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2009 wasn't a good year for global security - Mark Lyall Grant

Iran will face new sanctions unless it changes its heart, the U.K.’s envoy to the UN says in an interview with RIA Novosti New York Bureau Chief Dmitry Gornostaev

Iran will face new sanctions unless it changes its heart, the U.K.’s envoy to the UN says in an interview with RIA Novosti New York Bureau Chief Dmitry Gornostaev

Q:  You’ve been working in your new position of the U.K. envoy to the UN for almost two months. What was new for you at the UN, what was good and bad from your perspective?

A: This is the first time I’ve done multilateral work. Previously most of my career has been in a political work but on a bilateral basis. So I’m very familiar with the subjects that are being discussed in the Security Council in terms of peace and security, I’m less familiar with some of the wider issues discussed in the committees and the General Assembly, such as development and human rights issues and things like that. So these are new things for me.

And also work in a multilateral environment is new.

In terms of my first impressions, one interesting issue is that the Security Council is more formal than I had expected. There is less interaction and active discussion between members of the Security Council even in consultations than I had expected. And this is something that P5 have been discussing in fact. We’re hoping that next year we can take advantage of the change of membership in the Security Council to introduce appropriate slightly more informal style in the consultations to try make the debate a little more interactive.

Q: But it depends on the people…

Q: Of course it depends on the people. But I think that if P5 takes the lead then others probably will follow. So if the P5 do not read out their speeches and start talking off-the-cuff, then I think others may follow as well. This is the idea.

The other is that the whereas maybe in the past there was an East-West dimension, now it’s I think a North-South dimension, and the G77 group is quite active and visible on a number of issues as we saw on the climate change, but also on the budget negotiations, appointments, management performance. And I think there’s a danger in this in terms of the United Nations, that we’re getting more tense debates between the different groupings perhaps than it was the case some years ago.

Q: How do you assess the cooperation among the members of the P5? How would you describe your interaction with the Russian delegation and with Ambassador Vitaly Churkin?

A: Ambassador Churkin is a delightful colleague, he’s very professional, very friendly and he’s got a lot of experience. And the Russian delegation is a very effective delegation. We work very closely at P5 on a range of issues in the Security Council, not all the issues. But a lot of the issues we discuss among P5 at the expert level or PR level before going into the wider Council.

Because of our particular position we work very closely with the Russian delegation.

Q: And what about the Chinese delegation? I’m asking about China also because of the recent debate sparked by the minister Ed Miliband’s criticism against China’s stance on the climate change in Copenhagen and the following Beijing’s reaction…

A: China is also a member of the P5 and obviously as I said in my previous answer we work quite closely together. And the Chinese delegation is also extremely effective, professional and open to that cooperation in the Security Council. For widely, China was obviously defending what it perceived to be its interest at Copenhagen as other countries were. I don’t think we have any difficulty with that, each country has to represent its national interest. Of course, we’ve had a quite a lively dialogue with China in recent years over climate change, where we feel that clearly China has to be part of the developing world, but also the developed world, and to make some hard and fast targets for the de-intensification of its carbon emissions in exchange for the money that the developed world is prepared to put on the table to the least developed countries. And China’s offer at Copenhagen was good, but it could be better and we certainly hope that China will improve its offer to make such an accord possible.

I think that more interesting dynamic in a sense in Copenhagen is that many of the most vulnerable developing countries were disappointed at China, because then didn’t feel that China has adequately taken into account their interests, because they have an existential threat from climate change and their very survival is being threatened, and I think they thought that China would be sensitive to that. But because China went out to their national interests, I think there was some disappointment.

Q: Will Britain or your allies commit new approaches to China on that?

A: Well, China is part of the Copenhagen accord and the agreement was reached including with China and therefore I think China will be overseeing singing the accord. And we hope that they will post before the 31st of January a very ambitious set of national targets for carbon emission reduction. Of course, China will be a critical ally in taking forward that.

Q: On Iran - the idea of new sanctions against Tehran for its nuclear program is now being discussed among the Western countries. What next steps could be done on this issue in January or February in the Security Council?

A: The E3+1 (UK, France, Germany plus US) have agreed that they should take stop and make an assessment at the end of this year on whether we have made any progress on engagement track of the nuclear dossier of Iran. At the moment it looks as though that assessment will be negative. And therefore we have all agreed that in the logic of our dual-track policy we shall need to move to UN Security Council sanctions against Iran in 2010. So we shall be discussing among the six of us over the next few weeks on what elements might to be included in a new sanctions resolution against Iran. But at the same time we will always leave the door open to further dialogue. And the very generous offer that the Six have made to Iran on the nuclear dossier will remain on the table. So it is still not too late for Iran to make that choice and begin to cooperate both with the IAEA and with the international community, generally, and avoid sanctions.

Q: You’ve been following Iran for quite a long time. What is your explanation of the current Tehran’s behavior when it accepts the Six’s proposals - then rejects? Iran sends mixed signals, its behavior appears to be mixed. Why?

