Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the Press Conference on the occasion of the Franco-German joint presidencies in the UN Security Council, March 1

01.03.2019 - Speech

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Thank you all for coming on Friday afternoon to this briefing. We see your interest in our briefing also reflects the interest in this new development in the SC where you have two presidencies that follow each other that actually try to have joint presidencies. I would like to add one element to the three that are behind our Jumelage, the German-French partnership which was established in the treaty of Aachen a few weeks ago: the European voice that we want to strengthen through our joint presidencies and the overarching goal to defend multilateralism. We want to do that with this new approach. We also want to give an incentive to think of how we can strengthen multilateralism in new ways. I want to add one element. When we presented the joint presidencies this morning and this afternoon, we realized that something that is absolutely natural for François and me, for our  generation and the future generation, about this German-French friendship. Many people see it in its historic context. The historic context of two countries that fought three wars in a span of 70 years. Since Konrad Adenauer and de Gaulle we have found a friendship, a relationship more intense than you can imagine. What one can achieve when archenemies become the closest friends is something that gives an example. Just a few weeks ago, we saw how the Greeks and the North Macedonians were able to actually come to an agreement after 20 years or 30 years.  I think this maybe gives a new thought or maybe an incentive for the many conflicts we have when looking at what Germany and France were able to achieve.

Now, let’s go to the practicalities of our daily life. For somebody like me who is in the SC for the first time – we thought that there is some room for improvement in the working methods. What we have also looked at is the famous note 507 you are all familiar with, which looks at the working methods.  And we will try in two months to see if we cannot achieve some progress on this. What do I mean? We would just see f we cannot make a bit more efficient use of the time in the council and we would like to follow a few guidelines. First, we would like to get a bit more exchange. You all follow these – you have briefers and then you have the 15 members speak one after the other. And it’s rather exceptional that there is then an exchange. We would like to encourage this. We would like to encourage the two finger rule that people then ask question, or make comments in relation to remarks that have been made by a previous speaker.

Briefers are key. They are the special representatives either of the council or of the SG. In most of the cases, they are the people on the ground. Yesterday, we had two fantastic briefers on Syria and on Myanmar and they give their briefings. What we will try to do is give the members get their speaking notes a bit in advance so that we know what the substance is of what they say; and then we ask the briefers to concentrate on operational issues, on recommendations, which would also allow for the speakers to directly go back and respond to these questions, that they ask, and recommendations, that they give. We will also try to motivate speakers around the table to speak as suggested in 507 for five minutes only. There are many that are disciplined but there are other who repeat what has been said. Sometimes when there are three briefers and three foreign ministers, it takes five minutes for everybody to greet the briefers and the foreign ministers. This could be done once by the presidency and then everybody goes directly into their statements.

We want to have the possibility for the speakers to come back to questions that are asked to them so that we have a bit more. This is our intention and if we make some progress, we come again to what Francois mentioned in the very beginning to give a new impulse to multilateralism, impulse to this body here, in the end, the core of multilateralism, at least with regard to the preservation of peace and security.

You will see in the outline of our program that this is all part of these three overarching objectives. I will add a fourth objective with disarmament. And we were very happy this morning, when we presented this outline of our program that was welcomed by all the 15 members of the Security Council. So, with regard to humanitarian issues, we will have on the 1st of April the presence of the French and the German foreign ministers with humanitarian issues on the agenda: an Arria formula meeting on the protection of humanitarian workers and personnel.  And in the afternoon, a briefing on international humanitarian law with very concrete examples to look at. On the 2nd of April, our foreign minister will still be here and we’ll have a briefing on supporting the implementation of the NPT – of the non-proliferation treaty. That is one year before the review conference of the NPT in order to give a new impetus to this debate which we will have the next year. We’ll have on the 3rd of April  MINUJUSTH, the mission in Haiti. For this we have invited the High Commissioner of the Human Rights Bachelet to brief on the human rights situation. Again, it’s a humanitarian, human rights issue.

The same will hold true on the 9th of April when we will have a briefing by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees  Filippo Grandi. On the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda, there will be the debate during the French presidency and during our presidency we will have an open debate on  women in peacekeeping on the 11th of April. This will be chaired by our minister of defense, who is a woman, and the Secretary General is planning to be there in person to present his strategy to double the numbers of women in military police operations. And then on the 23rd of April, we will have a high-level open debate on conflict related sexual violence chaired by our foreign minister and a number of briefers. Again, the Secretary General himself said that he has interest to participate in this. On the margins of this, we want to have a meeting with a view to the 20th anniversary of 1325 next year as a follow-up to the debate the French have in March. And we would like to have an event where we ask member states to come up with concrete commitments on what they want to achieve and they are ready to achieve by the anniversary just to give the 1325 another push. And then on the 29th of April we have a debate on the Middle East. We have a few Arria meetings on related issues, but I don’t want to go too much into detail right now and from my side that’s it.

