posted on Mon 4 Jan 2016 6:00 PM
“Any Other Business” Briefings: Central African Republic, Syria/Turkey and Yemen

Tomorrow (5 January) following consultations on the Syria chemical weapons issues, Council members will receive briefings under “any other business,” on the Central African Republic (CAR), Syria/Turkey, and Yemen.

Central African Republic

Council members will be briefed at the request of France on the situation in the CAR. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous is likely to brief and focus in part on the first round of presidential and legislative elections that took place on 30 December. Contrary to prior concerns, the elections were not marked by significant violence. The votes have only been partially tallied thus far, and a runoff for the presidential polls is scheduled for 31 January, if necessary.

Council members will also be briefed on the 21 December 2015 request from the Secretary-General to authorise an increase in the number of corrections officers in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) from 40 to 108. It seems that Russia and the US, in particular, would like more information regarding, the financial implications of the increase, the willingness of troop/police-contributing countries to deploy the additional personnel, and whether it is necessary for the Council to formally authorise this increase through a resolution. This last point raises an interesting procedural question: on the one hand, the mission has yet to reach its authorised deployment as outlined in resolution 2217 on MINUSCA, suggesting that a formal authorisation is not required to allow for the additional personnel; on the other hand, resolution 2217 calls for 40 corrections officers as part of the mission’s police component, meaning that the Council might adopt a resolution to specify that the increase would be explicitly for corrections officers.

Syria/Turkey

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will provide a briefing under “any other business” on the situation along the Syrian-Turkish border. Russia, which requested the briefing, is interested in receiving more information on how foreign terrorist fighters cross from Turkey into Syria, and on allegations of weapons crossing that border.

Other Council members feel that the issue of terrorism in Syria is addressed by the Council in its counter-terrorism work and doubt that Feltman will be able to provide fresher information than what is already available in the reports of the Monitoring Team of the Al-Qaida/ISIL Sanctions Committee. However, while those reports have detailed information on foreign terrorist fighters, the Monitoring Team does not have a mandate to investigate how non-state actors other than Al-Qaida, Al-Nusra Front and ISIS are armed.

Several Council members also expect that Feltman, in response to Russian concerns, may address the integrity of the UN monitoring mechanism of cross-border aid deliveries. Russian voiced concerns in late December 2015 during the negotiations of resolution 2258, that UN-facilitated cross-border aid has been used to assist ISIS. This is the third time Russia has brought issues related to Turkey’s role in the region to the Council since Turkey downed a Russian jet near the Syrian border in late November 2015.

Yemen

Feltman is expected to also brief on Yemen following a request by Russia for an update on recent developments. During the Council’s last briefing on Yemen on 22 December, members stressed the need for continued negotiations and a ceasefire, sentiments that were echoed in the press statement issued the next day (SC/12184). That briefing took place right after the 15 to 20 December peace talks concluded in Switzerland with the parties agreeing to hold a next round of talks on 14 January.

Members will be interested in an update on progress in organising the upcoming round of talks. Some may stress the importance of holding the new round of negotiations and of deescalating the fighting. Members are also likely to express their disappointment in the failure of the cessation of hostilities that was agreed to by the parties last month. On 2 January, the Saudi-led coalition announced that it was formally ending the truce.

Some members may be interested in how the heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran could affect the situation in Yemen. In a phone conversation today (4 January) with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Abel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, the Secretary-General urged Saudi Arabia to renew its commitment to a ceasefire in Yemen.