Rivière (France), holding the 15-nation Council’s rotating presidency for September, emphasized his delegation’s support for strong, effective multilateralism. “The challenges the Council faces are well-known,” he observed, detailing the balanced programme of work that will encompass the usual meetings on the Middle East — focusing on Syria, Lebanon and Yemen — as well as a number of meetings concerning Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 27 September, the Council will consider the situation in Afghanistan.
On the Council’s working methods, he said that — as the situation in New York is steadily improving — the plexiglass barriers will be removed from the Council Chamber and pointed out that members have resumed use of the Consultations Room as of today.
As well, the Council will hold its annual meeting on peacekeeping operations on 6 September, which will feature a briefing by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary-General for Peace Operations, he said, noting that the meeting will allow the Council to take stock of such operations.
On 22 September, the Council will hold a ministerial-level meeting concerning the crisis in Ukraine, over which the Minister for Foreign Affairs of France will preside, that will focus on impunity and justice, he continued. On 7 September, the Council will hold a meeting focusing on forced displacement in Ukraine.
He also noted that the Council will address two mandate renewals in September, concerning the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) and the maritime operation in Libya aimed at prohibiting human trafficking established pursuant to resolution 2240 (2015).
Mr. de Rivière then responded to several questions posed by media correspondents.
Asked if, following the recent mission by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the Council will ask the Agency for a report, he stressed that the Agency must be able to fully carry out its mandate in Ukraine. Noting that the Russian Federation asked for a meeting on this issue, he said that the Council will discuss matters in the coming days, and if the meeting occurs, that it will ask the IAEA’s Director-General to both provide a report and discuss how the Agency can contribute to the future nuclear safety of the plant.
He then responded to several questions pertaining to the Council’s plans to discuss the situation faced by the Uyghur ethnic group in the Xinjiang region of China, in regard to the recent report released by the Human Rights Council which concluded that China’s actions could possibly constitute crimes against humanity. Speaking in his capacity as Council President, he said that this issue is not on the Council’s agenda — and has never been — and will probably not be discussed in September. In his national capacity, he expressed concern over this situation and said that France has been committed to this issue both in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Issues) and in the General Assembly, and will continue to examine it closely with its partners.
Questioned why the Council is not urgently discussing a United Nations report that accuses a permanent Council member of crimes against humanity, he responded — again speaking as the Council President — that the organ has a specific mandate to maintain regional and international peace and security. Further, crimes against humanity fall under the purview of international courts. “The Council isn’t in charge of everything,” he added, while noting that, in his capacity as France’s representative, he understands and shares this analysis.
Asked if there has been “pushback from the Chinese”, he said that, due to the recent nature of the report’s release, the Council has not yet discussed this issue. Until instructions change, the situation in Xinjiang is not on the Council’s agenda.
Another correspondent recalled France’s previous push to intervene in Libya based on the responsibility to protect and asked if that issue is no longer important for France. Responding, Mr. de Rivière said that human-rights-related questions are the primary responsibility of the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Third Committee. The responsibility to protect remains a priority for France, and he stressed, in his national capacity, that his country will continue to ensure that this is applied indiscriminately, everywhere. However, he added that, as this issue has not been mentioned in the Council before, it is a “blank slate”.
On a different issue, a correspondent, recalling French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent expression of hope that negotiations will be concluded on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the next few days, inquired about the reason for this optimism and, if a final deal is reached, what the Council will have to do. While noting that he is not “up to speed” on the specific details of ongoing talks, Mr. de Rivière said that there has been a feeling, for a long time, that “positions are aligning”. Further, if all sides agree to fully implement their obligations under the Plan of Action, nothing has to be done in the Council. This would simply mark a return to the implementation of existing law.
Asked if President Macron — who will be in New York during the high-level week — will address the Council and if, during the ministerial meeting, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs will hold a press conference, he said that the President’s involvement is likely, but not formally confirmed. Additionally, while France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs may speak to the press before or after the 22 September meeting, this also has not been confirmed.
On whether the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Ukraine will attend the ministerial-level meeting on 22 September — and whether this could lead to a meeting between the two — he said that all ministers of Council-member nations will be invited, as will be Ukraine’s minister. While this is not the aim of the meeting — which is to allow the Council to take stock of the situation on the ground — he said, in his national capacity, that his country always encourages belligerent parties to talk.
Asked if issues surrounding certain opposition within the Libyan Government to the appointment of Abdoulaye Bathily as United Nations Special Envoy for Libya is a problem for finding a solution to the crisis in that country, he responded in the negative. It is “high time”, he said, for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to have leadership and facilitate negotiations. “What is important now is to get to the next phase,” he stressed. On whether consensus exists among Council members regarding Mr. Bathily’s appointment, he replied: “What I can say is that I think it will be accepted”.
Responding to a question on the Council’s “temperature” regarding the Ethiopia file, he said, speaking as Council President, that he will be ready to organize any useful meeting on the subject and that such a meeting will likely occur. Speaking as France’s representative, he supported such a meeting as it is “high time to get things back on a political track”. For years, Ethiopia has contributed to stability in the Horn of Africa, and now the opposite is the case. While the African Union and regional and subregional organizations want to take leadership in this crisis, when such solutions find themselves at a deadlock there is no reason why the Council cannot take the initiative. He added that, while the Council might not be able to do better, “it must try”.
Noting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s planned appearance during high-level week, another correspondent asked if he would address the Council. Mr. de Rivière said that this is up to the Ukrainian President. If he wants to address the Council, as he has done several times before in a virtual capacity, the Council would be disposed to hear what he has to say.
Asked if there will be any effort to adopt a product after the 22 September meeting on Ukraine, he responded in the negative. On whether President Macron plans to meet with President Zelenskyy, he said this question will be asked and emphasized that France supports Ukraine.
Another correspondent noted that the Taliban travel-ban waiver expired in August and asked if the Council will be able to resolve this issue in its discussions. Responding, Mr. de Rivière said that the aim of exemptions to that sanctions regime have been to allow Taliban negotiators to participate in the peace process. Speaking in his national capacity, he said that, over the last few years, the feeling has been that, while these exemptions were granted to facilitate peace negotiations, they have not allowed the same to advance. Afghanistan is a major source of concern for France, and the situation will be discussed on 27 September. The Council must urgently push the regime towards greater cooperation, he added.
Asked if nuclear issues will be discussed in the Council, he said that the 6 September meeting will specifically discuss the issue of civilian nuclear power plants in Ukraine that have been compromised by fighting, not nuclear issues in general.
On a question regarding United States President Joseph R. Biden’s plans for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action before November mid-term elections in that country, he replied: “Ask Linda”, referring to United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.