Question: My question is on North Korea. Quick follow-up, the council’s plans to give to the Hanoi Summit. Do you expect the US to brief you on the results or lack of results of that summit and how do you see the debate on sanctions going forward given that it is increasingly divisive at the SC?

Amb Heusgen: I will respond because I am the chairman of the 1718 committee on North Korea, on DPKR sanctions. At this stage, I cannot, I have to determine whether the US wants to give a briefing. I cannot say. I can only say that from the perspective of the 1718 committee chairman and I am, of course, in the hands of the member states, but the basic line of this sanctions committee that we look at the danger, the threat, of the nuclear program of North Korea. The sanctions were installed to achieve the objective of the international community. The objective of the international community is to come to a complete, verifiable, irreversible end of the nuclear program of North Korea. If you read the result of the summit as I do, we were close to this objective. From my perspective of the coming months, I don’t see any reason to look at the sanction regime. It is a tough regime. I think that sanctions installed by the SC contributed to the negotiations that have been taking place. By the way, that the international community was ready to impose this tough sanction is a very good outcome of functioning multilateralism. As a chairman, I don’t see right now that there is a need to change the sanctions regime.

Question: La Darne de Jour. From my understanding that you soon will be meeting to discuss resolution 1701. In this context, I would like to ask you whether the resolution talks about the comprehensive implementation of resolution 1559 and I am talking about the April Programme of Work. This resolution calls for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon in order to ensure that nobody has weapons without the consent of the Lebanese government. No other organization solved the matter of the Lebanese government not to own or have weapons. Yesterday, the UK spoke about the Hezbollah group calling it a terrorist group distinguishing between the political and armed wings of Hezbollah, Hezbollah being a Shiite group and has become the dominant force in Lebanon after elections in May. On this political track, the political wing. What is the point of view of France, or indeed of the EU if we are speaking more broadly, and that of Germany?

Amb Heusgen: Let me only briefly add to this. As some of you may know, UNIFIL is the second operation where Germany has a number of soldiers. We have the maritime component of UNIFIL and therefore we follow the developments, of course, very closely. With regard to Hezbollah, there is nothing that we decide here in New York. These are decisions that are taken by the government and by the EU. To keep the unity of the SC and the EU, the decision to have the political arm of Hezbollah subscribed, of course, has to be thoroughly thought through. We don’t have illusions about that. At the same time, you have to work and you want to work with the government. What consequences follow when you have parts of the government maybe on this have to be thought through. These are decisions that have to be taken on level of the EU and well thought through.

Question:  On North Korea, follow-up to Carol’s question. Last year, the meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea was postponed. Some of this, presumed rightly or wrongly, may have to do with the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Now that this summit has been held, will you try to push, to hold, that meeting during your presidencies. I am sure you could find a nice vote if you really tried so, if you could give us an update on that.  On Myanmar, yesterday we heard about the lack of progress. Is the council planning trying to take any actions on Myanmar?

Amb Heusgen: With regard to North Korea, the summit just took place. We have to look now how we proceed. Both for France and Germany, human rights questions are really high on our agenda. We just have to see. We will follow up. The sanctions committee with human rights. You may have seen with regard to humanitarian sections, some were granted so that the people that suffer under this regime maybe be a bit alleviated. On Myanmar, I just didn’t get the question.

Question: It mainly has to do that Britain has circulated a resolution in December. Is the council going to try to take any kind of action with regard to Myanmar? Nothing happened with regard to returns. Do you think the council should get involved?

Amb Heusgen: At this stage I have to ask Francois because he was in the SC last year of course. We have a fairly new Special Envoy and her first report yesterday to the SC, she explained to the media. She explained the very complex situation there. Of course, we need to do everything to make the return of the Rohingya possible. They have to come under circumstances which allow for such a return. This is a very difficult process. At the same time, you have to work with the government and the military. This has been a very secluded regime. One has to really see how to get to the objective. There is one issue that I would like to highlight there. With regard to accountability, so many around the table said that it is really key; that you have to fight against impunity; that you have accountability for what has happened, also to prevent that this, of course, will happen again.

Question:  The Turkish News Agency. Follow-up question on Myanmar. After 18 months, do you think it is time for the SC to impose sanctions to put pressure on Myanmar?

Amb Heusgen: With regard to Myanmar, I just said how important it is to look at accountability and that those who have committed these horrible crimes are brought to justice. In the discussion that has been taking place in the SC so far, the emphasis was on accountability to get these people. You have to see that the government works and that the government actually sets the precondition for a safe return that fulfills all the conditions that we have set. At this stage, the question of sanctions was not on the agenda. When you want to adopt sanction, of course, you have to have the numbers there. We have to look at that instrument. I would say that we as the SC are well advised to see to it the advice that is given by the Special Representative whose objective is to have this return of the refugees. We should also listen to this. We will have her to come back earlier again. I don’t know, Francois, sanctions were on the agenda.

