UAE takes over presidency of UN's top chamber amid Ukraine crisis

Security Council members take turns to schedule meetings at the top table of world diplomacy

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The UAE on Tuesday took over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, assuming formal responsibility for the body's schedule amid stark divisions over Russia's military assault on Ukraine.

The UAE’s ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, met envoys from the council’s 14 other members in New York and agreed on the schedule of meetings for the coming month.

"We are obviously assuming the presidency at a time of immense global turbulence, and there are a number of crises both on the council agenda, but also currently in Europe," Ms Nusseibeh told reporters.

The Security Council tackles crises from Afghanistan to Yemen, but talks in March are set to be dominated by Russia's air, sea and land invasion of neighbouring Ukraine — the worst conflict Europe has seen in years.

The UAE was "really humbled by the responsibility of this role we take", said Ms Nusseibeh.

Reporters asked her about the UAE's abstention from last week's proposed UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia's military offensive in Ukraine. Permanent Security Council member Russia vetoed the resolution.

"The UAE position as expressed ... is very reflective of our foreign policy. And that position is to call for de-escalation, call for dialogue, call for diplomacy to be at the forefront of both the Security Council but also the international community's efforts in this crisis," Ms Nusseibeh said.

"We need to keep channels open."

She called for "dialogue and diplomacy" to end the conflict in Ukraine, as well "unhindered humanitarian access" to allow aid to reach those displaced by fighting.

"We want to see a diplomatic off-ramp to this crisis ... but we didn't think that this resolution was the pathway to achieving that," Ms Nusseibeh said.

"Having said that, we will look at all texts and all resolutions on their merit. This is not a one-position approach. We want to be flexible in our diplomacy. And I think that's what we're demonstrating."

During its presidency, the UAE will convene three major meetings, including a debate on the protection of women in war zones on March 8, which will be chaired by Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, the UAE's Minister for Climate Change.

The next day, Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, will chair informal council talks on climate change. On March 23, Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, a Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry, will chair a council meeting on cooperation between the UN and the Arab League.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Vasily Nebenzya, the UN ambassador for Russia, which held the council presidency throughout February, said he expected the UAE to lead the UN’s top body with “flying colours”.

“We expect that the UAE will uphold the integrity of the office of the presidency and that it will be conducted in a smooth way,” said Mr Nebenzya.

“We know that UAE has a strong diplomatic school and knows their stuff, and I'm sure that they will do it hopefully with flying colours in the present circumstance.”

The UAE, Albania, Brazil, Gabon and Ghana joined the UN council for two-year terms beginning on January 1, meaning they can take part in meetings, vote on resolutions and help draft official statements.

Members take turns in alphabetical order to hold the council’s presidency each month, during which they manage the agenda, preside over meetings and decide on topics for debate.

The Security Council has 10 seats for temporary members, but it is dominated by its five permanent members — Russia, China, the US, Britain and France — which hold the power of veto.

The council meets regularly on threats to international peace and security and makes the ultimate decisions on resolutions to impose sanctions, authorise the use of military force and launch peacekeeping missions.

The body is often deadlocked on issues where the permanent members disagree, such as Syria, Myanmar and Ukraine.

Updated: March 02, 2022, 8:22 AM
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