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At UNSC, No Questions Taken by Lithuania on Somalia, Lebanon Statements

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 -- How much credit should the monthly president of the UN Security Council take or get for the number of press statements adopted?

  Concluding its month as president, Lithuania's mission to the UN on February 27 bragged of four Resolutions, three Presidential Statements, 10 Press Statements, 14 public meetings & eight consultations, calling this the "highest number of products delivered since 2012."

  Notably, there appear to have been no question and answer stakeouts by the Mission with the media after these eight consultations. (Only the Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius took questions during his visit which included a stakeout featuring the EU's Catherine Ashton).

  Even when a Press Statement on Guinea Bissau was read out by the Lithuanian Mission on February 26, no questions about the briefing or consultations behind it were answered or taken.

   The number of Press Statements in a month is largely a product of the number of terrorist incidents in the month, not the Security Council presidency's acumen.  In February there were three Press Statements on attacks in Lebanon, and two in Somalia.

   Even if controversial -- many are boilerplate denunciations of acts of terrorism -- the statements are drafted by the country which "holds the pen," France for Lebanon and the UK from Somalia, not by the president.

  One thing the presidency DOES control is how transparent it tried to be, including at least endeavoring to hold a question and answer stakeout after closed consultations. China's Liu Jieyi, for example, held nine such Q&A stakeouts in his recent months as president.

   But no Q&A stakeouts? And not even yet answering a question, rather than praise, on the lack of transparency? Another answer said Lithuania will aim for better going forward. We will be looking for that.

  As the most recent example, on February 26 the Security Council issued a Press Statement, now here, on which the Lithuanian deputy who read-out the statement took no questions.

   Three months ago, when UN envoy Jose Ramos-Horta came to brief in person, Inner City Press asked him about the proposed Amnesty Law for the authors of the 2012 coup. Ramos-Horta on November 26 expressed support for it only if there are iron-clad commitments by the military to stay out of politics. So: a conditional amnesty that would end if that commitment were broken?

  So on February 26, when Lithuania's Deputy Permanent Representative Rita Kazragiene came out to read the Council's press statement, including "the fight against impunity," Inner City Press waited and once she was finished asked if the Amnesty Law, which Ramos-Horta spoke about, had come up in consultations. 

  But Rita Kazragiene declined to answer any questions. One wonders why, given that the Security Council and UN have a hard enough time trying to raise the profile of the problems in Guinea Bissau. Why NOT answer a question?

  At the beginning of the month, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access urged that Lithuania come to the stakeout and take questions after each closed door consultation. As noted, during China's more recent presidency, for example, Permanent Representative Liu Jieyi held nine Q&A stakeouts. 

  So far during this, Lithuania's, month, with all the scheduled meetings over and only one day left? None. (Though as noted Lithuania's foreign minister did answer questions, including one Inner City Press pushed to ask, about Ukraine, as it also had to press to ask the EU's Cathy Ashton.)

  Lithuania is chair of the new Central African Republic sanctions committee, with an interesting mandate. When will it be spoken about, and questions taken? We'll retain an open mind and see.


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