Question: My name is Stefano Bacarra, la voce the New York, radio radical in Rome. So there is a sense of unity for Europe. So, I congratulate you on showing this but in reality, when you see Europe, there is not so much unity. I can see many problems, migrants for example. My question is about SC representation. Just Monday, the FM of Russia, Lavrov, said that the SC needs a reform and that there is too much European representation. My question is: how can Europe show its unity in showing a position about a SC reform and not instead again showing division?

Amb Heusgen: First of all, with regard to European unity, I’m sure you heard what the French ambassador said with regard to the overriding principle for the two months is to have a strong European, united voice. If you have been to SC meetings regularly over the last years, you must have witnessed some of the many stake-outs that the European ambassadors in the UN made. The last one on Venezuela where we not only have the current members but also the past members including our good friend the Italian ambassador. Now, with regard to SC reform, I think that we agree with the Russian foreign minister, that we need a SC reform. The SC does not in its present composition reflect the realities of this world. There you can also see –I think this was a closed meeting - the intergovernmental negotiations that took place earlier this week. France and Germany again spoke with one voice on this. We need to have reforms. We are not even close to having a discussion of whether there should be more Europeans because there is a blockade against text-based negotiations to have the different options. Italy and Germany are not in all details on the same line but we don’t even have a basis from which we can start to negotiate to do this reform. I take your remark maybe as a signal of readiness that also the country from where you come is ready to go into this direction that we have a text-based negotiation. Because, if you don’t reform the SC, the SC will lose legitimacy. Therefore, I think we should really work forward. I am very grateful for the close cooperation between Germany and France with regard to the position on the reform.

Question: Was it difficult to set up this twinned presidency and what was the response from your counterparts in the Security Council, in particular from member states?

Amb Heusgen: The exercise of putting the program together was really, it was a pleasure to work together. You know, we have this common objective to work together to strengthen multilateralism. And with France and Germany, to have the same objectives here and give this new impetus – I can only see it from my team and what I witnessed on your side, that there is a lot of enthusiasm putting it together, so there was no problem. I think it was even an incentive for our teams, but I speak under your control. I mentioned a bit earlier about the reaction and I was even struck by the very positive reaction that we reached earlier a bit informally, but today in the more formal meeting. A lot of enthusiasm, a lot of support for this and I even felt a bit of yearning for something new that gives a new drive to this.

Question: I noticed that this joint presidency happens to be taking place at the same time the Brits are expecting a big Brexit vote. And you spoke about a European voice and I’m wondering if this was just coincidence?

Amb Heusgen: You know, when Britain two years ago asked for article 50, they looked in the calendar and thought, when does Germany and France have the presidency for the council? No.  I must say, with regard to our relationship with Great Britain: we have a wonderful cooperation here. They are part, an integral part, and I have seen this since joining the Security Council. On all the issues there was a European voice, with Great Britain a very strong member. Whatever happens with regard to Brexit, our intention will be to continue to work very close with Great Britain to have this common European voice.

Question: There was a line in an article where you wrote us, that “the world is confronted with unprecedented global challenges. American commitment to our shared values and common solutions has rarely been more critical”. So it seems to be that the article was kind of speaking to the US not sharing your values.

Amb Heusgen: Let’s be honest. I mean, we have a situation with our American friends where there are Security Council resolutions that have been adopted jointly and which the US administration is not following through. Just two examples: the JCPOA, which was endorsed by a Security Council resolution. And the American government has taken its distance from it. Or take the decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  This is against a Security Council resolution 478. So when we say we want to strengthen multilateralism, that we want to strengthen a rule-based order, the X are all those who don’t follow a rule-based order. Unfortunately, we have seen that the US administration on these examples have not followed a rule-based order.

How important multilateralism is for the United States and on the North Korean sanctions. If we hadn’t agreed all of us at the Security Council, all this North Korea policy to stop the missile testing would not have been possible. So there is a big advantage of multilateralism and we want to convince our American friends to remain engaged. We need them, absolutely.

Question: About ISIS foreign terrorist fighters: These are your country’s citizens, your country’s daughters and sons, committed crimes against the people of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria – and now there is this talk about not letting them come back to Europe. Don’t you think it’s time for Europe to take its responsibility of the action of its citizens? Actions that were vital in creating this monster which is ISIS?

Amb Heusgen: Everything to prevent impunity – I said that before on another case – we have right now with regard to members of the Syrian regime in Germany where we have universal jurisdiction. We have now concrete cases, where people have been arrested for great crimes and we will put them in front of the judges. With regard to the question of the return of German citizens. You absolutely have a point: German citizens also have the right to return to their country. What has to be done is, first of all, to verify that there is a German nationality but then at the same time we have the obligation to see that there is no danger coming from these returnees. Therefore, we have to see that we gather facts, that we gather evidence that maybe there also have to be put in front of a judge. We have to see where this is done.  If they return to Germany, we have to have these facts. We have to have a possibility to see to it that they don’t cause a security risk for the population.

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