A: It has been varied, but it has been fairly uniformly negative now for couple of years. We have been trying to reach out our hand to Iran now for some time. We went to Tehran in 2008 with the E3+3 offer and presented it in a very formal way in Tehran. It was a very generous offer that went beyond the nuclear dossier into whole widely range of other areas.

But in the follow-up discussions to that last year and again this year there hasn’t been a positive response. This year again, with a new United States administration they also offered to reach out their hand to Tehran, but unfortunately there hasn’t been any positive feedback. I was at the meeting of the 3+3 negotiators with Iran, with Jalili, on October 1 in Geneva. And after some difficult talks we did reach agreement in three areas, on three points. But on two of these three points Iran has since reneged on that agreement.

There’s also been a negative IAEA Board resolution, and there’s been revelation of the secret enrichment sites in Qom. So I think you’re beginning to see, certainly since the elections in June, a pattern of violations of international obligations and Security Council resolutions. So, unless there is a rapid change of heart - and recent public statements from Tehran don’t encourage us - then I think we’re heading to more sanctions.

Q: How soon could they be on the table in the Council?

A: I think, as I say, there will be some discussion among the Six first, before we table something in New York. But I think probably by the end of February, certainly I expect there to be sanctions.

Q: Discussed in the Council or already voted?

A: It depends how long it takes. Last time I was involved in the last major sanctions resolution in March 2008 and that took three month to negotiate.

Q: North Korea seems to be the similar case -  international pressure, calls for restarting negotiations on the nuclear dossier. What can you say on sanctions against Pyongyang?

A: We have been less directly engaged obviously in North Korea because we are not part of a Six-party talks as we are on Iran. But I think it’s useful that the sanctions that have been taken against the DPRK in the summer this year have already had some effect. You’ll see it in a recent interception of a plane in Thailand which appears to be carrying weapons from North Korea to Iran, in violation of both the Iran and the North Korea sanctions regimes. I think it’s a good example of the measures that we took in the summer having some impact that third countries now are taking actions to prevent this illegal flow of weapons. So I think the pressure is having some impact, but whether North Korea will prepare to rejoin the Six-party talks is much less clear.

Q: Do you expect that this incident will be brought to the attention of the Security Council?

A: Yes, I think it will. I’ve spoken to the Thai ambassador …. I would anticipate that the Thai government will be writing to the Security Council and getting in contact with the sanctions committee very shortly.

Q: Until the end of the year?

A: Probably, by the end of the year.

Q: Do you follow the Kosovo case in the ICJ? What will be the position of the U.K. after the court makes its conclusion? Can the position be changed somehow by the court’s ruling if it takes, let’s say, Serbia’s side?

A: I think it’s too soon to say that. We expect the Court’s judgment within the first six months of 2010, probably the second quarter of 2010. And let’s see what the outcome is. We’ve made our case among others in front of the ICJ and we are confident that the ICJ will rule that the declaration of independence by Kosovo was legal. It will open the way we hope to a lot more recognitions to what about 50 already were made.

Q: Russia has said that it can agree for restoring the UN mission in Georgia and Abkhazia once the western partners agree to take into consideration its proposals on the status and the name of the mission. What can be your reaction on this, if any?

A: This is an area on which there’s a disagreement between Russia and other members of the Security Council. The other members of the Security Council have reaffirmed their commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia, and therefore will not be recognizing the independence of Abkhazia or South Ossetia. We’re prepared to look at any proposals that are status-neutral in that sense, that do not undermine the territorial integrity of Georgia. The difficulty with the proposals that Russia has put forward is that under the guise of changing name or changing mandate actually it suggests that we should accept a change of status. And we don’t accept that. So I don’t think those proposals will be acceptable.

Georgia remains on the Security Council agenda. The UNOMIG mission has been discontinued because Russia vetoed the renewal, but nonetheless Georgia remains on the Security Council agenda and I would expect it to be discussed at various times in the Security Council.

Q: Would you raise this issue?

A: We do not get any plans to raise it in the near future, but it does remain as an agenda item of the Security Council.

Q: Do you have your list of positive and negative events in international affairs in 2010?

A: Well, I think if you’re looking at the global peace and security situation most of the issues have been negative. When I’m asked to be realistic about what happened or not happened in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in difficult security situations in Pakistan, obviously the distorted elections in Iran and their impasse on the nuclear dossier - these are all very negative developments.

I think what has been more positive - has been respond to the international financial and economic crisis, while we’re seeing most of the major economies pulling out of recession and beginning to regain their growth which is good. I think the climate change agreement in Copenhagen although much less than we would have liked is nonetheless a positive start.

And I think there have been some positive developments in terms of progress towards the MDG summit next year, in terms of the peace-building agenda at the UN. There are some positive things to look back on to 2009, but overall I think for the international stability and peace and security it hasn’t been a very good year.

Q: By saying that, do you mean that the global security has declined?

A: Well, I don’t think it’s improved…

New York

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