News / Middle East

2011 Difficult for UN Security Council Unity

The UN Security Council in New York (file photo).
The UN Security Council in New York (file photo).
Margaret Besheer

Growing acrimony among the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council is jeopardizing action on serious issues including the council's ability to send a strong signal on the situation in Syria. From the United Nations, Margaret Besheer reports 2011 has been a difficult year for the 15-member council and tensions among the permanent five could make consensus-building in 2012 a challenge.

The different political ideologies of the permanent five members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - have always made for an interesting dynamic on the U.N. Security Council. But this year, relations among the five have frayed over authorization of the NATO mission to protect Libyan citizens and a difference of opinion about events in Syria where the U.N. says more than 5,000 people have died during a government crackdown on political dissenters.

The divisions among the so-called P5 became even clearer this week, when the Russian, American and French ambassadors took to the microphones after a meeting on Libya Thursday.

The Russian Ambassador demanded an independent investigation into the possibility that NATO bombings caused the deaths of some Libyan civilians. His American and French counterparts said he was seeking only to divert attention from events in Syria, an ally of Russia.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that NATO's actions saved tens of thousands of Libyan lives - an accomplishment she said that should be celebrated - and she chided her Russian counterpart.

"If the Libyans want to work with NATO to investigate any concerns they have, we are more than willing to do that," said Rice.  "I think it is notable that we have not heard that call from the Libyan government. So let us see this for what it is - it is duplicative, it is redundant, it is superfluous, and it is a stunt. And if others want to go along with it they can, but I did not hear a majority of the members of the council indicate they think this is necessary."

Her French counterpart, Gérard Araud, noted that there are already two on-going investigations into how the Libyan crisis played out - one is being conducted by the U.N. Human Rights Council and the other by the International Criminal Court - and he brought the conversation back to Syria.

"There are two on-going investigations, so why ask for a third one while we do not have any investigation committee in Syria when in the last 3 to 4 days more than 250 people have been killed," noted Araud.  "This is a bit strange. So we can say that we have seen today one more ploy."

On Friday, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who is president of the council this month, expressed his frustration with his colleagues at a hastily called news conference. He said the growing acrimony among the P5 is affecting the council's work.

"I am worried. It has been my fifth and toughest presidency. I think that as a council we are not moving in a good direction," Churkin said.  "There is a lot of nervousness, a lot of expectations that things are going to be done my way or no other way. That what I need to have I must have now, no objections entertained or no other views are entertained. I don't think this is a good way to work in the council. I think that if this trend were to continue it might seriously hurt the ability of the Security Council to work."

He said he does not know how to reverse this negative trend and said that even on the smallest issues there have been disagreements.

Some council members say the Libya resolution has had a lasting impact on how some council members approach matters such as Syria and Yemen, making them fearful of directly or indirectly authorizing outside intervention. Other diplomats say it is just a convenient excuse to do nothing.

After Friday's press conference, Ambassador Rice tweeted a friendly holiday message to Ambassador Churkin, but her spokesman tweeted a photo of a storybook character who steals Christmas with the face of the Russian diplomat super-imposed over the character's face.

As 2011 ends on a rocky note, it remains to be seen how the five powers will work together in the new year. Meanwhile, the council's draft resolution on Syria hangs in the balance as negotiations continue in this tense atmosphere.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid