Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

An eventful month

Egypt will be busy with several regional and African issues in May, during its one-month chairmanship of the UN Security Council, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri started a three-day visit to New York this week to chair a UN Security Council (SC) ministerial session on fighting terrorism, one of several foreign policy initiatives Egypt is taking in May.

A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry earlier this month and before the start of Shoukri’s trip said that Egypt “will seek to serve the interests and issues of the African and developing countries and highlight many challenges facing international peace and security at the current stage.”

Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the ministry, said,  “This session, held at the ministerial level of the SC member states and the participation of the rest of the UN members, was convened after an Egyptian initiative on the occasion of Egypt’s presidency of the SC during the month of May.”

Countering terrorism is one of the two most important issues to be discussed by the SC during Egypt’s presidency. The other is cooperation on peace and security matters between the United Nations and the African Union, which is due to be debated later this month.

Shoukri also participated in high-level meetings to discuss ways to strengthen the role of the UN in peace and security, along with challenges facing the next secretary-general of the United Nations, according to Abu Zeid.

Shoukri and the Egyptian mission to the UN also invited the foreign ministers of Argentina, Sweden, Senegal, Ethiopia, Norway and Holland to a ministerial breakfast on Wednesday to evaluate the future of the United Nations in achieving international peace and security. Top UN officials and candidates running for the post of UN secretary-general attended the meeting.

Shoukri held separate meetings with foreign ministers of various member states including New Zealand and Norway, the president of the General Assembly and some of the UN candidates.

As the representative of the Arab group in the SC, Shoukri held a meeting with the Arab group to discuss pressing regional issues, including the developments in Syria and Yemen.

May will also see various other activities, including an SC mission visit to Somalia with other possible stops in Africa.

“Somalia will be a feature of the council’s work this month with a briefing on UNSOM activities and the renewal of the AU peacekeeping operation,” said Amr Abul Atta, the SC president for May and Egypt’s permanent representative to the UN.

Abul Atta added that the SC mission would visit Mogadishu “with a view to providing support to the upcoming elections in Somalia”. The mission will then visit Cairo to meet with members of the Arab League, he added.

A debate on UN-African Union peace and security cooperation, in particular the application of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter and the future of African peace and security, will be held on 24 May after the return of the mission from Mogadishu.

Egypt highlighted from the beginning of its presidency that regional and African issues would top its priorities.

The SC held a session on the Palestinian issue on 6 May to discuss ways to provide protection to the Palestinians.

“Egypt called for the meeting to shed light on the daily suffering of the Palestinians under occupation and the responsibility of the international community and the SC to provide protection for them,” Abu Zeid said.  

The situation in other states like Libya and Syria is also important. Asked about the situation in Libya, Abul Atta told a press conference at the beginning of the presidency that the UN is working to bring all parties concerned together.

When asked about a potential resolution on Palestine, he said there will be an Arab League committee meeting on moves towards Arab-Israeli peace and curbing Israeli settlement activity. “However, until the meeting takes place, it will not be brought to the council,” he added.

The SC held a meeting on South Sudan on 4 May. Abul Atta issued a press statement after the meeting, welcoming the recent formation of the transitional government of national unity last month and describing it as “an important milestone in implementation of the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan”.

The statement called on the transitional government to work together to fully implement the agreement and to bring an end to the cycles of violence and suffering, including adhering to the permanent ceasefire, and by urgently creating the transitional institutions envisioned in the agreement which are needed to maintain security and build trust between the parties.

Meanwhile, the SC will continue to closely monitor developments on the Syrian political and humanitarian tracks as well as the Yemen peace talks.

Regarding the use of chemical weapons, the SC may reach an agreement on a draft resolution circulated by China and Russia last month regarding the use of chemical weapons by non-state actors, focussing on Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The other African issues the council will consider are Liberia and Sudan.

Egypt is chairing the UN Security Council as of 1 May for one month. The presidency of the council is held by each of the members in turn for one month, in a rotation according to the English alphabetical order of the member states. China chaired the SC last month and France will assume the role in June.

The last time Egypt headed the SC was in June 1996 when Nabil Al-Arabi, the outgoing secretary-general of the Arab League, was Egypt’s permanent representative to the UN.

Egypt also won a two year non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council in October last year after receiving 179 votes out of 193. The rotation started in January this year and will end at the end of 2017.

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