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Churkin: expansion won’t make UN Security Council more effective

August 01, 2015, 7:30 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS
Russia’s UN envoy recalled that last time the UN Security Council was expanded in the 1960s
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© AP Photo/Seth Wenig

UNITED NATIONS, August 1. /TASS/. A decision to expand the UN Security Council, should it ever be made, will not make this UN body more effective, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told TASS in an exclusive interview on Friday.

"This is the most acute, focal issue of the UN reform at the moment," Churkin said. He recalled that last time the UN Security Council was expanded in the 1960s.

"Originally, there were eleven countries, including the five permanent members. Then the number of permanent members remained unchanged, but the overall membership was increased to 15 states. Now some have been saying that the Security Council should have more members to be more effective and representative. At this point I would like to remark: it is true that the UN Security Council will be more representative, if its membership is expanded, but it will surely not be more effective."

With reliance on his experience at the UN SC Churkin said that the current fifteen members sometimes found it hard to produce an agreement; if there were 25 or 27 members, it would be hard even to hold a discussion.

Churkin agreed that time was ripe for reforming the Security Council. Over the past eight years, he recalled, inter-governmental talks on this subject have been in progress. And before that there were eleven years of informal consultations.

"The two main camps have been unable to come to terms," Churkin said. "Some countries wish to become permanent members of the Security Council in addition to the current five, and there are those which are categorically against that. Some countries seeking permanent membership say they do not need the power of veto. For instance, Germany declares it does not need it. And the African countries, which would like to have at least two permanent members in the SC also wish to have the right to veto."

Churkin described that as one of the most complex issues.

Other states, he went on to say, have suggested creating a new group of semi-permanent members, which will be elected not for two years, but for eight years with chances of subsequent re-election. As Russia’s UN envoy said, none of the proposed models was able to collect 129 votes at the General Assembly required for approval.

"It might seem that instead of all these talks it would be possible to just draft a UN General Assembly resolution and put it to the vote," he said. "It is noteworthy that there are such draft resolutions, but none of them has ever been proposed officially. Those who have drafted such them are hesitant whether to put them to the vote, because if they fall short of the required 129 votes, the whole affair will have to be postponed for many years. The UN procedures as they are, the same draft resolution cannot be put to the vote every year.

"The struggle around this is rather complex and nervous," the senior Russian diplomat said. "There have been opinions that reforms must be timed for the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. We have warned against that. We have been saying that the solution must mature first. Churkin speculated that during the general political debate at the 70th UN General Assembly session in September many countries would surely touch upon this subject in explaining their stance and trying to accelerate the UN Security Council’s reform."

He believes that certain steps along these lines may be taken before the session begins.

"Professional diplomatic work"

Heated debates among the UN Security Council members should not impair the search for acceptable solutions to burning issues, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told TASS. Professional diplomatic work, he explained, was proceeding everywhere: in the Security Council’s conference hall and at meetings held in private.

Open debates and sessions behind closed doors were "equally important components of the UN Security Council’s activities," he said.

"On the one hand, open debates are important. The whole world has been watching them, particularly so in recent years. They reflect the positions of states and the nature of the acute problems the UN Security Council is faced with," Churkin said. "But we are professionals. Just recently there was another acute exchange of opinion among the five permanent Security Council members and other members. I believe that some partners in the quintet uttered some absolutely impermissible remarks, and I drew attention to that right there, at the Security Council meeting. Shortly after that I had to give a phone call to one of them. It was part of the usual routine. In a very calm way we discussed certain things crucial to finalizing an important Security Council resolution we have been working on for quite a long time. We hope that it will be adopted in the near future. In other words, we are obliged to step over all this. Otherwise the Security Council will be unable to work," Churkin said.

Throughout the years of his career at the United Nations many other countries in the quintet have replaced their permanent representatives several times.

"It gives me a pleasure to recall all of them, because each was a personality. I won’t say anything about the current ones, though. We are still to work together for some time. I had a very tight professional relationship with China’s previous envoy, Li Baodong. He is a deputy minster today. We have been through a great deal together - the Syrian affairs and the joint Russian-Chinese vetoes. Ours was a very trusting relationship," Churkin recalls.

"As for the Americans many surely remember there was a great variety of remarkable personalities. John Bolton, sometimes a somewhat noisy fellow. There was Zalmay Khalilzad, an ethnic Afghan, a very different type. There was Susan Rice, the current national security adviser, a very bright personality and not an easy character, but it was possible to have fundamental discussions with her on matters of importance. In a word, there was a very wide spectrum of personalities and professionals I found extremely interesting," Churkin said.

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